Hamster Diabetes – What to Look For!


Diabetes is a chronic condition in which an animal either does not produce insulin or the insulin produced is not effective. This disease has been documented in dwarf hamsters – especially Campbell's Russian hamsters, but in other types as well. It is a condition rarely seen in Syrian hamsters. It is possible for hamsters to develop diabetes as they age due to hormonal changes. Diabetes in hamsters can cause serious complications, just as the condition can in humans. Special care and attention must be given to hamsters that have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Diagnosis can be difficult, since there are other conditions that can mimic this disease, such as kidney and bladder infections. Symptoms include excessive thirst and copious urination. Excessive defecation can sometimes be a symptom, as well. If you suspect diabetes, consult your veterinarian for a diagnosis.

At this time, treatment options are limited to changes in diet and encouraging more exercise. There is no cure for the condition. Do not feed your diabetic pet fresh fruit or vegetables. Avoid feeding commercial trees, as these often contain honey or other sweeteners. Remove peas and corn from their feed.

Age is a consideration with diabetes. If you have an older hamster that is displaying symptoms, diabetes may be a likely cause. (In younger hamsters, a kidney or bladder infection might be more likely.)

Species is a factor. Diabetes is rarely seen in Syrian hamsters and is usually found in dwarf hamsters. If you have a Syrian hamster, a kidney or bladder infection is more likely.

Weight is something else to consider. Obesity in hamsters (just like in humans) can contribute to diabetes. Avoid feeding your hamster "people junk food" such as potato chips, French fries, cookies, cakes and candy. Although hamsters love these foods and it is fun to watch them eat these things, eating these types of foods can cause hamsters to have significant weight gain and does not give the nutrition that hamsters need. Weight gain and obesity can also make hamsters unwilling or unable to get the proper exercise, which also leads to diabetes. It is also wise to avoid feeding even healthy hamsters too much fresh produce and commercial trips. Treats are best reserved for special occasions, not for everyday feeding.

Complications include heart failure, blindness, cataracts, and kidney failure. Blindness and cataracts are not life-threatening for your pet. Hamsters are very near-sighted any way, so being completely blind is not too serious for them (however, some hamsters are more timid if totally blind) and they can still live productive lives. Heart failure and kidney failure are fatal, however, so great care needs to be given to avoid these complications.

If the complications of this disease become too debilitating or painful for your pet, you may want to discuss the option of euthanasia with your veterinarian. At times, loving your pet can mean ending unnecessary pain and suffering. Your veterinarian can give you your options. If you do choose euthanasia for your pet, be sure to only have a veterinarian perform the procedure.