Sick hamsters should be fed nutritious and easy-to swallow and digest food, such as a mix of meaty and plain vegetable baby food, Critical care, cooked chicken and eggs, high-calorie treats, nuts, and seeds. Also give them easy access to water or Pedialyte. Finally, every disease needs its own recovery diet, and that’s what we’re going to look at in this article.
- How long can a sick hamster go without food?
- How much food will a sick hamster need?
- List of foods not to feed a sick hamster
- Helping a sick hamster
- How do I feed a hamster that has diarrhea?
- What to feed a hamster that had a stroke?
- Feeding a hamster after a heat stroke
- What to feed a hamster that has diabetes?
- Feeding a hamster that has dental problems
- How can you boost your sick hamster’s immune system?
- Can sick hamsters eat canned dog food?
- Can sick hamsters eat baby puffs?
- Final thoughts
How long can a sick hamster go without food?
Except for the pregnant or nursing hamster, who has to eat more often than usual, hamsters, usually can go up to 4 days without food, depending on the content of its last meal.
Grains and seeds will keep your hamster fed a little longer than protein-rich foods, while protein-rich foods will also enable your hamster to go without food for longer than if its last meal was all plants or hay.
When your hamster is sick, just encourage it at least to eat a little, by offering him/her its favorite food and bringing the food close to its mouth to let it taste or smell it.
How much food will a sick hamster need?
Hamsters eat on average 10% of their ideal body weight every 24 hours. A Dwarf hamster weighing 50 g needs to eat an average of at least 5 g of food every 24 hours, while a Syrian hamster needs an average of 10 g of food a day.
But when a hamster is sick, it will be fed mainly soaked pellets or Mazuri lab blocks or baby food ( mix a meaty baby food, such as lamb, chicken, or turkey, with a plain vegetable one, like carrots or green beans) which is rich in proteins, minerals, and vitamins, but it will be digested very quickly and your hamster will soon go hungry.
How many times a day should I feed a sick hamster?
Healthy hamsters usually eat every 2 hours, but expect your sick hamster to feel hungry more or less often than when he wasn’t sick, so just pay attention to its behavior and you’ll understand for yourself when he needs to feed.
Feeding a sick hamster well will certainly speed up its recovery, but you also need to know which foods to avoid giving him so as not to worsen its condition.
Here’s now, some advice on what to feed and what not to feed your hamster, depending on the illness he’s suffering from:
List of foods not to feed a sick hamster
When a hamster is sick or convalescing, it’s best to avoid giving him certain foods to avoid making his situation worse or slowing his recovery.
So let’s start with the list of foods not to feed a sick hamster, whatever its illness.
It should also be noted that some of the following foods are not recommended even for healthy hamsters:
- Sugary foods, sugary treats, fruit… especially if they have diabetes.
- Fatty foods such as nuts, live mealworms, fatty meats, oily seeds, these foods are difficult to digest.
- Dairy foods such as cheese, yogurt, etc. are also not recommended for sick hamsters as they are difficult to digest.
- Overly acidic foods (citrus fruits), slices of lemon, lime, orange, pomelo, grapefruit, papeda, especially for indigestion.
- Spicy, hot and salty foods are not recommended for hamsters, even when they are not sick, to avoid stomach problems. Your sick hamster should not eat things like hot peppers, onions, garlic… also avoid salty foods.
- Any unbalanced processed food.
- Finally, some raw vegetables are difficult to digest, so it’s best to boil or steam them before feeding them to a sick hamster. So avoid feeding raw vegetables with a hard texture.
Helping a sick hamster
Before you even think about what to feed your sick hamster, there are a few do’s and don’ts that will help make his daily life easier, prevent a relapse, and most importantly, speed his recovery.
1- Isolate your sick hamster from his cage mates : As soon as you return from the vet’s, you need to think about putting your sick hamster in a separate enclosure, especially if his illness is contagious, such as if he has a wet tail, rabies, some bacterial infections, and also a flu-like illness (parainfluenza virus 1).
2- Clean his enclosure, especially if his illness is caused by a lack of hygiene and keep it clean.
3- Never forget to give your hamster his medication and always keep an eye on your sick hamster to make sure his condition remains stable or is improving.
4- Provide your hamster with comfort and avoid unnecessary stress.
