Hamsters - Exotic and Laboratory Animals - MSD Veterinary Manual (2022)

The most common pet and research hamster is the golden or Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus). All Syrian hamsters in captivity appear to have originated from a litter of eight hamsters collected near Aleppo in Syria in 1930. Four of the animals escaped, a male killed one female, and only one male and two females remained. From these three animals, litters were raised that were distributed to Europe and the USA for research and subsequently as pets. In 1971, an additional 12 Syrian hamsters were captured in the field by farmers and imported to the USA.

Syrian hamsters have a head and body length of 170–180 mm and tail length of 12 mm. They range in weight from 110–140 g, and females are larger than males. Wild Syrian hamsters have a light, reddish brown dorsal coat, and the underparts are white. The skin of Syrian hamsters is very loose.

Other species now common as pets are the dwarf hamsters such as the Djungarian (Phodopus sungorus) and Roborovsky (P roborovskii) hamsters. Because of their small body size (<100 g body weight), these hamsters are more difficult to handle and restrain for physical examinations and treatment. This discussion primarily deals with diseases of the Syrian hamster.

At least 20 mutations affecting coat color in Syrian hamsters are known. Most are simple recessive traits, four are dominant, and two are sex-linked. Five mutations affect the fur, giving rise to long hair (also known as "teddy bear" hamsters), rex, and satin coats. Length of hair in the longhaired Syrian hamster is influenced by testosterone. Longhaired males from the age of sexual maturity have significantly longer hair than females or castrated males, which display fluffy, shorter hair.

Syrian hamsters possess paired, flank organs in the costovertebral area that are androgen dependent and consist of sebaceous glands, pigmented cells, and terminal hairs. They are larger and heavily pigmented in males and used for territorial marking. All hamsters possess enormous cheek pouches that open inside the lips, extend well back of the shoulders, and when filled with food more than double the width of the animal’s head and shoulders.

Adult male Syrian hamsters develop large adrenal glands due to enlargement of the zona reticularis, which is three times the size of that in female hamsters. Like gerbils, Syrian hamsters have a high proportion of erythrocytes with polychromasia.

Female Syrian hamsters are heavier than males and generally are aggressive toward other hamsters. Nonestrous females can behave especially aggressively toward young males and may kill them. The 4-day estrous cycle is characterized by a copious postovulatory discharge on the last day. The discharge is creamy white and has a distinctive odor; it fills the vagina and usually extrudes through the vaginal orifice. Its stringy nature is distinctive, and if touched it can be drawn out as a thread of about 4–6 inches long. Estrus lasts ~1 day, and the gestation period is 16–19 days. The litter size ranges from 2 to 16, with an average of 9. Cannibalism of young accounts for nearly all preweaning mortality. Cold ambient temperatures (<10°C [50°F]), lean diets, and low body weight during pregnancy increase cannibalism. Disturbing the mother by handling the young or nest, and not providing adequate nesting material, warmth, food, or water, often results in cannibalism. Syrian hamsters are prolific breeders, and there may be 3–5 litters/year. The young are weaned at 20 days and capable of reproducing at 7–8 weeks. The life span of Syrian hamsters is 2–3 years.

In the wild, Syrian hamsters live on dry rocky steppes or brushy slopes. They construct shallow burrows. Deep bedding that is appropriate for burrowing is recommended. Cages with at least 40–80 cm of bedding enhance the welfare of Syrian hamsters.

Wild Syrian hamsters are omnivorous, eating many kinds of green vegetation, seeds, fruit, and meat. Exposure to cold stimulates hamsters to gather food, and they will often hibernate at temperatures <5°C (41°F). Syrian hamsters do not fatten before hibernation and will starve unless they waken periodically to eat. Hibernating animals remain sensitive to external stimuli and are usually aroused if handled. Syrian hamsters have prominent depositions of brown fat beneath and between the shoulder blades, in the axilla, and in the neck and perirenal areas.

