Welcome to Dashing Hamsters. I created this website back in 2005, initially to have a place to share my love of hamsters. Throughout the years I have come across a lot of information that just often doesn't match up. Care standards and information are outdated, and these little creatures are misunderstood by many. So I decided to make this website as more than just a hamster lover's website, but a hamster website for modern owners who are looking for up to date advice on how to care for and understand their beloved hamsters. On DH you can learn about hamsters, see some cute pictures and read through a hamster filled blog.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Word of Warning: Dri-tail

I am hoping to work on putting together a good post about Wet Tail since it is such a common disease for our beloved Syrian hamsters. However I do not believe that this will be complete for some time. So until then I did want a tiny bit of information put out there concerning the supposed over the counter cures for wet tail.

The most common brands include Dri-tail and Oasis Wet-tail drops. I am not knocking these products, however they are quite misleading and are only supporting the misinformation out there in regard to what wet tail really is. Since wet tail is a term that tends to be used for any kind of diarrhea, true wet tail is often misdiagnosed. Wet Tail actually refers to Proliferative Ileitis. It is a bacterial disease that usually only affects Syrian hamsters that are 12 weeks and under- the main symptom being severe diarrhea. 

These products claim to cure 'wet tail', which they state is stress-induced diarrhea. Unfortunately that is a mistake. So these products may actually work, they may actually get rid of the diarrhea however this only masks the symptoms it does not cure the disease. There is no home cure for wet tail, you need to seek a vet as soon as you believe that your hamster has this in order to get the proper antibiotics. Hamsters die quickly from this disease, the waiting game can not be played here if you wish your hamster to come out alive.

A quote from missPixy on Hamster Hideout:

driTail contains "Neomycin" which is an antibiotic that causes
problems in lots of hamsters. there are lots of antibiotics
that cause toxic reactions in hamsters. the amount of
neomycin is probably diluted since it's being sold over the
counter instead of through a vet; but a hamster with wet tail
already has major problems with their digestive tract.

that's why it's a bad drug to use, on many levels. the
antibiotic used is not "hamster-safe" and it can in fact
aggravate the already depleted digestive tract.

the best thing to do:

1) give your syrian hamster a few days alone without
handling when you first bring her home;

2) if you notice signs of profuse diarrhea, contact
immediately a hamster-experienced vet so you can
start on a more appropriate antibiotic such as baytril;

3) get your hamster's water bottle filled with
50percent children's unflavored pedialyte, and
50percent bottled spring water. the dehydration
that occurs from diarrhea can also kill a hamster

4) remove all food from your hamster at this time
except for organic yogurt which she can eat freely.
do not introduce any other food until stools are
normal again. Original Source

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

So You Want to Breed?

At one point in a hamster lovers life one wonders what it would be like to see some cute little hamsters running around, some dream of being breeders and others just want to breed their hamsters. If you haven't thought these things yourself then you've likely come across another hamster lover that does. Breeding however cannot be taken so likely, even if they're hamsters, they are still living beings and they deserve much consideration to be put into this idea.

First of all take the time to answer these questions and do so honestly:

1. What if you can't find homes for the babies? Can you keep 10+ hamsters? Syrian hamsters are going to need their own cage and dwarfs could end up fighting needing their own cages as well. Keeping in mind that the recommended minimum of 360 square inches of floorspace per hamster. That's a lot of room that will be taken up.

2. Can you afford that many hamsters? Food, substrate, cages, toys, supplies and vet costs aren't cheap and with that many hamsters you're going to need quite a bit.

3. Can you afford the time for all of those hamsters? Cleaning the cage, interacting with each own, providing them with out-of-the cage time, any special needs that they may have, etc.

4. Say you do have to keep all of the babies, what if they have some illness or disease that pops up due to their genetics. That's 10+ hamsters that will need the vet. Not cheap. Even if their genetics are good, many other illnesses can take hold of hamsters and they go downhill fast. Not cheap at all.

5. What if the female culls (kills) her litter for some reason? Can you handle that emotionally? Even if her litter is gone she needs you to care for her and you cannot hold anything against her.

6. What if something goes wrong? Can you afford to take the mother and her litter to the vet on a moments notice?

7. What if the mother dies? Can you handle that emotionally? And can you spare the time to feed the babies yourself? They feed every couple of hours and it is not easy to keep them alive. Can you handle it emotionally if the whole litter died too?

8. Do you have homes lined up at all? Not just your friends and family members or strangers, but people that are willing to put effort into researching and caring for their new pets? Do you have the time to find these great owners? And are you willing to take them back should anything go wrong?

9. How long have you been researching? You must be prepared for anything that comes up. Understanding how breeding works is only part of it, you must also understand their genetics and be willing to work hard to produce quality animals that only benefit the species. It's not just colours and temperaments, but also for health.

10. Do you know the genetic background of these hamsters? If not, then how can you ensure that the babies will be healthy? Pet store hamsters are often not quality specimens and should not be bred from. If you do not know what could pop up in the litter then you could be bringing in a litter of babies that could suffer dreadfully. Don't believe me? Please check out this thread, it provides many examples: Things to Consider Before Breeding.

11. Why do you want to breed? Is it because you want to see cute baby hamsters, you want your hamster to 'live on', your friends/family want hamsters, you want to experience the miracle of life, you want to make money or any other reason then wanting to help create healthy, well-bred animals to better the species. Then perhaps you are not ready for such a thing.   

Breeding should not be taken lightly. There are hundreds of hamsters that need homes everyday. By breeding you are taking away homes that those hamsters that already exist could have gone to. Please consider separating them, much more research should be done if you are serious about breeding. But if you want to experience the miracle of life, than go google it, I'm sure there's a video. If you want more hamsters then go adopt. If you want to see baby hamsters then wait until you are ready to do it right.

*Note: I do not advocate casual breeding, it is best left for those that are willing to put their whole heart and mind into the matter. Adoption is indeed the best option.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What Did You Call Me?

So you are walking through a pet store and you come across the hamsters being sold as rare ‘Black Bear’ syrians or the new ‘Blueberry’ dwarf. Or perhaps you found a local breeder who has come up with a new species of hamster that they call the ‘Polar Bear’ hamster. It sounds pretty great except there are only five species of domestic hamsters along with only one hybrid possibility. Yet every pet store seems to have a different name for them and back yard breeders are supposedly coming up with new breeds. Despite what is said, there are still only five species of domestic hamsters. They are often given fake names to make them seem better or more rare in order to sell them faster and at an escalated price.

I noticed that many people go on and on about their ‘teddy bear’ hamsters and their ‘blueberry’ dwarfs without having a clue as to their species specific needs, so I have comprised a list of names that have been seen being used for hamsters in order for people to be able to understand what these false names really mean.

** The five species are Syrian [Mesocricetus auratus], Russian Campbell (RC) Dwarf [Phodopus campbelli], Winter White (WW) Dwarf [Phodopus sungorus], Roborovski (Robo) Dwarf [Phodopus roborovskii] and Chinese [Cricetulus griseus]. WWs and RCs can breed creating a WW/RC hybrid that is often unhealthy, along with a shorter lifespan.

