Skip to Primary Content

Bowmanville Veterinary Clinic

Hamster Information Package


We are extremely proud of our clinic and of our team consisting of over 20 caring and experienced staff. We are dedicated to providing excellence in care for our patients and their families since 1972. Our entire team cares deeply for your pet and will treat them with caring hands and a tender voice; their comfort and well-being is why we are here every day.

We are also very involved in our community through our popular Junior Vet program which has been running since 2003, and wildlife triage that we offer at no cost. We are delighted to be one of the veterinary clinics providing patient care for the Northumberland Humane Society. 

Please check out our website at for more information on these programs and on our clinic and staff. We look forward to being your other family doctor!

Beyond What You See

Both Doctors and Staff have your pet's best interest at heart and strive to make their stay with us as pleasant as possible. We encourage you to accompany your pet to their kennel to allow you the opportunity to see where they will stay and to help them to settle in. Every pet has his or her own separate kennel or run, furnished with a clean, dry, comfy towel or blanket. If your pet has a "special toy” or “security blanket" feel free to bring it in with them.

If your pet is to have a general anesthetic we would like you to know that we minimize the risks by providing exemplary care during their stay. We highly recommend a pre-anesthetic blood screen prior to a general anesthetic. Just as your doctor would run a blood test before your procedure we do the same for your pet. A pre-anesthetic blood test is like an internal physical exam that will check organ function and help identify unknown diseases. For this blood work, we collect a small sample of blood that is sent to an outside lab. Blood work must be submitted at least 24 hours before the procedure.

Veterinarians will do a physical exam the morning of surgery to ensure that your pet is healthy before undergoing general anesthetic. Patients are assessed individually to determine which anesthetics will be safest for them. We have anesthetics available for all ages, from the very young to our senior patients. We also carry anesthetics specific to our work with exotic pets.

The doctors adhere to strict sterile techniques, complete with a cap, mask, sterile gown, and gloves when performing surgery. A separate sterile surgical pack is used for each procedure to avoid infection and cross-contamination. The animals are surgically prepared both at their incision and intravenous sites. This involves first shaving the hair, then cleaning the skin with antibacterial solutions.

Prior to the anesthetic, every animal is placed on intravenous fluids. Intravenous fluids are important to help maintain optimal blood pressure during surgery as well as provide access that will allow us to administer drugs if an anesthetic emergency arises.

While under anesthesia, every pet is connected to a Cardell monitor for carbon dioxide, blood pressure, and heart monitoring. Each pet is provided with a warming blanket to manage its temperature during the anesthetic. As well, our Registered Veterinary Technicians continually assess the animals, during both the anesthetic and recovery periods. During recovery one of our technicians or assistants sit with your pet to comfort them as they recover from the anesthetic.

We are acutely aware of the level of pain of our patients and have very current protocols in place to help manage their pain while in the hospital as well medications for use at home to keep them comfortable.

Uncomplicated surgery cases are discharged the same day. This allows the animal to rest at home, which is usually less stressful for both patient and owner. We do keep some animals overnight if they require bandaging after surgery. We recommend that more complicated cases be transferred to the Animal Emergency Clinic in Whitby for overnight observation.

If you have any questions or would like to tour our facility, please ask any one of our staff members. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome as we strive to provide the best service possible for you and your pet.

General Information

Life Span: 2-3 years

Environment Temperature Range: 65F- 80F

Relative Humidity Range: 40 - 70%

Breeding Range: 10 - 14 Months (male) -- 6-10 months (female)

Gestation Period: 15 - 16 days

Litter Size: 5 - 10

Weaning Age:  21-25 days

Hamsters are peculiar little rodents with large cheek pouches and short stubby tails.

The three basic groups that now exist include the common “golden” hamster, colored shorthaired “fancy” hamster, and longhaired “teddy bear” hamster. All three varieties are popular as pets, while the research community generally employs the basic golden hamster.