Syrian hamsters are active chewers and skillful at escaping from their cages. Glass water tubes are contraindicated for Syrian hamsters, because they readily bite through glass. Stainless steel sipper tubes close to the floor are recommended. Because Syrian hamsters have broad muzzles that often prevent them eating from feed hoppers, feed pellets are placed on the floor of their cage. Hamsters are naturally coprophagic.

Both male and female hamsters can be aggressive toward conspecifics. If group housing is desired, individuals should be housed together from an early age to decrease aggression. When housing animals together for breeding, it is recommended that older males be used, and the animals should be observed carefully immediately after introduction to ensure that the female does not injure the male.

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The animal’s overall appearance and behavior, particularly in relation to its cagemates, should be noted. Sick animals are often isolated from others and may show weight loss, hunched posture, lethargy, rough fur, labored breathing, and a loss of exploratory behavior. Early signs of disease involve changes in the color, consistency, odor, and volume of urine and feces. The perineal area should be checked for fecal or urine stains or discharges from the vulva in females. Fecal samples may be taken for parasite detection and bacterial culture. The fur and skin should be examined for alopecia, fight wounds or other trauma, and ectoparasites. The oral cavity should be checked for overgrown teeth or impacted cheek pouches. Ears should be examined for discharges or inflammation and eyes for discharges or conjunctivitis. Feet should be examined for sores and overgrown or broken nails. The abdomen should be palpated for masses.

Syrian hamsters are not normally aggressive but can be provoked if suddenly startled, awakened, or roughly handled. It may be easier to scoop Syrian hamsters up in a small container rather than pick them up directly. Their highly elastic skin should be grasped sufficiently to prevent the animal from biting.

Diarrhea may occur in Syrian hamsters of any age and is known as “wet tail,” although this euphemism is frequently used to describe the disease in young hamsters. Proliferative ileitis is the most significant intestinal disease of 3- to 10-week-old Syrian hamsters and results in high mortality. It is caused by the intracellular bacterium Lawsonia intracellularis. Treatment involves correcting life-threatening electrolyte imbalance and dehydration, administering antibiotics, and force feeding. Several antibiotic treatments are recommended, including doxycycline (5–10 mg/kg, PO, twice a day for 5–7 days), enrofloxacin (10 mg/kg, PO or IM, twice a day for 5–7 days), and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (30 mg/kg, PO, twice a day for 5–7 days). Symptomatic treatment with bismuth subsalicylate may be given if diarrhea persists. Replacement electrolyte and glucose solutions should be given orally, and electrolyte fluid replacement such as saline or lactated Ringer's solution should be given at a dosage of 20 mL/100 g body weight once daily. Sequelae of proliferative ileitis in surviving Syrian hamsters may include eventual obstruction, intussusception, or rectal prolapse.

Diarrhea in adult Syrian hamsters is associated with Clostridium difficile enterotoxemia and, as in guinea pigs, may occur 3–5 days after administration of antibiotics such as penicillin, lincomycin, or bacitracin.

Tyzzer disease due to Clostridium piliforme is seen in Syrian hamsters and is usually precipitated by stress such as overcrowding, high environmental temperature and humidity, heavy internal and external parasite load, and nutritionally inadequate diets. C piliforme is opportunistic in immunosuppressed animals and not seen in immunocompetent animals.

Bacterial pseudomycetoma has been described in several dwarf hamsters. The treatment is excision.

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Hamster polyoma virus (HaPV) is the cause of epizootic lymphoma in young Syrian hamsters and epitheliomas in older enzootically infected hamsters. When first introduced into a naive population of breeding Syrian hamsters, HaPV results in an epizootic of lymphoma, with an incidence as high as 80%. Lymphomas often arise in the mesentery but can arise in the axillary and cervical lymph nodes. Once enzootic in a hamster population, the occurrence of lymphoma declines to a much lower level. Enzootically infected Syrian hamsters develop HaPV skin tumors rather than lymphoma. HaPV lymphoma–affected Syrian hamsters appear thin, often with palpable masses in the abdomen. Often, they have demodectic mange due to either Demodex criceti or D aurati.