Fake names used for Syrian hamsters and what they typically refer to:

* Teddy Bear Hamster – Longhaired Syrian
* Big Hamster – Syrian of any description
* Normal Hamster – Syrian of any description
* Regular/Common Hamster – Syrian of any description
* Dalmatian Hamster – Dominant Spot Syrian (typically black)
* Polar Bear Hamster – White Syrian
* Frizzy Hamster – Longhaired Syrian
* Grizzly Bear Hamster – Longhaired Syrian (typically sable)
* Panda Hamster – Black Banded Syrian
* Giant Hamster – Syrian of any description
* Jumbo Hamster – Syrian of any description
* Black Bear Hamster – Black Syrian
* Golden Hamster – Agouti/Syrian of any description
* European Black Bear Hamsters – Black Syrian
* Honey Bear Hamsters – Mink Syrian
* Rat Hamster – Syrian of any description
* Alien Hamsters – Hairless Syrians

Dwarfs and Chinese
Fake names used for dwarfs & Chinese hamsters and what they typically refer to:

* Mini Hamster – Any dwarf species
* Small Hamster – Any dwarf species
* Blueberry Hamster – Typically refers to blue or dove RC dwarfs
* Blackberry Hamster – Black or dilute black RC dwarfs
* Snowflake Hamster – White RC dwarfs
* Speedy Hamsters – Any dwarf species/Robo dwarfs
* Mouse Hamster – Any dwarf species/Chinese dwarfs
* Djungarian Hamster – WW dwarfs/Hybrids (scientific name for WW)
* Siberian Hamster – RC dwarfs/Hybrids (scientific name RC)
* Pudding Hamster – Hybrids
* Chameleon Hamster – WW dwarfs
* Dalmatian Hamster –Mottled black RC dwarfs
* Russian Hamster – RC dwarfs
* Oriental Hamster – Chinese dwarfs

** Keep in mind that some places do not distinguish RC dwarfs and WW dwarfs and they may be hybrids.

Who Cares?

Now why is it so terrible that pet stores and breeders use these fake names? It seems harmless enough, right? Besides the fact that they are re-naming the ‘product’ often just to make more money they are also keeping people in the dark by misinforming customers as to what exactly they are buying. It is vital to understand what you are buying. Syrians cannot be kept together for example and RC dwarfs are prone to diabetes. Getting the species mixed up could be harmful to the hamsters themselves. So what can be done? Talk to store managers, inform people and educate. These small steps are steps toward a more educated group of hamster owners and in turn healthier and happier hamsters.

If you have seen other names used for hamsters please post them along with what the actual species/colour/pattern was and I’ll add it to the list.

The Forgotten Relatives

All too often when we think of hamsters we think of the five domestic species that we know and love today. Those species include the Chinese hamster, the Syrian hamster, the Russian Campbell dwarf hamster, the Winter White dwarf hamster and the Roborovski dwarf hamster. These hamsters have only been in the pet market for a short amount of time in comparison to many of our other beloved pets such as the dog, cat or even the rat. Something that many people do not consider is that there are other species of hamsters in the wild. Not only that, but there are many other species of hamsters. I have put this together so that we may learn about the forgotten relatives.

Classification System
The easiest way to go through these species of hamsters is to use some sort of organizational system. Science has provided us with a nice classification system for us to use. This system is the taxonomic system. It takes all living beings (even plants and fungi) and it breaks them down level by level in order to organize them. The main structure of this classification system consists of the following:

Kingdom> Phylum> Class> Order> Family> Genus > Species
This classification can be broken down further, but for our needs it does not need to be.

We can put hamsters into this classification system:
Kingdom: Animalia> Phylum: Chordata> Class: Mammalia> Order: Rodentia> Family: Cricetidae> || Now before we go any farther we have to realize that some hamsters fall under different genera (plural for genus) and then under their respective genus, falls the different species.

Let’s look at our five domestic species again. The Chinese Hamster falls under the genus, Cricetulus. Their species name is griseus. So the Chinese Hamster fits into the taxonomic classification system like this:

Kingdom: Animalia> Phylum: Chordata> Class: Mammalia> Order: Rodentia> Family: Cricetidae> Genus: Cricetulus> Species: griseus.

The Syrian hamster falls under the genus, Mesocricetus, and their species name is auratus.

Kingdom: Animalia> Phylum: Chordata> Class: Mammalia> Order: Rodentia> Family: Cricetidae> Genus: Mesocricetus> Species: auratus.

The three Dwarf species fall under the genus, Phodopus. Their species names are roborovskii, campbelli and sungorus (Winter White).

Kingdom: Animalia> Phylum: Chordata> Class: Mammalia> Order: Rodentia> Family: Cricetidae> Genus: Phodopus> Species: roborovskii/campbelli/sungorus.

Using this classification system we can see the genus and species, which give us the Latin or scientific name of the living being in question. The Latin name for human is Homo sapiens; Homo being the genus and sapiens being the species. In order to know which species of hamster it is that we are talking about, we will refer to their Latin name. Remember the genus is always capitalized, while the species is not.

There are seven genera that hamsters fall under in total. However, we will be covering only six of them. The seventh genus, Phodopus, has only three species under it and they are the domestic dwarf hamsters that we know today. Since this is about the ‘forgotten relatives’, they do not need to be included.

Note** Some species have several names that are used to describe the same animal. This is rather confusing, and many have been calling for a closer look in order to rename the species so that each animal has one, and one name only.

Genus: Mesocricetus

This genus consists of four species, including the domesticated Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus). The genus, Mesocricetus, was established in 1898 by Nehring when he realized that there were species of hamsters throughout Asia and Europe that did not fit under the genus, Cricetus.

Mesocricetus brandti

Common Name: Turkish hamster or Brandt’s hamster.

Description: They are solitary animals and are strictly nocturnal, even only eating mostly at night; they hibernate during the cold months. Their appearance is similar to that of an agouti/golden Syrian hamster. They have a dark chest and dark cheek flashes, and are larger than other species under the Mesocricetus genus with an average weight of 150 grams. They only live about two years in laboratory conditions. They breed only two times a year in the wild with an average litter size of thirteen pups. They are known to be highly territorial and aggressive.

Habitat: The M. brandti hamster has a larger and wider geographical distribution than that of their cousin, the Syrian hamster. They can be found throughout Turkey, Armenia, Iran, Georgia and in some other nearby countries. They live in scrub lands, dessert steppes and near farmland. They burrow in the ground from about 0.5 metres to 2 metres deep (19 to 78 inches), and their burrows are composed of tunnels that lead to nesting, storage and toilet sections. According to the IUCN Red List, they are listed as ‘near-threatened’ in the wild, as their habitat is being torn up and farmers are treating them as pests.

Life with Humans: They were popular in lab research in the 1960’s and 1970s, and the colonies in America and Romania are all descended from animals trapped from areas throughout Turkey and Iran. They aren’t used as much today in research, instead being replaced by M. auratus (Syrian hamsters).

Mesocricetus newtoni

Common name: Romanian hamster.

Description: They are solitary animals and are found to be either nocturnal or crepuscular. They have what appears to be a more rat-like face then other Mesocricetus hamsters, a darker coloured back, and dark cheek flashes that reach their shoulders. They weigh about 100 grams and were found to be much harder to breed in captivity than other species. Their diet consists of seeds, vegetation, fruits, nuts and small vertebrates. Their average litter size is ten pups.

Habitat: The M. newtoni can be found in a small region in both Romania and Bulgaria. They live in dry, barren desert or grassy steppes, while others live close to farmland. Its burrow system is apparently complex, with many chambers and tunnels. They are listed as ‘near threatened’ in the wild, according to the IUCN Red List, due to habitat loss from expanding agricultural practices.