On occasion, one may encounter other species of hamsters, but these are much less common than the Syrian hamster. The smaller, dark brown Chinese hamster (dwarf hamster) is often used in biomedical research, and they are sometimes acquired as pets. These hamsters are recognized for their small size, dark brown color, and black stripes over their backs. The Armenian (grey) hamster and European hamster are two other species occasionally used in research but seldom kept as pets.


As with any pet, good quality food and clean, fresh water must be provided at all times. The precise nutritional requirements of hamsters have not been fully determined. In the wild, these animals feed on plants, seeds, fruit, and insects. Current recommendations for feeding in captivity are pelleted rodent ration containing 15% - 20% protein. These rations are typically processed as dry blocks or pellets designed for rodents. Seed diets are also “formulated” and sold for hamsters, but these diets should only supplement the basic rodent pellet. Seed diets contain high levels of fat, which can easily become rancid if improperly stored. In addition, when fed alone, these diets often lead to obesity and potential nutritional deficiencies. Other supplements to the diet may include sugarless breakfast cereals, whole-wheat pieces of bread, pasta, cheese, cooked lean meats, fresh fruits, and vegetables; all should be fed in moderation. Hamsters eat approximately 12 grams of food daily and usually consume the majority of this at night. Hamsters are like little pack rats that often hoard their food in a corner of their cage, making it seem as though they eat a lot more than they really do.

Water is easily provided in water bottles equipped with sipper tubes. This method also helps keep the water free from contamination. Always make sure that the tunes are positioned low enough to allow the pet easy access. Juvenile hamsters need special consideration; they need to be strong enough to use the sipper tube as well as able to reach it. The average hamster drinks approximately 10ml of water per 100 grams of body weight (average adult size). Although this amount is only a fraction of the total bottle volume, fresh water should be provided daily, not only when the bottle empties.


Several types of cages are available which are suitable for housing hamsters. These units must come equipped with cage “furniture” such as exercise wheels, tunnels, and nest boxes. These accessories contribute to the pet’s psychological well-being.

Hamsters need solid bottom cages with deep bedding and ample nesting material. Bedding must be clean, non-toxic, absorbent, relatively dust-free, and easily acquired. Shredded paper or tissue, wood shavings and processed corncob are preferred beddings. Be sure that the wood shavings and ground corncob are free from mold, mildew, or other contamination before using. Cotton and shredded tissue paper make excellent nesting materials. Adult hamsters require a minimum floor area of 19 square inches and a cage height of 6 inches. Female breeding hamsters require much larger areas.

Optimal temperature range for hamsters is between 65 & 76; and 80 & 76;F, with babies doing best at 70 & 76; to 75 & 76;F. The relative humidity should be between 40% and 70%. Twelve hour light cycles are preferred, with hamsters being more active during the night.

Pet hamsters are generally housed singly. Mature female hamsters tend to be very aggressive towards one another and should never be housed together. Females are also larger and more aggressive than males, thus males usually need to be separated immediately after breeding. Males may also fight when housed together but tend to be less aggressive than females.

As a rule of thumb, the cage and accessories should be thoroughly cleaned once to twice weekly. An exception to this schedule is when newborn babies are present, then wait until they are at least two weeks old. Other factors that may require increased frequency of cleaning are the number of hamsters in the cage, the type of bedding material provided, and the cage design and size. Cages should be sanitized with hot water and nontoxic disinfectant or detergent then thoroughly rinsed. Water bottles and food dishes should be cleaned and disinfected daily.


Hamsters handled frequently from a young age usually remain docile and seldom bite. These animals of a docile nature can be gently picked up by cupping in one or both hands and held against one’s body. Beware that even docile hamsters may bite if surprised or abruptly awakened from sleep.

 Other hamsters, however, may not have received a lot of attention and handling throughout their lives, and thus may be more apprehensive and aggressive. Any animal whose personality is not fully known must be approached cautiously. The use of a small towel or gloves can assist the handler in capturing and restraining such a pet.

Another method of capture involves coaxing the animal into a container (such as a can or tube), which can then be removed from the cage. Once removed from the cage, biting hamsters can be restrained by grasping a large amount of skin at the scruff of the neck. As much skin as possible must be grasped using this method because their skin is very loose. If lightly scruffed, the hamster can easily turn around within its skin and bite the handler.