Fecal smears of Syrian hamsters are abundant in protozoan organisms. However, their role in enteric disease is speculative, because similar protozoa are found in comparable numbers in both healthy and diseased animals.

Demodex criceti and D aurati are occasionally found on hamsters. Clinical signs consist of mild to moderate alopecia, pruritus, and erythema generally on the dorsal region of the body, the hindlimbs, and face. Additionally, crusts and scaling may be found on physical examination. Skin scrapings confirm the presence of a large number of Demodex spp in various stages of development. Treatment consists of a combination of 1% selenium sulfide shampoo and topical application of selamectin (15 mg/kg, applied once). Hamsters that do not respond to treatment or relapse often have serious underlying disease and typically die within 3 months. Historically, reports exist of pet hamsters infected with the tropical rat mite Mites Ornithonyssus bacoti.

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Spontaneously occurring dermatophytosis is extremely rare in Syrian hamsters.

In older Syrian hamsters, lymphoma is the most frequently observed neoplasm of the hematopoietic system. It is multicentric and commonly affects lymphatic organs. Cutaneous lymphoma, resembling mycosis fungoides (an epidermotropic T-cell lymphoma in people), is seen occasionally in adult Syrian hamsters. Affected animals show anorexia, weight loss, and patchy alopecia. Cutaneous lymphoma can be misdiagnosed as hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing disease), because affected hamsters initially show patchy alopecia and dermal hyperpigmentation. However, cutaneous lymphoma shows rapid progression of the disease, with mean time from presentation to euthanasia ~10 weeks. Adenomas of the adrenal gland are common in Syrian hamsters, but few reports exist of confirmed clinical Cushing disease in hamsters.

Melanomas, not only of the flank organ but also of the skin, are frequently reported in Syrian hamsters. There is a striking 10:1 male:female melanoma ratio.

Djungarian hamsters showed a high prevalence of neoplastic disease (five times greater than Syrian hamsters), and most tumors are integumental (eg, mammary tumors, atypical fibromas, and papillomas).

Atrial thrombosis occurs in aging Syrian hamsters with an incidence of up to 70%. Most thromboses Thrombosis, Embolism, and Aneurysm in Animals Thrombosis (clot formation within a blood vessel), embolism (process by which unattached material (emboli) such as a blood clot, fat or cholesterol deposit, gas, tissue, or foreign material... read more develop in the left atrium secondary to heart failure and lead to a consumptive coagulopathy. Although the incidence does not differ between the sexes near the end of their respective life spans, atrial thrombosis occurs on average at a younger age in females (13.5 months) than in males (21.5 months). Aged Syrian hamsters present with clinical signs of cardiomyopathy Cardiomyopathies Mitral valve leaflets, especially the tips, are thickened due to myxomatous degeneration. There is also a linear (horizontal) left atrial tear present. Myxomatous degeneration is a process of... read more such as hyperpnea, tachycardia, and cyanosis. In untreated Syrian hamsters, death usually follows within a week after these signs are evident. The incidence of atrial thrombosis is influenced by the endocrine status of the animal, especially by the amount of circulating androgens. Thus, the castration of male Syrian hamsters is linked to an increase in prevalence of atrial thrombosis.

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Weight loss is seen in older Syrian hamsters and often associated with hepatic and renal amyloidosis Amyloidosis in Animals Amyloidosis is caused by deposition of insoluble proteins in tissue. Formation of the proteins is often associated with inflammation. Deposition can lead to organ dysfunction, which can be fatal... read more . It is the principal cause of death in longterm research studies. Females have a higher incidence (80% among hamsters >18 months old), increased severity, and earlier age of onset of amyloidosis than males. There is a correlation between social stress induced by crowding and amyloidosis in laboratory Syrian hamsters. Not surprisingly, it is infrequently reported in pet Syrian hamsters, in which overcrowding is not a problem.