Life with Humans: Not much seems to be written about this species since they are apparently harder to breed in captivity and are a protected species. They do appear to be used in lab research to this day.

Mesocricetus raddei

Common Name: Ciscaucasion or Georgian hamster.

Further Name Information: It is believed that there are two or three subspecies within the raddei species, though not all scientists agree. Some names that are used synonymously and are likely supposed to be subspecies names are: Cricetus nehgricans and Mesocricetus nigriculus.

Description: The M. raddei are solitary animals that are crepuscular, but are seen sometimes during the day in the spring and summer. They have a yellowish-brown top coat, a dark belly, and dark cheek and shoulder flashes. They are about 24 cm long (roughly 9 inches). They hibernate 4-6 months throughout the year and breed a couple of times throughout the warmer months with litter sizes of about twelve.

Habitat: These hamsters are found in Russia, though there have been sightings of them in Georgia as well. They live in either mountainous or grassy steppes, or in flat plains. They are also known to make their home near farmland. Their burrows are deep, and those found in mountainous areas tend to have multiple exits while those that live in plains seem to only have one exit. The IUCN Red List describes their population to be of least concern.

Life with Humans: They do not seem to be popular for use in laboratories as not many seem to appear in studies.

Genus: Cricetus

This genus contains only one species of hamster, in fact it is the largest species of hamster in the world.

Cricetus Cricetus

Common Name: European hamster, Common hamster, or Black-bellied hamster.

Description: This hamster is mostly solitary, though the territory of a male can overlap with that of nearby females. They are noted to be quite aggressive towards others of their species, though in lab conditions it was found for lab bred C. cricetus to be able to live in group settings. They have a reddish-brown dorsal (back) coat, white sides and a black belly and chest. They hibernate during the colder months of the year, sealing off their tunnels and storing large amounts of food to last them through until spring. They are reported to breed two to five times during the mating season, having litters averaging a total of nine pups. They have a lifespan of eight years in the wild, and are about 20 to 30 cm (7 to 11 inches) in length.

Habitat: These hamsters have a large habitat range found in countries such as Germany, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Austria, Russia, Kazakhstan and many other countries throughout Europe. They are found near riverbanks, on grassy steppes and near farmland, though they have also been seen living in meadows and gardens. Their burrows can be as deep as two metres (78 inches), but usually they tend to stay in shallower levels of their burrow in the warmer months. The IUCN Red List has this species listed as least concern, though others considered them to be closer to endangered.

Life with Humans: Though they were first noted in 1679 (named in 1758), they were not used much in laboratories until the early 1970’s due to their aggression with each other. At this time a breeding colony was finally set up after researchers found a way to safely breed them. In lab conditions their hibernation stopped and their lifespan shortened, as it was found that lack of hibernation decreased their lifespan by about three years. They are also widely considered pests to farmers, and while technically a protected species, many countries have failed to work diligently to actually protect the species.

Genus: Tscherskia

This genus only has one species under it - the triton. Not much seems to be known about this species.

Tscherskia triton

Common Name: Greater Long-tailed hamster.

Further Name Information: Not all list this species under its own genus while others use a different species name. Some names that are considered synonymous with Tscherskia triton are Cricetulus nestor, Cricetus triton and Tscherskia albipes.

Description: The T. triton is considered nocturnal, though it is also seen during the day at times. They have a life expectancy of about one year and are said to ‘waste away’ once they have bred. T. triton has a brown dorsal coat and a white underside; it also has a longer tail than most species of hamsters. They feed on seeds, cultivated plants (such as rice, sunflower and corn) and may, at times, also eat leaves. They have a length of about 12 to 16 cm (4 to 6 inches), with a tail of about 7 to 10 cm (about 2 to 3 inches). Their active breeding season is from April to October where they breed anywhere from two to five times and have an average litter size of eight to ten pups.

Habitat: These hamsters are found in Eastern China, North and South Korea as well as in Russia. They are found in xeric (extremely dry) land, near marshes, river banks, canals, farmland and even roads. They are said to have large stores of food in their burrows and they may also hibernate. They are listed as least concern by the IUCN Red List.

Life with Humans: This species has been known as a pest to farmers since ancient times and seems to thrive rather well as such. They do also seem to be used in some laboratory research.

Genus: Cansumys

There is only one species of hamster, under this genus, that has been agreed upon by some researchers who claim that it is, indeed, its own species and should remain under this genus.

Cansumys canus

Common Name: Gansu Hamster

Description: This species is nocturnal, mainly active during the spring and summer. It is a herbivore, feeding on leaves and grasses. Its coat is said to be gray, with black markings on the topside. They have a body length of about 14 cm (5.5 inches), with a tail of about 11 cm (4 inches). Their litter size averages six to eight pups.

Habitat: C. canus is found in central China. Unlike other hamsters, it is an arboreal species (living among trees), living in the forests that are found within the mountainous areas of their habitat. The IUCN Red List lists this species of hamster as least concern.

Life with Humans: It is reported that three specimens were caught during the 20th century. Not much else is known about this species.

Genus: Allocricetulus

This genus has two species that are both found in Asia.

Allocricetulus curtatus

Common Name: Mongolian hamster.

Further Name Information: This species is often mistakenly found under the genus Cricetulus. While some scientists do hold that this species belongs under the genus, Cricetulus, many do not agree. Some scientists also list this species as a subspecies of A. eversmanni.

Description: This species is active both in the early evening and during the night. Their breeding season begins in April, having two to three litters a year with an average litter size of six pups. They keep a store of food to hold them over during the winter months. Their diet consists mainly of seeds, though they sometimes do eat insects as well. They are about 20 to 38 cm (8 to 15 inches) in length and are yellowish gray on their back, while their underside is white.

Habitat: A. curtatus is found in China, Mongolia and in small parts of Russia. They live in sandy areas, grasslands or semi-desert areas, with shallow, simple burrows. They are listed as least concern by the IUCN Red List.

Life with Humans: They have been living near humans for some time with little incident, though one case was reported where one of this species carried the plague. These hamsters are said to be fairly tame and friendly in the wild, showing no fear to humans.

Allocricetulus eversmanni

Common Name: Eversmann’s hamster

Further Name Information: This species is often mistakenly found under the genus Cricetulus. While some scientists do hold that this species belong under the genus, Cricetulus, many do not agree.

Description: This hamster does not hibernate, although daily activity does decrease in the winter months. It feeds on nearby vegetation and seeds, though some reports claim it’s been seen eating lizards, voles, young squirrels and even young bird nestlings. Hamsters found in the northern edge of the habitat range have only two to three litters a year, while those found farther south in the habitat range have three to four litters per year. They are about 13.6 to 16 cm (about 5 to 6 inches) in length. The average litter size is four to six pups.

Habitat: The A. eversmanni is found mostly throughout Kazakhstan, as well as some parts of Russia and China. It lives in dry steppes and semi-desert conditions, while others are found closer to farmland. Further north, some hamsters have been found in forest steppe land. This species is listed as ‘least concern’ by the IUCN Red List.

Life with Humans: This species is seen as a major and damaging pest in some parts of its habitat range.

Genus: Cricetulus

This genus has many species, and is very mixed up depending on who you are asking. They need to be assessed and re-classified. I will do my best to mention all of the animals in this genus as well as to try and comprehend between those that are the same species, but under different names and so on.