6- Always keep your hamster hydrated. Syringe-hydrate her/him Pedialyte if necessary. 10 ml of water for each 100 grams of body weight. Not less and not more to avoid diarrhea.
7- Avoid touching your sick hamster as much as possible, avoid unnecessary handlings and out of cage playtimes.
8- Get your hamster’s Exotic vet phone number, you may need it.
9- In some cases, such as broken bones or if your hamster needs to avoid exercise, such as after a stroke, you may also need to remove the exercise wheel and reduce any obstacles in its enclosure.
10- Finally, if your hamster’s cage is too small (less than 750 square inch), maybe it’s time to get him a bigger enclosure.
How do I feed a hamster that has diarrhea?
1- If the diarrhea is caused by a wet tail
If a hamster has a wet tail and is suffering from inflammatory diarrhea, the vet will probably prescribe antibiotics (wet tail drops) to treat the bacteria in the gut.
Your sick hamster may refuse to eat or drink water, so you will need to help him do so. Be aware that your hamster will become weak and may not be able to use its water bottle, especially if it has a mechanical obstruction.
The first thing to remove from its diet is all wet food, fruit, and vegetables, especially those containing large amounts of water.
Give him only dry food, dry oats, steamed brown rice, pieces of dry bread, and nutrient-rich hay such as timothy or alfalfa hay to replace the loss of protein-rich fluids.
If your hamster refuses to eat, try giving him some Critical care or chicken baby food.
If a hamster has a wet tail, diarrhea will also dehydrate your hamster, which is more dangerous than the wet tail itself.
After you’ve cleaned and disinfected its cage, bowl, and water bottle, he will need easy access to its (not too cold), clean, fresh, and clean water. You can add a small amount of liquid replacement powder (read the instructions for dosage).
You can even give him fluids with a feeding syringe (one or two drops of water every 30 mn) by giving him a rehydration fluid (an oral rehydration solution -ORS; rich in salts and minerals, products such as lactate, unflavored Pedialyte “ask your vet for more advice”).
2- If the diarrhea is caused by an upset stomach
In some cases, diarrhea in hamsters is caused by an upset stomach, which is often the result of a poor diet, such as hamsters that eat only pellets, or the picky ones that eat certain foods such as nuts and dried fruit and won’t touch other fiber-rich foods, which upsets their digestive system and causes osmotic diarrhea.
Make sure your hamster drinks plenty of water.
Remove sugary foods from the bowl, avoid dairy products and those rich in vitamin C. A varied and rich well-balanced hamster diet is necessary for your hamster to rebuild its intestinal flora.
So, how to feed a constipated hamster?
Constipation in hamsters is often caused by
- Hamsters that are fed only dry food.
- A diet high in calcium or iron
- A diet low in fiber
- Insufficient amounts of wet food and water intake.
If your hamster is constipated or has a fecal impaction, start by checking its food. It is either incomplete or your pet is a picky hamster.
You’ll start by encouraging him to drink more water, but also analyze his diet and try to increase fiber-rich foods (vegetables, fruit, and cereals) and reduce calcium-rich ones.
You can also give him either a few drops of olive oil or 5 ml of liquid paraffin twice a day (consult an exotic vet in case of complications). You can then encourage your hamster to get on its wheel – some exercise is always good in this kind of situation.
Finally, don’t feed your hamster bananas in case of a blockage or constipation.
What to feed a hamster that had a stroke?
Strokes are common in old hamsters, and at this old age, they usually need special care, help, and more attention; to help your hamster recover from a stroke, you’ll need to start by making his water and food easily accessible, and then help him to feed himself if he refuses to eat.
The best way is to use a syringe to give him water, which you can enrich with a little Pedialyte or any other oral rehydration solution (rich in vitamins, salts, and minerals), especially those made for babies.
It’s best to avoid foods with too much vitamin D and calcium, as the combination of these two elements can help your hamster suffer a second stroke.
Get your recovering hamster some 6-month baby food, preferably vegetable or rice-based (avoid those containing onion, garlic, spices, pepper, tomato, citrus fruits, and lemon juice):
Try to find Hipp Organic Baby Food, Cow and Gate Baby Food jars, Heinz by Nature Baby Food, and Ellas Kitchen Organic Baby Food pouches.