Degenerative kidney disease also occurs more frequently in older female Syrian hamsters. Affected kidneys are pale and granular. Microscopically, glomerular changes vary from thickening of the basement membrane to glomerular obliteration. Amyloid deposition occurs frequently as a concurrent event.

Polycystic liver disease is seen in Syrian hamsters >1 year old. The lesions are due to developmental defects of the bile duct and are not associated with clinical signs. At necropsy, numerous thin-walled cysts may be seen.

Syrian hamsters have a reputation as carriers of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), a rodent-borne virus that can cause substantial neurologic disease in people, particularly among prenatal and immunocompromised people. The common house mouse, Mus musculus, is the natural host and principal reservoir of LCMV. When apparent, LCMV infection in hamsters is characterized by wasting. Early signs are decreased activity and appetite and unkempt coat. Later signs include weight loss, hunched posture, blepharitis, convulsions, and eventually death.

People are typically infected with LCMV through close proximity to wild mice and their droppings. However, three of the largest outbreaks of LCMV infection in the USA were attributable to hamsters obtained from a single supplier in the late 1970s. More recently, individual cases of LCMV infection have been linked to hamsters among organ transplant recipients. Although the risk of hamsters transmitting LCMV to the general population may be overstated, a German survey of persons in contact with pet hamsters confirmed an increased risk of LCMV infection. Transplacental infection occurs in the fetuses of women who develop viremia during the first and second trimesters. The virus acts as a neuroteratogen, causing chorioretinopathy, hydrocephalus, microcephalus, lissencephaly, and potentially fetal death. The relative risk posed by hamsters should be considered among transplant recipients and pregnant women, because infected animals may remain clinically unaffected by LCMV and can transmit the virus for at least 8 months.

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In 2017, there were approximately 1,100 research facilities in the USA registered under the requirements of the AWA and reporting the total use of 792,168 regulated animals, including 191,766 guinea pigs Guinea Pigs Guinea pigs, like chinchillas, are hystricognath rodents.. All Syrian hamsters in captivity appear to have originated from a litter of eight hamsters... read more (the majority being the Syrian variety), 75,825 nonhuman primates Nonhuman Primates This overview presents a working knowledge of the common families of nonhuman primates maintained in captivity.. There are no federal reporting requirements for mice, rats, birds, amphibians, or fish, making precise numbers difficult to determine.. It is also relatively easy to perform genetic manipulation, such as “humanization” with human genes, tumors, immune cells, or components of the microbiome.. The genetic engineering of mutant rat types, however, has lagged behind that of mice and has yet to show effect.. Excluding mice and rats, guinea pigs and rabbits are the most common mammals used in research, although their numbers have declined from peaks in the 1990s.. Nonhuman primates remain critical to studies of vision, the neurosciences, infectious diseases, vaccines, and product safety testing.. Although they have been in steady decline in absolute numbers used in research since 1980, cats are still important models in the neurosciences, consequences of aging, certain inherited diseases, and in the study of infectious diseases.. The clawed frogs are valuable in studies of the cell cycle and gene function.