Cricetulus alticola

Common Name: Ladek hamster, Tibetan hamster

Description: This species of hamster has a litter size of about five to ten pups, breeding from May to August. C. alticola is about 9 to 10 cm (about 3.5 to 4 inches) in length. Their backs are gray-brown and yellow, while their undersides are white. They are mainly nocturnal, though they have been seen during the day too. They eat various seeds, grains and grasses.

Habitat: This species is found in India, China and Nepal. C. alticola live in habitats from coniferous and birch tree forests, to shrubland, dessert steppe, swamp meadows and highland meadows. It is listed as least concern by the IUCN Red List.

Life with Humans: Insufficient data present in order to complete this.

Cricetulus barabensis

Common Name: Chinese striped hamster

Further Name Information: This species is found to be synonymous with Cricetulus manchuricus, Cricetulus mongolicus and Cricetulus obscurus. This species is also often mixed up with Cricetulus griseus (our domestic Chinese hamster), though for the most part they are agreed to be different species. Some people count them as the same species while still others count one or the other as a subspecies of each other. For this we will treat them as their own species. The information on this species may be slightly flawed, since so many do tend to treat C. griseus and C. barabensis as the same species.

Description: C. barabensis is active in the early night. It’s a social animal, living in groups averaging of around four to five hamsters per burrow. They are about seven to ten cm long (three to four inches) with a slightly longer tail than most hamster species. They eat and store various seeds and legumes and hibernate throughout the winter months, coming out in early spring. The breeding season peaks in March and April, and once again in the fall, breeding two to five times per year with an average litter size of six to seven pups.

Habitat: These hamsters are found in China, Korea, Mongolia as well as Russia. They live in arid places such as desert steppe and semi-desert habitats, and some are also found near farmland. Their burrows tend to be rather simple, about a metre deep, with two to three entrances. They have been found to line their nests with grass. The IUCN Red List has this species listed as least concern.

Life with Humans: Some will argue that this is the same species as the domesticated Chinese Hamster (C. griseus), and thus their life with humans is very close - being used in research and kept as pets. For those that agree that they are separate species, they are used in some research, but are not kept as pets.

Cricetulus kamensis, lama and tibetanus

Common Name: Kam hamster, Lama hamster, Tibetan hamster

Other Name Information: These three species are recognized by a few as “their own species”, but many are regarding them as the same or as subspecies of each other. This article will group them together.

Description: Not a lot is known about this species, which is probably why so much confusion surrounds their name. They are 8.8 to 11.2 cm in length (about three to four inches). The fur on their back is dark gray-brown, with a black dorsal stripe. Their underside is white. They eat grains, grasses, seeds and insects, storing large amounts for the winter months. They have been found to be active both during the day and at night. Their breeding seasons are from May to August with average litter sizes of seven to eight pups.

Habitat: They are found in China near Tibet (or Xizang); living in high mountain grasslands, open steppe and shrubby marshes. The IUCN Red List considers this species to be of least-concern.

Life with Humans: Insufficient data. They may be seen as a pest in China, though.

Cricetulus longicaudatus

Common Name: Long-tailed Hamster

Other Name Information: Some names that are used synonymously with C. longicaudatus include: C. andersoni, C. nigrescens and C. kozhantschikovi.

Description: This species feeds mostly on seeds, though at times also consume insects, they are known for constructing food storages and grass-lined nests. They sometimes occupy burrows that have been abandoned by other animals. C longicaudatus are nocturnal. They have at least two litters of about four to nine young throughout the months of March and April each year. They were discovered in 1867 by Armand David. The coat is dark gray on the back and white the underside. Their tail is longer than most other species at about four to five cm (1.5 to 2 inches) in length and they lack a dorsal stripe. They are 8 to 13 cm (three to five inches) in length from head to body.

Habitat: This species is found in China, Russia and Mongolia. They inhabit various areas such as deserts, shrubland, semi-desert land, mountainous steppe, forests and even alpine meadows. They live in shallow burrows that are often found underneath rocks which are more horizontal rather than deep into the ground. They are listed as least concern by the IUCN Red List.

Life with Humans: They are used in some research labs and most studies to do with advancing knowledge in regards to medicine.

Cricetulus Migratorius

Common Name: Grey Hamster or Armenian Hamster

Description: This species is nocturnal, with a body length of about 8.8 to 11.7 cm (3 to 4 inches). The upper coat is light gray in colour while the underside is white or off-white. It is said to have relatively long ears and large eyes. It typically eats roots, shoots and seeds.

Habitat: They have a wide habitat range found in countries such as Afghanistan, Bulgaria, China, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Mongolia, Pakistan, Romania; Russia, Syrian, Turkey, Ukraine and Armenia. C. migratorius are usually found in grasslands, steppes and semi-deserts and now even found near farmland, gardens and even in houses.

Life with Humans: Often regarded as a pest and are used in laboratory research.

Cricetulus sokolovi

Common Name: Sokolov’s hamster

Other Name Information: Formally known as Cricetulus barabensis obscurus, in other words as a sub-species of C. barabensis, but was renamed as its own species in 1988.

Description: C. sokolovi is said to wake up at about mid-day, and is about 7.7 to 11.4 cm (about 3 to 4 inches) in length, their tail being about 1.8 to 3.2 cm (0.7 to 1.2 inches) long. They have a dark stripe running down their back and a gray coat. They begin breeding in May, having two to three litters annually, each averaging two to nine pups.

Habitat: These hamsters are found in Mongolia and China and live in semi-desert habitats - living in burrows built under desert shrubs, mainly in sandy areas.

Life with Humans: Not much information is available right now.

Other Genera to Note

There are two other genera of rodents that are often listed as hamsters; however each genus belongs under a different family. These genera are Mystromys (species under this genus being M. albicaudatus) and Calomyscus (species under this genus being bailwardi along with some subspecies). Since they are not under the Cricetidae family, they are not hamsters.


I hope that this information was interesting and insightful. It is not complete knowledge of these animals in any way, but I believe that it does give us a good basic understanding of what other species are out there. None of this information is my own; I worked to bring this together from several sources that will be listed below. I will try and update it now and again when new information is put out about these wonderful creatures.

Resources and Further Reading
German Wikipedia’s Hamster Pages (with use of Google translator).
IUCN Red List (various pages).
Van Hoosier, G. L. & McPherson. C. W. (1987). Laboratory Hamsters, 368-401.
Wilson, D. E. (2005). Rodentia, Cricetinae. Mammal Species of the World: a taxonomic and geographic reference, 1041-1045.


And a very special thank you to HoppingHammy, from Hamster Hideout, for her help in editing this.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Success of Housing Multiple Chinese Hamsters

***As of late August, 2010. New results to follow later on.

So I have gone on several hamster forums to try and find out about the likliehood of Chinese Hamsters getting along. Most people believe that they are solitary, like Syrians, while other claim that they are social like dwarfs, and still other claim that only males are social while females live alone. So I asked these seven questions:

1. How many hamsters were in this group?
2. What was the gender of these hamsters?
3. What kind of cage were they in? (A brand/model name or dimensions)
4. How many wheels did they have?
5. Can you please describe their set up? (How many beds, what kind of toys, was it crowded, etc)
6. Did they need to be separated?
7. Were they siblings?
I got minimal responses, what with Chinese hams not being the most common or popular hamster species on the pet market. I'll update it as long as I keep getting responses--- Keep in mind that so far the number of participants is small and so it may make the results a little skewed. (August 26, 2010).