Hold your hamster loosely in the palm of your hand, place the tip of the syringe on one side of the hamster’s mouth, and press down to squeeze out just a drop or two of water or food.
Give your hamster time to swallow his food before giving him more, and if he starts to fuss, put him down gently – it’s a sign that he’s no longer hungry or thirsty.
You can also wet its favorite pellets to make them softer and easier to swallow and give him more enrichment, sprays, and chew toys to keep him occupied once you’ve removed its wheel.
Finally, your hamster needs to stay calm, avoid sudden movements or stressful situations, and remove all levels and obstacles in the cage, including the exercise wheel.
Feeding a hamster after a heat stroke
when it’s hot and you’re not paying attention to your hamster, it can fall victim to heat stroke. When a hamster experiences this kind of situation, the first thing to do is to prevent it from happening by cooling the enclosure and stabilizing the room temperature.
Your hamster will need to hydrate regularly, and freshwater is the best way to speed up your pet’s recovery. You can help him drink with a syringe if necessary.
Your hamster will soon start feeding again. Give him fresh vegetables like cucumber and celery, and if he refuses to eat, try a small piece of watermelon or apple.
What to feed a hamster that has diabetes?
When a hamster has diabetes, although the amount of food and water it consumes will increase, it will actually lose more and more weight because the cells won’t have the glucose they need, and on the other hand, your hamster will look thirsty and dehydrated all the time because its body needs more and more water to remove the excess glucose filtered out by the kidneys.
The ideal diet for a hamster with diabetes should be high in protein, high in fiber, low or no fat, and low or no sugar.
You should therefore reduce or remove from his diet any products containing these sugary additives (maltodextrins, molasses, cane sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, and honey).
Simple carbohydrates should be avoided because they quickly become sugar once digested, so avoid giving your hamster things like bread, pasta, rice, and all wheat products, and replace them with foods that contain complex carbohydrates such as broccoli, kale, and whole grains.
If you don’t prepare your hamster’s food yourself, which I recommend you start doing, there are special diabetic food mixes you can find on Etsy, just google “Hamster ‘Low Sugar’ Seed Mix” or make your own mix.
Also remove sweet fruits, high-fat foods such as certain seeds, nuts (walnuts, pecans, and cashews), reduce the amount of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and too fatty mealworms, dried mealworms are better in this situation than the live ones.
You’ll also want to give him foods that are high in fiber and protein. Here are some good protein sources for your hamster:
Best protein sources for a sick hamster
- Chicken baby food
- Steamed fish
- Cooked chicken or turkey (no fat, no seasoning)
- Drops of olive oil on his boiled egg yolk
- Boiled eggs and tofu
- Natural low-fat cottage cheese
- Fat-free unsweetened yogurt
- Roasted and unsalted soybeans
For a high fiber intake
- Timothy hay
- Globe artichokes
- Green Spinach
- Fresh Brussels Sprouts
Your hamster also needs to drink plenty of water, you need to prevent dehydration, try bringing his water bottle closer to where he sleeps, and as for the electrolyte rehydration solution ORS (half water + half Pedialyte or Powerade), you should only give it to a hamster with diabetes if its urine contains no traces of glucose.
Ask your vet if your hamster has sugar in his urine (you will notice a sweet and sugary smell or you can test his urine with Keto-Diastix).
If your hamster has sugar in his urine (you will notice a sweet and sugary urine smell or you can test his urine with Keto-Diastix), this solution is not recommended. Make sure that your hamster drinks only pure water.
Finally, a hamster that is dehydrated is usually a sign of hypoglycemia, but to be sure test his urine with Keto-Diastix. This means it now needs a little sugar to keep it from going into shock (usually starts shaking). You can give him a little rehydration solution or a little warm milk mixed with a drop of natural honey.
Feeding a hamster that has dental problems
When a hamster has a problem in its mouth, either a tooth problem such as cavities, a broken tooth, or a dental malformation. Or if it has an injury inside its mouth, such as an abscess or a lesion inside its cheek; In these cases, you will, of course, take him to the vet for treatment and then feed him only powdered food (you can grind grains, seeds or his pellet yourself and then wet them with some warm water to make it is easy for your sick hamster to swallow) or wet food (baby food essentially) so that he can swallow his food directly without having to chew it.