In 2017, there were approximately 1,100 research facilities in the USA registered under the requirements of the AWA and reporting the total use of 792,168 regulated animals, including 191,766 guinea pigs Guinea Pigs Guinea pigs, like chinchillas, are hystricognath rodents.. Wild rabbits and hares include cottontail rabbits ( Sylvilagus spp) and the “true”... read more , 98,576 from among a combination of several species of hamsters Hamsters The most common pet and research hamster is the golden or Syrian hamster ( Mesocricetus auratus ).. All Syrian hamsters in captivity appear to have originated from a litter of eight hamsters... read more (the majority being the Syrian variety), 75,825 nonhuman primates Nonhuman Primates This overview presents a working knowledge of the common families of nonhuman primates maintained in captivity.. The development of embryonic genome editing techniques, most prominently the CRISPR-Cas9 system and next-generation prime editing, in the creation of GEM (genetically engineered model) mice has profoundly increased and broadened the utility of mice as research subjects.. Rats share many of the attributes of mice that make them attractive for use in research, but because they are larger than mice they are suited for a greater variety of surgical manipulations and are often favored for behavioral studies.. Numerous mutant and inbred strains and outbred stocks of rats are used in a broad array of studies, including for aging, cancer, reproductive physiology, drug effects, addiction, alcoholism/cirrhosis, arthritis, brain and nerve injury, hypertension, embryology, teratology, endocrine diseases, neurophysiology, infectious disease, stroke, organ transplantation, and surgically induced disease.. Excluding mice and rats, guinea pigs and rabbits are the most common mammals used in research, although their numbers have declined from peaks in the 1990s.. Although the guinea pig ( Cavia porcellus ) was among the first animals to be used in biomedical research, its applicability has diminished relative to mice and rats due to its long gestation period (59–72 days), small litter size (2–5), poor vascular access, and difficulties in anesthesia.. In addition to the Syrian hamster ( Mesocricetus auratus ), a few other species of hamsters are used in research, including the Armenian, Siberian (Djungarian), Chinese, European, and Turkish species.. Other rodent species used in research include gerbils, deer mice, chinchillas, cotton rats, rice rats, multimammate rats, spiny mice, degus, voles, and woodchucks, among others.. Although they have been in steady decline in absolute numbers used in research since 1980, cats are still important models in the neurosciences, consequences of aging, certain inherited diseases, and in the study of infectious diseases.. Each of these species offer advantages in studies of development, while zebrafish are also easily subject to mutation to induce a variety of disease models and in cancer and tissue healing studies.. Other species used in scientific research include goats, calves, horses, ferrets Overview of Ferrets A domestic male fitch ferret.

Female guinea pigs (or sows) have a pregnancy of 68 days (range 59–72 days) and an average estrous cycle length of 17 days (range 13–25 days).. Treatment involves housing the affected guinea pig on clean, dry, soft bedding; topical or parenteral administration of antibiotics; and foot bandages as needed.. Other naturally occurring viral infections of guinea pigs such as cytomegalovirus and parainfluenza rarely cause detectable clinical disease.. Guinea pigs need ~10 mg vitamin C/kg body weight daily for maintenance and 30 mg vitamin C/kg body weight daily for pregnancy.. The following therapeutic dosages of antibiotics have been used clinically in guinea pigs ( see Table: Antibiotic Dosages for Use in Guinea Pigs Antibiotic Dosages for Use in Guinea Pigs ).. Guinea pigs with dental disease present with nonspecific clinical signs, from mild inappetance to anorexia, difficulty chewing and/or swallowing, reduced activity, weight loss, and ptyalism.. Risk factors for human dermatophytosis are young guinea pigs and recent acquisition of a new guinea pig.. When treating ringworm in guinea pigs, environmental treatment should also be recommended to the owners, with special attention given to the bedding and clothing of people in contact with infected or carrier animals.

Commonly reported parasitic diseases include protozoal infections such as giardiasis in cockatiels, sarcocystis in larger parrots, and mites in budgerigars and passerines.. Leucocytozoon , Plasmodium , and Atoxoplasma spp are all seen occasionally in various species, most commonly in raptors, canaries, and Columbiformes, and are currently not of major significance in psittacines.. Giardiasis has been reported in many species of birds but is most commonly seen in cockatiels.. Plasmodium spp infection (malaria) is highly pathogenic in gyrfalcons, canaries, and penguins.. Psittacine birds are seldom affected by feather mites.. Occasionally, infestation with the red mite ( Dermanyssus gallinae ) may be found in outdoor aviaries, especially in nest boxes.. All stages of the mite are found within the respiratory tissues.