Only 31% never had to be separated.
Only 38% were given what I would consider adequate set ups. *
If you look at just the hamsters given adequate setups than 80% of hams never had to be separated.
If you look at just the hamsters given less than adequate setups than 100% had to be separated
If only looking at female pairs than 50% never had to be separated.
If only looking at male pairs than 22% never had to be separated.
If only looking at females in adequate setups than 0% had to be separated.
If only looking at males in adequate setups than 34% had to be separated.
If looking at females in less than adequate setups than 100% had to be separated.
If looking at males in less than adequate setups than 100% had to be separated.
Chinese hams that weren't siblings and were introduced (both same sex and opposite sex) had to be separated in all cases.

*Adequate setups would include a large enough cage, multiple wheels, multiple beds and things that would decrease chances of arguments and fighting. This is based on a general standard and what has worked for myself and others when housing multiple hamsters.

So what you can gather from that is that if given a large enough cage, multiple wheels, a large food dish, multiple beds, etc than these hamsters can get a long just fine. Gender seems to make little difference though many have mentioned that it is the males that don't get along and that females are the ones that do better in pair or group settings. It can also be noted that if introducing Chinese hamsters it should be done with the utmost caution, as it seems to never work out. 

**Raw results may be posted at a later date

Toxicity of Pine and Cedar Shavings

by Debbie "The Rat Lady" Ducommun
If they author wishes that I remove it then please let me know. I found it here: http://www.ratfanclub.org/litters.html
     There is strong scientific evidence that pine and cedar shavings are harmful to the health of rodents. Both these softwood shavings give off aromatic hydrocarbons (phenols) and acids that are toxic. The phenols, which give the shavings their scent, are the reason that cedar repels fleas and moths and why pine-oil is the major ingredient in Pine-sol brand disinfectant. In the laboratory, autoclaved pine and cedar shavings have been shown to inhibit the growth of micro-organisms (Reference 1). When animals are exposed to softwood shavings the aromatic hydrocarbons are absorbed through the respiratory tract and enter the blood.

     The acids given off by pine and cedar shavings are very damaging to the respiratory tract. These acids can actually destroy cells that line the lungs and trachea (2). This has significant implications for rats since the most common diseases in pet rats are respiratory infections. Many owners of pet rats have reported the improvement of respiratory problems when they have switched their pets to a bedding other than pine or cedar shavings.
      Pine and cedar toxins also affect humans and other animals. People who work in cedar and pine sawmills have a much higher incidence of asthma compared to workers in other dusty environments or those without any dust exposure (3, 4). Another study found that chickens kept on softwood shavings had a higher incidence of respiratory infections (5).
      Pine and cedar toxins affect more than the respiratory tract. Several studies (6,7,8,9) have shown that rodents kept on softwood beddings have elevated levels of liver enzymes. The liver is the body's detoxification system, and elevated liver enzymes indicate that the body is working harder to eliminate toxins. In mice these enzymes started rising after only 24 hours exposure to cedar shavings and only returned to normal when the mice were away from the shavings for 12 days (8.). If pine or cedar shavings are heat-treated or soaked in a solvent, so that some of the phenols are removed, the effects are not as great, but still occur (8, 9).
      One study showed that the mortality of rat pups raised on cedar shavings was tremendously high compared to rat pups raised on corn cob or aspen shavings. Of the pups raised on cedar shavings, 56% were dead by 2 weeks of age, while only 0.01% of the pups raised on the other beddings died. The cedar-raised pups also weighed about 23% less than the other pups (10).
      Exposure to toxins is a stress on the body and constant stress can result in depressed or altered immune function. A study done in 1991 (1) found that mice kept on pine shavings for only a month had a more highly reactive immune response. Mice kept on pine shavings for 8 months developed abnormally enlarged livers. This same study found that mice housed on pine shavings also had a decrease in reproduction rate. When given free choice of beddings, rats and mice reject pine and cedar shavings in favor of any other type of beddings.
      There are also other dangers from softwood shavings. A study found that people in the woodworking industry who are exposed to softwood dust have a higher incidence of squamous cell cancers of the respiratory tract (11). A German study found that workers exposed to pine dust had more than a three-fold increased risk of glottal cancer (12).
Rebutal to Defense of Pine and Cedar

      I would now like to address some points occasionally brought up in defense of pine and cedar shavings. It has been said that studies done on laboratory rodents and farm chickens cannot apply to pet rodents because the study conditions would not have as much ventilation as that in a home environment. However, The House Rabbit Journal (13) reported that several pet rabbits also showed elevated liver enzyme levels when softwood shavings were used in their litter boxes. When other litter was substituted, the enzyme levels returned to normal. Two of these rabbits had liver disease when autopsied. Many House Rabbit Society members reported deaths of their rabbits due to liver disease and all these rabbits had been exposed to softwood shavings. Rabbits are generally less exposed to their litter boxes than rodents are to the beddings in their cage, so increased ventilation does not mean the liver won't be affected.
      Cedar and pine shavings are often recommended because their pleasant scent masks animal smells and repels skin parasites. However, there are plenty of non-toxic alternatives which can help combat animal smells, ranging from highly effective litters and beddings made from grain by-products and paper fibers, to special odor-eliminating sprays. And ivermectin is a much more effective and safe treatment for parasites than exposing an animal to constant levels of toxins. One or two beneficial properties of a product cannot make up for other dangerous properties.
     Several people have claimed that their pet rodents have always been kept on pine or cedar with no adverse effects. However, animals with elevated liver enzymes do not show any symptoms, and unless these animals received full autopsies at death with no sign of enlarged livers or liver disfunction, respiratory infection, or altered immune system, how can they claim that the pine or cedar did not affect them?
     Some claim that pine shavings which are heat-treated are safe because the heat drives off the toxins. There are currently products being sold, notably All-Pet Pine, Feline Pine, and Pine Fresh, that claim to be free of toxins. However, the studies in references 8 and 9 found that heat treatment did not remove all the toxins from the wood. Heat-treated shavings still caused a rise in liver enzymes in rats and mice.
      Pine and cedar shavings are often defended with the claim that customers are not forced to buy them. However, most rodent owners are not aware of the toxins in pine and cedar shavings. They assume that if a product is offered for sale, it must be safe. But just because pine and cedar shavings have been traditional and popular beddings does not mean they are safe. There is strong scientific evidence that pine and cedar shavings cause harm to rodents. Because of the toxic effects of softwood shavings, laboratories have pretty much stopped using them for their animals. It is time for owners of pet rodents to do the same! With so many safe alternative beddings available, it cannot be recommended that pine and cedar shavings be used for small animal beddings.