Medical Conditions

Proliferative Ileitis (Wet Tail)

The most commonly encountered bacterial infection recognized in hamsters is “wet tail”. The precise cause of the disease is not fully understood, but underlying infections with the bacteria Campylobacter fetus subspecies jejuni have been reported. Campylobacter sp. are responsible for serious intestinal diseases in other animal species such as swine, dogs, ferrets, primates, and even humans. Although this agent is suspected to be an underlying cause of this syndrome, pure cultures of the bacteria cannot reproduce the disease, suggesting other predisposing factors or agents. Such contributory factors include improper diet, sudden dietary changes, overcrowding, and other stresses.

This disease most often affects weanling hamsters between the ages of 3 to 6 weeks, but hamsters of all ages are susceptible. Since this is the age at which most hamsters are sold, this is a common disease encountered in recently acquired pets. The longhaired “teddy bear” hamster seems to be more vulnerable than the other varieties.

Death may result within 1 to 7 days after the onset of watery diarrhea. Other signs include matting of the fur around the tail, unkempt hair coat, and hunched stance, loss of appetite, dehydration, emaciation and irritability. Blood from the rectum and rectal prolapse may be noted in some serious cases. This is a very serious disease, with death being the most likely outcome. Due to the severity of this disease, any hamster exhibiting these signs must be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Antibiotics, fluid therapy and anti-diarrheal medications will be administered to the patient. Supportive care will also be instituted. Despite best efforts, treatment is often unrewarding with death occurring within a couple days in many cases.

Hair Loss (Alopecia)

Hair loss can occur for a number of reasons in hamsters. This loss of hair can be due to both disease and non-disease conditions. Continual rubbing on feeders or sides of the cage as well as barbering and hair chewing by cage mates are examples of non-disease causes of alopecia. Infestation with mites is one of the most common infectious causes of patchy alopecia and scaling in hamsters. Other conditions that lead to hair loss include adrenal tumors, thyroid deficiency and chronic renal disease. Some of these conditions may be correctable, while others are not.

Demodex mites are the most common external parasite causing problems in hamsters. The mite lives within the hair follicles and certain skin glands of their host. The presence of these mites results in dry, scaly skin and subsequent hair loss, especially over the back and rump. This disease is rarely a problem by itself. Demodectic mange in hamsters is often associated with chronic, debilitating diseases or other underlying problems. For this reason, a thorough examination must be performed on any hamster presented with mites. To confirm the presence of mites, the veterinarian may perform a skin scraping for microscopic observation. Treatment for the mites is often possible, but remember that there may be another problem, often more severe, underlying this one which must also be addressed.

Geriatric Conditions

Hamsters tend to have relatively short life spans when compared with other species. The average life expectancy of a hamster is between two and three years of age. For this reason, spontaneous aging diseases are not uncommon in these animals, typically after the age of one year. Two of the most common geriatric diseases of hamsters are amyloidosis (protein deposition in various organs) and cardiac thrombosis (blood clots in the heart). Treatment of these conditions involves managing clinical signs since cures are not possible. A diagnosis of virtually any geriatric disease carries with it a poor prognosis.

Amyloidosis is a condition whereby proteins produced by the body are deposited in various organs, primarily the liver and kidneys. Kidney and liver failure often occurs as a result of this protein deposit. Many other organs are also affected and the changes are irreversible. Signs of this condition include swollen abdomen, urinary problems, dehydration, poor appetite and rough hair coat. Supportive care is the only treatment since this condition is eventually terminal.

Blood clots within the heart occur at a relatively high frequency in older hamsters. This condition is known as cardiac thrombosis and typically occurs in the left side of the heart. Many factors are involved in the formation of these clots including clotting disorders, heart failure, circulating bacterial infection and amyloidosis.

Many other old age diseases occur in hamsters over the age of one year. Liver and kidney disease is not uncommon in middle age to old hamsters. Other conditions commonly encountered are gastric ulcers, tumors and dental disease.