How long do sugar gliders live ?. Veterinary doctor Rick Axelson reckons the little furry animals have an average lifespan of between ten to twelve years (2).. Stephanie LeBlanc, a veterinary technologist, says that captive sugar gliders can live for 15 years with proper care (3).. Although they are away from their natural habitat, you can give them the best care to ensure to have them for long.. That’s significantly lower than the years your captive critter can live with the best care, barring accidental death.. The ideal living space for gliders also needs several toys since the little animals love playing around with them.. Dr. Rosemary J Booth advises placing small branches, vines, or toys for the social animals to play with (4).. The lifespan of sugar gliders also depends on adequate vet care.. To ensure your pets are in good hands, research the best veterinary care in your area and give them a visit.. However, it would be best never to let it get to this with your pet.. How long do sugar gliders live?. Take proper care of your glider and own it for the next ten years.. Caring for Your Pet Sugar Glider [Internet].. Sugar Gliders [Internet].. From that day on, Alina has dedicated her life to learning everything she can about bearded dragons.

Hamsters absolutely require veterinary care despite the perception of them being “low-maintenance.” After all, these creatures are not toys.. While hamster care can be quite a bit less demanding than the care required by other species of household pets, that doesn’t mean that veterinary care is unnecessary.. They're often considered great “first-time” pets for young children and others who have not had a pet in their lives before.. Of course, there is no vet that understands how to treat every animal that they come across.. You will need to seek out a veterinarian that specializes in the care and treatment of exotic mammals, a category which hamsters of all breeds fall under.. It is often believed that hamsters are too small to be treated with the same high caliber and variety of treatment that larger animals can receive – this is absolutely false!. Even if you’re fully aware of the importance of proper veterinarian care, sometimes life happens, and it can be difficult to get yourself and your hamster to the vet.. As it is with any valued pet member of any family, you want to make sure that the vet that you commit to is capable of delivering the most prompt and high-caliber quality of care possible.. For hamsters, look for exotic pets specialists.. If the veterinarian is a member of the Association of Exotic Mammals Veterinarians , that's a very good sign.. “What other pets does your vet practice treat?” If your vet primarily treats other small rodents, especially hamsters, this is a great sign.. Of course, if you live in a rural area or a small town where the practice exists, you shouldn’t expect this number to be very high.. If you have any other hamster owners in your life, ask them where they have taken their hamsters, what they think of the vet practice, and if they would recommend it to friends or family.. Even the smallest of hamsters deserve the highest caliber quality of care from their owners and their vets, so don’t settle for subpar care.

Is a sugar glider harness dangerous ?. A harness for a glider is a type of leash or rope you attach to your glider for when you take them out for a walk.. Although there is no documented evidence of the effects of harnesses on gliders, many owners online say harnesses are dangerous.. In the term paper posted on a popular glider community forum, the writer says leashes and harnesses can cause different glider injuries.. Although no respected glider vet has spoken of the effects of sugar glider leashes, most owners vehemently oppose their use online.. It would be best never to use a leash or harness on your glider because you risk injuring them.. The glider’s neck will also suffer if you use a harness.. There is a better way to care for sugar gliders, and using a harness isn’t one of them.. Is a sugar glider harness dangerous?. If you take them for a walk, use sugar glider pouches rather than a harness.. Do you use a harness for your glider?. ID T. Sugar Glider Vet Ohio, Sugar Glider Veterinarian.

Chinchillas make great pets and can live up to an incredible 15 to 20 years.. Pet chinchillas can live for more than 20 years, whereas wild chinchillas only live 8 to 10 years.. Rodents have more than 2000 species, which are broken down into families.. ( Although DO NOT give this to your pet chinchilla as their diet is different and may make them sick ). In their natural habitat, chinchillas live in group colonies known as herds.. Chinchillas live in groups to protect themselves against predators and social interaction.. This disease is highly contagious and can quickly spread to other chinchillas due to a digestive tract infection.. Additionally, provide a dust bath for your chinchillas to take a bath when they need to.. Chinchillas love dust baths a lot, and as soon as they learn how to take a bath, they will be doing it on their own.. Clean the cage regularly.. Their bodies don’t have sweat glands like humans, so they can’t cool themselves down as quickly.. It is essential to ensure that your chinchillas are not exposed to toxic substances in life.


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