1. Odynets, A. et al. (1991) Beddings for Laboratory Animals: Criteria of Biological Evaluation. Lab. Zyhvotnye, 1 (3) p. 70-6
2. Ayars GH, Altman LC, Frazier CE, Chi EY. (1989) The toxicity of constituents of cedar and pine woods to pulmonary epithelium. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 83, pg. 610-18
3. Shamssain MH. (1992) Pulmonary function and symptoms in workers exposed to wood dust. Thorax, 47, pg. 84-87
4. Siracusa A, et al. (1995) Prevalence and predictors of asthma in working groups in British Columbia. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 28, pg. 411-423
5. Seegar, K.C. Tomhave, A.E. and Lucas, W.C. (1951) A comparison of litters used for broiler production. Delaware Agric. Exp. Stn., Bulletin, 289
6. Ferguson, H.C. (1966) Effect of red cedar chip bedding on hexobarbital and pentobarbital sleep time. Journal of Pharm. Science, 55 p.1142-8
7. Jori, A. et al. (1969) Effect of Essential Oils on Drug Metabolism. Biochemical Pharmacology, 18 p. 2081-5
8. Vesell, Elliot S. (1967) Induction of Drug-Metabolizing Enzymes in Liver Microsomes of Mice and Rats by Softwood Bedding. Science, 157 p. 1057-8
9. Weichbrod, Robert H. et al, (1988) Effects of Cage Beddings on Microsomal Oxidative Enzymes in Rat Liver. Laboratory Animal Science, 38 (3) p. 296-8
10. Burkhart, Carol A. & Robinson, James L., (1978) High rat pup mortality attributed to the use of cedar-wood shavings as bedding. Laboratory Animals, 12, pg. 221-222
11. Vaughan, T.L. and S. Davis, (1991) Wood Dust Exposure and Squamous Cell Cancers of the Upper Respiratory Tract. American Journal of Epidemiology, 133 (6), p. 560-4
12. Maier H, et al. (1992) Laryngeal cancer and occupation--Results of the Heidelberg laryngeal cancer study [German]. HNO, 40, pg. 44-51
13. Harriman, Marinell (1989) Litterboxes and Liver Disease. House Rabbit Journal, I (12) p.8-9

Saturday, July 9, 2011

European Hamsters

     Besides the five species of hamsters that are kept as pets there are many wild species of hamsters that have yet to make it to the pet market and may never do so. The most notable has to be the European hamster (Cricetus cricetus). The European hamster is used in some labs and has been attempted to be kept as a pet with little or no success as they have been found to be quite ferocious. The European hamster, also known as the Black-bellied hamster, was once found across Europe, from Belgium to Russia. They thrive in areas with a continental climate and earth with clay or loess soil where it can burrow.  Today it is an endangered species due to large scale agricultural practices and urbanization. The European hamster has a life span of about eight years in lab conditions and so is known as the hamster with longest general life span. The European hamster is also unique because of it's size, it happens to be the largest hamster species at eight to eleven inches (20-28 cm) in length and weighing about 16-21 ounces (712-906g). The fur of this hamster is red brown on the back and shoulders, white on the sides and black on the belly and chest - where as most rodents have lighter colours on their underside.
     In the wild the European hamster lives on it's own except to mate and for the female to raise their litters much like syrians. Both genders have their own territories, though males have larger territories that often overlap with one or more territories belonging to females. A female' s territory tends to be smaller in range as they must stay close in order to raise their young. Their burrows can vary in depth from 30-60 cm in the summer and 2 metres in the winter. In the wild breeding is from April to August and females have about two litters each breeding season. In lab settings females can have a litter each month. The gestation period is is 16-20 days (20 days in the wild) and the litter size is approximately consists of 4-18 pups. The male does not stay to help raise the young, that is up the female. These hamsters prefer dry, sandy soil to build their burrows in and are often found in grassy steppes, cultivated fields and riverbanks (They are also noted at being better swimmers than most other species of hamsters). European hamsters can store about 180lbs(90kg) of food in their burrow. They come out at night -being nocturnal- and scavenge and search for food, they will eat grains, vegetables, insects and even frogs. From about mid-October to early March the burrows are sealed and the hamster hibernate.
     They were not used much in research for quite some time due to their aggression both with each other and with humans until the 1970s when a breeding colony was established. 50 wild-caught European hamsters were captured in the Hannover-Braunschweig area of Germany and served as the initial stock for the Hannover breeding colony. Hibernation behaviours stopped as early as the second generation of hamsters but any wild-caught hamsters still showed signs of readiness for hibernation despite no change in environment in the lab.

     They were difficult to breed due to the females aggression towards the male. Thus for mating, stainless steal boxes (150 x 100 x 50 cm) were developed. It had a divider with a trap gate through the centre. The dividing fence allowed the hamsters to be able to communicate with out being able to reach each other to bite. If the female shows extreme aggression then she is not ready to mate the the hamsters are removed. If interest is shown then the gate is lifted and the hamsters are allowed to mate.
     In labs with captive bred hamsters when caged in groups from weaning age the hamsters integrated well; a social order with the largest male as alpha.
     The lifespan of these hamsters in the wild is about 8 years. In lab settings the lifespan is only about five years and is believed to be shorter due to lack of hibernation.

The Berne Convention

     In 1979 a convention was held in Berne, Switzerland -later to be called the Berne Convention- in order to not only discuss but to act upon the endangered flora and fauna in Europe, which includes the European hamster. The European hamster is now endangered due to extensive agricultural practices and urbanization, in 1977 the European hamster was found in 10% of areas checked in Europe. They were seen as pests to farmers but are now protected. The Berne Convention states that the parties that agreed and signed must hand in reports every six years explaining how they are following the Berne Convention and also not doing anything that will harm any endangered species. Forty-three country's signed, thirty-two of them being European countries. This Convention gives the European hamster protection from collection, killing and harassment. However not all countries have followed along with this agreement. For example the German government has allowed intensive industrial and agricultural construction near the Dutch border, which is a very important breeding site for the European hamster. In 2001 the European Commision was asked for the second time why this was allowed. The German Representative responded by claiming that there were no European hamsters in the area.

Pictures, Videos and a Blog!

     A member on a local hamster forum that I frequent is very lucky to be neighbours with a family of European hamsters. She has seen the mother and her young, and even recently a male live around her apartment. She has a blog set up, a Youtube channel and even some very amazing pictures of these little wonders. We are even luckier that she also speaks English and has everything translated for us English-speaking people!

So here are some links to her stuff, enjoy!

TheFeldhamster (European Hamster Pictures)

Diabetes in Hamsters

Diabetes is a condition where the pancreas (a gland organ) cannot produce enough of the hormone, insulin, to deal with the glucose (a type of sugar) in the body. When starch-rich foods are digested they break down into glucose which then enters the bloodstream. The glucose then travels through the bloodstream until the insulin can help move it into the body’s cells. Glucose is one of the main sources of energy for cells in the body. When insulin cannot be made or the body develops insulin resistance then the glucose builds up in the blood stream and the body is starved of this energy. There are two types of diabetes which will be discussed later on. This article has been put together with the intention of informing hamster owners about diabetes in hamsters, its symptoms, its treatments and for people to get a general understanding about what this all means.

What Species are at Risk?

Of the five species of hamsters that are kept as pets, only some of them are prone to diabetes. For example Syrian hamsters, Roborovski Dwarf hamsters and in some parts of the world, Winter White Dwarf hamsters are not prone to diabetes. This does not mean that they are immune but that it is unlikely that they will get diabetes. Russian Campbell Dwarf hamsters, Chinese hamsters, some lines of Winter White Dwarf Hamsters and Hybrid (Russian Campbell and Winter White) hamsters are all at a higher risk for diabetes.


Type1 diabetes is where the pancreas can no longer produce insulin. This means that the glucose in the blood will build up and the hamster’s body will begin to take fat and muscle tissue to use for energy. This will cause the hamster to lose weight making them appear thin and frail. Type1 diabetes is also known as early onset or juvenile diabetes as it seems to be diagnosed at about 3 to 4 months of age.


