Diabetes in Dwarf HamstersBy Dreamstar and Tammo
Is My Dwarf Diabetic?If you own Campbell's or are thinking about getting Campbell's it would be a good idea to get a bottle of Bayer Keto-Diastix test strips to have on hand or something similair that tests both ketones and glucose. You can get them at your local pharmacy.
I often do random testing with my dwarfs and elderly gerbils, its easy to do.
Just put pressure on the abdomen and press the strip against their genitals. And then a little droplet of urine appears on the strip. If the american strips are the same as the ones I use, red equals high sugar level, or diabetes, follow the directions on your test.
SignsThe main symptoms are increased thirst, and urination. This may be accompanied by weight loss and cataracts. They become more vulnerable to urine infections, which encourages bacterial growth. And can lead to cystitis. A simple dipstick test on a few drops of urine will check for glucose. (see above) Here is a good recommendation based on the test strip results for adding or not adding pedialyte to the water.
- HIGH KETONES, HIGH GLUCOSE: Use 50/50 Pedialyte/Water solution in water bottle. High protein, high fiber, low fat diet.
- HIGH KETONES, LOW OR NO GLUCOSE: Treat with 50/50 Pedialyte/Water solution and high protein, high fiber, low fat diet.
- NO KETONES, HIGH GLUCOSE: Plain water (no Pedialyte), and absolutely NO SUGAR (dextrose, maltose, corn etc). High protein, low fat, high fiber diet.
CauseLack of Insulin produced by the pancreas, or failure of the body to respond to insulin.
Insulin regulates the passing of glucose from blood to cells; Cells need glucose for energy to function.
Extra glucose is excreted through the urine, which means dehydration can follow. Increased thirst is because of the fluid loss. The disease is common in dwarfs and Chinese hamsters, and thought to be inherited.
My Dwarf Is Diabetic! What Now?!I know being new to diabetic hamsters is very overwhelming at first. Once you get the routine down you'll be fine. First you need to check the ingredients of your hamster's food. If it contains any added sugars(dextrose, molasses, sugar cane, corn syrup, fructose, etc.) you'll want a different mix. I highly recommend Harry/Hazel Hamster with the corn and peas picked out. It is the best mix I have found so far and highly recommended by other diabetic dwarf owners. Next you'll want to cut out all or most sugars. So no fruits, corn, peas or carrots and especially no store bought hamster treats. They are loaded with sugar and usually have little nutritional value. Some things I like to add to my hamster mix when I feed them are no/low sugar cereals like Puffed Kashi, Puffed Wheat, Puffed Rice & Uncle Sam. Other things I like to add are dry oats, barley and lentils. Adding veggies and protein foods to their diet is also important. You'll need to slowly introduce these new foods until you find an amount that works well for your hamster. Some of my hamsters' favorites are scrambled egg (I remove half of the yolks), cooked turkey, tofu, oats soaked in milk, broccoli, green beans, spinach, raddichio, endive, swiss chard and cauliflower. Each hamster is different though so check out the Hamster Safe Food List in Hamsterific's Nutrition section and find your hamster's favorites.
To vet, or not to vetA vet trip for diabetes may not be necessary.
Many vets don't work much, if ever, with diabetic hamsters and could only confirm the diabetes and tell you to change the diet to a high protein high fiber and low fat diet. If you're confident in your vet you could look into Glipizide.
Glipizide is an oral insulin for Type 2 diabetes in humans that has been used to treat guinea pigs and is now being used by some vets (per request of owners) to treat hamsters. However, a wrong dose/strength can kill your hamster so you and your vet need to be sure of what you're doing.
The hamster would also need to be tested at least once a week to monitor it's blood sugar. Hypoglycemics like Glipizide can cause hypoglycemia which is when the glucose levels drop to abnormally low levels pretty fast. You should consider trying a high protein, high fiber and low fat diet first and if after that you want to try hypoglycemics do your research on them first to be sure you know what you are getting yourself and your hamster into.