By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
I think my hamster is overweight because he was fatter than any of the other hamsters. I need to help him lose weight. If I don’t, I think he may die.
It is very easy and very common for pet hamsters to gain weight. The reason this happens is just like in people — too many high-calorie goodies and not enough exercise. So you need to do two things: determine what your hamster is eating and determine how much exercise your hamster is getting.
Many food products are on the market for hamsters, some are good and some are just empty calories. You need to read labels. Your goal is NOT to limit your hamster’s food, but to provide the best food nutritionally. If the food you are giving has sugar in it, if there is nothing other than calorie-filled seeds, if you are giving extra treats like yogurt drops, then it is likely you are overfeeding your hamster. If this is the case, the first thing is to find a high-quality hamster food that is balanced with vitamins, minerals, fiber and an appropriate amount of calories. If you are feeding a diet that consists of a good-quality hamster food, then treats should be given only sparingly. An abundance of treats in the diet will ruin the balance of the high-quality food you are giving and add useless calories that will lead to weight gain.
The next step is to determine how much exercise your hamster gets. Is your hamster’s sole form of exercise a wheel in the cage? Does your hamster get any other activity? Do you have hamster tunnels or even a “hamster” playground for your pet to run around in? If you can design a secure area in the house, your hamster can run around, play and get exercise. A secure hamster area, by definition, means there are no areas to escape, no dangerous pets like dogs or cats in the room, and there are no areas to fall off of tables or ledges.
Even if your hamster is overweight, changing his diet and giving him the chance to exercise will get that weight off quickly.