Type2 diabetes is often actually insulin resistance (body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin). Usually a change in diet can help to reverse this. Type2 diabetes is often associated with being overweight and not having a properly balanced diet. Managing the hamster’s weight and diet can help in treatment with type2 diabetes. If it is left untreated then it can develop into full-blown diabetes and will need to be properly managed. Type2 diabetes is also known as late onset diabetes as it often is diagnosed later in the hamster’s life. Type2 diabetes also seems to be more common than type1 diabetes.

Ketones and Ketoacidosis

This is typically only seen in type1 diabetes when the glucose cannot be brought to the cells, due to lack of insulin and then the body breaks down fat instead. When fat is broken down chemicals called ketones are produced by the body and are found in the blood and urine. In excess, ketones make the blood more acidic which is called ketoacidosis, or diabetic ketoacidosis when it is caused by diabetes. Ketoacidosis is very dangerous and a vet must be seen right away. Ketones can be monitored using urine test strips such as Bayers Keto Diastix test strips or Ketostix test stripes.


Ravenous appetite: Without insulin the glucose cannot get into the cells and so the body thinks it is being starved. In an attempt to feed the starving cells the hamster will increase its appetite and eat larger quantities of food.
Weight loss: Since the body cannot get any energy from the glucose, the body then takes fat and muscle for energy and the hamster begins to lose weight. So even though they’re eating more, none of the energy is being given to their body so they lose weight. This is mainly associated with type1 diabetes.
Excessive drinking: All of this glucose in the bloodstream is now building up due to the lack of insulin; and the kidneys, which are supposed to attempt to keep the body from loosing glucose, will become overwhelmed allowing the excess glucose to filter out through the urine. In order for the glucose to be excreted properly it needs a certain amount of liquid and so water is taken from the body. The hamster then attempts to make up for this lost water and drinks large amounts of water.
Frequent urination: Since the hamster needs to remove the excess glucose in the urine they will also urinate more to do so.
Sweet smelling urine: Since there is excess sugars in the urine, it tends to smell sweet and sometimes attracts ants.
Hyperactivity or Lethargy: Diabetic hamsters may also switch from being jittery and hyperactive to lethargic based on how their body is currently trying to handle the diabetes.

Side Affects

If left untreated or in severe cases of diabetes hamsters can have heart problems, kidney failure, cataracts, or blindness. Some further side effects of diabetes can include excessive growth of nails, Ketoacidosis, bladder infections, dehydration, and injury of the bladder from falls due to an overfull bladder.


Testing your hamster can be done by a veterinarian or it can even be done by yourself. Since hamsters are so small it isn’t best to be constantly testing their blood in order to find out their glucose and ketones level. Instead their urine can be tested using urine test strips found online or at your local pharmacy. A common brand is Bayer’s Keto-Diastix which has tests for both glucose and ketone levels. Keep in mind that Bayer’s also has tests called ‘Ketostix’ which only tests for Ketones and ‘Diastix’ which only tests the glucose levels. Testing on diabetes-prone species should be done at least once a month. For hamsters that actually have diabetes the amount of times tested seems to vary from person to person. Some say that they should be tested weekly while others say daily. How often your hamster should be tested may depend on the individual hamster.

In order to test your hamster you will need an empty container of some sort, something that will not soak up the urine. Place your hamster in this container and wait for them to urinate. If they do have diabetes you probably won’t need to wait long. If it seems to be taking too long (say 15-20 minutes) then you should probably remove them and try again later. Once they do urinate dip the test strip through the urine and compare the results as directed on the box. Getting them into this container just after they have woken up can help to speed up the process.

Diet & Nutrition

It is widely known that diet is important in one’s health but it is especially crucial for a diabetic hamster. If your hamster has diabetes then their diet will need to be more strict than the average hamster’s in order to help control their diabetes. It can seem like a lot to do at first but once you figure it out, it is not such a big deal. The big thing to remember that when it comes to diet is that not everything is set in stone or agreed upon. What might work for one hamster may not work for others, so you need to find what is right for your hamster. It is also important to remember that balance in the diet is still crucial when it comes to diet. Limiting sugary foods is different than eliminating sugary foods for example. The body still needs some sugars after all. Written and explained below is the generally agreed upon diet for a diabetic hamster.

First you will need to look at your staple diet. Whether you use a seed mix or lab blocks you need to check the ingredients for things such as fruits, corn, other corn ingredients, and added sugars (honey, sucrose, fructose, molasses, corn syrup, etc.). Any foods that have added sugars or have high amounts of any of the other ingredients should be avoided. Seed mixes are easier to deal with because certain ingredients such as corn kernels can be picked out. However picking out too many of the foods from the mix can cause the mix to be thrown off balance and the nutritional value of the food altered. Therefore you ideally want a mix that does not need anything picked out. At this point no such mix exists. The best mix that I have come across so for though is Supreme Pet Foods Hazel Hamster Food (called Harry Hamster in some countries). It has no added sugars, few ingredients that need to be picked out and is an overall good mix.

Now you need to look into limiting sugary foods from their diet. This means that certain foods should not be fed to your hamster. Typically foods such as fruits, corn, and store bought hamster treats are mostly avoided due to the high sugar levels found in them. By limiting the sugars in the food you are putting less stress on the body.

Besides foods that are high in sugar being cut down, any foods that are high in simple carbohydrates should also be limited. When consumed, carbohydrates break down into glucose which is the sugar that insulin helps move into the body’s cells. Foods such as pasta, rice, wheat products, etc. are all high in simple carbohydrates. They still need some carbs in their diet so do not go into eliminating every carb. Filling in simple carbs with complex carbs is a good idea with foods such as broccoli or kale.

Now you must do your best to figure out if your hamster has type1 or type2 diabetes. This isn’t always possible. But time of onset and the weight of the hamster prior to treatment can be indicators. It is believed that type1 diabetes will occur earlier in the hamsters life and that due to the way the disease works, the hamster will be underweight despite overeating. Type2 diabetes is usually linked with a later onset and obesity. Hamsters with type2 diabetes should be fed a low fat diet in order to help control the diabetes. This means cutting back on fattening foods such as peanuts and pumpkin seeds. This does not mean that fat should be cut entirely. Also under no circumstances should sunflower seeds be cut from the diet. Sunflower seeds are incredibly healthy, for more information on the benefits of sunflower seeds please check out this link:
Sunflower Seeds: Re-examined. Hamsters with type1 diabetes should not be fed low fat diets.

Protein in a diabetic hamsters diet seems to be one of the most debated aspect of the diet. Some say that the diets should contain a little more protein saying that getting protein for energy is better than using glucose for energy when it comes to diabetes. However it can cause some problems with the kidneys if you over do it. Some good foods for protein include plain cooked chicken/turkey, tofu, plain yogurt, lentils, meal worms, crickets and boiled/scrambled eggs among others. It seems best that you only add extra protein to younger hamsters that are otherwise healthy. Older hamsters or hamsters suffering from other health issues should have the protein left as is, the reason being is that these amounts of protein can put a strain on an ill hamster. It should be noted that protein needs to break down fat, which can lead to an increase in ketones if you increase the protein. Those that do not agree with increasing protein instead suggest increasing complex carbohydrates.

Fibre is also important in the diet as it helps to slow the absorption of sugars, which can slow the body’s need for insulin. Some good fibre rich foods include broccoli, cauliflower, lentils, kale, and oatmeal (plain or cooked with soy milk/water).