Mazuri Lab Blocks are also a good option to feed your sick hamster, they’re highly nutritious. Just soak them in lukewarm water to soften them before feeding them to your hamster.
Oxbow critical care is not really made for hamsters, but it’s safe and nutritious. You can try to give it some flavor by mixing it with some boiled and mashed carrots or potatoes, or a teaspoon of apple juice (natural)
You’ll also need to remove all chew toys to prevent your hamster from chewing on them and making the situation worse.
If your hamster has overgrown incisors, which you could have prevented by giving him some wooden sticks, calcium blocks, hay, and pieces of hard dog biscuits from time to time, so in this case, you’ll take him to the vet to have his incisors trimmed, prescribe antibiotics and then encourage him to chew by putting plenty of chew materials in his enclosure.
Finally, when feeding a hamster with dental problems, make sure he swallows the food you give him. He may actually push it inside its cheek pouches, which is not a good thing, especially if he has an abscess or lesion in his mouth.
How can you boost your sick hamster’s immune system?
When your hamster is sick, you need to boost his immune system, and the best way to do that is with a diet rich in vitamins and minerals:
Feed your sick hamster foods that are rich in these vitamins and minerals: Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, Zinc, Selenium, and Folate/Folic Acid.
It is therefore advisable to feed your sick hamster certain plant-based foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals to boost his immune system. Here are some examples:
- Leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, bok choy…)
- Collard greens
Seeds and nuts as boosters for your sick hamster’s immune system
- Brazil Nuts
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Flax Seeds
Grains that will boost a sick hamster’s immune system
- Brown rice
- Unflavored popcorn
- Whole grain cereal.
Can sick hamsters eat canned dog food?
No, hamsters should never be fed canned dog food or cat food, same for dog kibble.
Unfortunately, I’ve also noticed that many “pet bloggers” recommend canned dog or cat food for sick hamsters, which is just an “irresponsible act”.
You should never feed a sick or even a healthy hamster with canned dog and cat food, and the reasons are simple, here are a few:
First, canned dog food loses almost all of its nutritional value because it is cooked at a very high temperature to kill bacteria during preparation, which also deactivates beneficial enzymes and inactivates the proteins, making them non-nutritious for your hamster.
Canned dog food is made with ingredients that are considered feed grade and not human grade, which means that the ingredients in wet dog food are not safe for humans, so how can you claim that wet dog food is safe for a sick, fragile hamster that weighs only a few grams!
Canned dog food is also not recommended for healthy or sick hamsters because these feed-grade ingredients (low-quality meat and vegetables…etc.) can carry toxins such as mold-produced mycotoxins that may not kill a dog, but can very well and easily kill your hamster already weakened by its illness.
The meat used in canned dog food can also come from dead farm animals, and it can even come from dead animals from a shelter!
The meat from these euthanized animals still contains the remains of the anesthetic (pentobarbital) used to kill these poor animals, which is a deadly risk to your hamster.
Canned dog food is also high in fat, and this fat is often left over from slaughter facilities, supermarkets, and large chain restaurants.
Canned dog and cat food may also contain additives such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), and ethoxyquin, which are toxic to your hamster’s liver and kidneys as proven in rat studies!
Finally, there are dyes, propylene glycol, rendered fats, and a few other contaminants that can poison your hamster if you feed it canned dog food.
Can sick hamsters eat baby puffs?
No, Baby Puffs are not safe for hamsters, especially when they’re sick. Baby Puffs are usually made with low-nutrient grains and may also contain sweeteners and added sugars that can trigger diabetes in your hamster.
Baby Puffs also often contain some fillers and heavy metals, which can also lead to digestive problems in your hamster.
So avoid giving them to your hamster, even as a treat. Stick to 100% natural foods that are not too fatty or sweet.
When a hamster is recovering, helping it to feed itself, choosing its food, or completely changing its diet to make it healthier and more nutritious is a must if you want your sick hamster to recover quickly from its illness and return to a normal life.
I always recommend that you consult your exotic vet about chemical treatments before giving them to your hamster, and as for food, even for healthy hamsters, I often recommend making your own seed mix to avoid the commercial ones, which are usually less nutritious and full of additives.