For more information about foods that are safe for diabetic hamsters please check out this thread:
Hamster Food List.


Diabetes cannot be cured unfortunately. Once a hamster has diabetes, they have it for life. There are some treatments available though. Diet is not the only way possible to treat diabetes.

A controlled diet is very important part of treatment when it comes to diabetes. Be sure to read above for details on diet.

Treating with Fenugreek Seeds:
Fenugreek seeds have a special effect that helps to lower blood sugar levels. When a hamster has too much sugar in the blood this is called hyperglycemia, meanwhile having low blood sugar is referred to as hypoglycemia. Fenugreek seeds have hypoglycemic effects, meaning that they are great for a diabetic hamster. Details about how to treat a diabetic hamster with Fenugreek seeds are mentioned in this topic: Treating Diabetic Hamsters with Fenugreek

Treating with Glipizide:
Glipizide is a medication used for human diabetics. It should really only be used under the guidance of a veterinarian in order to ensure that the proper dosage is used. For more information about how to treat a diabetic hamster with Glipizide, please check out this topic: Treating Diabetic Hamsters with Glipizide.

It is also important to remember that it is easy for diabetics to become dehydrated, especially when they are not being treated for the diabetes. Since so much water is taken from the body to ensure that the excess sugar leaves the body, the hamster is not left with enough water for other bodily needs. To test if your hamster is dehydrated you can lightly pinch the extra skin in between their shoulders. It should snap right back if the hamster is hydrated. If it goes down slowly then the hamster is dehydrated. The best way to rehydrate a hamster is with a 50/50 solution of Pedialyte and water. Another option is to use a 50/50 solution with water and a rehydration drink such as Powerade.
It is often mentioned by some that such methods to rehydrate the hamster is not safe for diabetics seeing as these products are high in levels of dextrose and fructose (types of sugars). I was also curious about this so I asked missPixy from Hamster Hideout about it myself and she kindly replied:

I also had this issue! but keep in mind that the sugars themselves
aren't necessarily a bad thing~~ we all need some sugars in our diet.
that's my biggest problem with diet-only methods of treating diabetes.
diabetes is a dysfunctional pancreas. it's not that the foods are bad.
it's that the pancreas isn't processing the glucose anymore and just
dumps it into the bloodstream.

Using diet is a way of minimizing sugars so putting less stress on

the body... but the problem is then it's easier for malnutrition to
happen because foods are being withheld. it's also very hard to
manage diabetes with diet only because other issues cause rises
and falls in the blood sugar level: amount of exercise, stress, etc.

Also, by withholding all sugars it's possible to cause "hypoglycemia"

where the body isn't getting enough sugars, and goes into shock.
this also happens to people when they are taking too much diabetes
meds and their diet is wrong.

So long story short, the dehydration means the body is most likely

low in sugars. so the pedialyte 50/50 or gatorade or home
rehydration therapies won't cause a problem, and should in fact
alleviate it temporarily.

Special Care Concerns

There are some other considerations that must be made for diabetic hamsters. These care concerns are mentioned in a German Diabetic Blog (written by thefeldhamster among several others here: Diabetes Hamster. With permission from thefeldhamster I translated this section of the blog.

Since diabetic hamsters tend to urinate quite frequently it is advisable that they have a large toilets in their cage, preferably near their nest. They should be cleaned daily and as the disease progresses they may need to be cleaned several time a day. Hygiene in the cage is especially important with the excess sugar in the urine that can easily grow bacteria and leave the hamster prone to bladder infections.

Along with frequent cleaning of the toilet, any other pee sites should be cleaned out fairly often as well. The nest should be checked fairly often but only cleaned out if it is dirty in order to avoid stressing out the hamster. It is recommended that the hamster be toilet trained so that it is easier to control the cleaning. A hamster that is not toilet trained may urinate all around the cage meaning the the cage needs to be cleaned more often than normal which can be stressful on the hamster. It is important to try and avoid stressful situations for your hamster.

Again since diabetic hamsters urinate a lot more they will also likely pee in their wheel more often. Because of this it is recommended to use a solid plastic wheel such as a Comfort Wheel or a Wodent Wheel. If you do wish to use a wooden wheel then it is best to get something to make it water proof so that the urine cannot soak in and it can be easily washed. This sealant must also be child-friendly so that it cannot harm your hamster. In order to clean unpainted wooden wheels you can quickly scald the wheel with boiling water (just a quick wash). Along with that you can add a few drops of vinegar to help with the smell. [Also keep in mind that any kids should be sure to get help from their parents with this as you could be scalded from the hot water. It also seems like a much better idea to just paint the wheel rather than deal with this constantly]. It was also mentioned that wheels could also be sprayed with a product called ‘Bactazol’ which is basically a spray that disinfects, deodorizes, and kills insects and other ectoparasites. It is mild and considered pet-friendly. [I have not been able to find an English equivalent though, most products that I did look at were not considered to be as safe].

Drinking points should be located near the nest. Water bottles or water bowls can be used. The advantage of water bottles is that the amount of water consumed can be measured and it holds enough water for even when the hamster drinks large amounts, the hamster does not go without water. The water bottle spouts are easy to clean with tobacco pipe cleaner. If you are using a water bowl then the bowl must be small enough so that the hamster cannot go into it, where the hamster could get wet and catch a cold. It is also better to offer several small bowls throughout the cage so that the hamster never goes with out water. The amount consumed when using a bowl can be controlled by using a syringe and measuring the water prior to putting it in the bowl and then sucking up what is left the next day to measure how much was consumed. [If using a bowl I would recommend that it is somewhere away form the substrate so that the hamster cannot kick in any bedding].

It is also recommended that a hiding spot of some kind should be near any of the drinking points. Especially in the later stages when the hamster may enjoy sleeping near the water bottle.

The cage should have access to climbing roots, sand to burrow in and stones to wear down the nails as diabetic hamsters tend to have rapid nail growth. The nails should be kept trimmed and can be done by a veterinarian or by yourself with the help of someone else to hold the hamster. High levels in the cage must also be taken into consideration as falls are more dangerous for diabetic hamsters since their bladders are often full and a fall could cause great damage to the bladder.

Further the hamster should be weighed regularly and tested often to make sure that the hamster does not develop a bladder infection. Diabetes can mask symptoms of other problems such as cystitis (urinary bladder inflammation) if they are not tested regularly.

Urinary Tract Infection?

If the symptoms of excessive drinking and urinating are present but the tests are negative for diabetes than the hamster may be suffering from a Urinary Tract Infection. If this is the case then a vet should be consulted to obtain some antibiotics for the infection.

Further Reading and Resources

For further reading about diabetes in hamsters please check out these links:
Hamsterific: Diabetes in Dwarf Hamsters
Treating Diabetic Hamsters with Fenugreek (also linked above).
Treating Diabetic Hamsters with Glipizide (also linked above).
Hamster Hideout’s A-Z Guide: Diabetes
HammysWorld: Diabetes in a Hamster
Honey Hams- Diabetic Hamsters Yahoo Group
Diabetes Hamster Blog (also linked above). This Blog is written in German and so a translation tool such as Google Language Tools should be used if you do not read German. Simply copy and paste the URL enter it in ‘Translate a Web Page’ and select German >> English (or preferred language). Keep in mind that the translations aren’t perfect, but you should be able to get the idea of what is being said though.