Keeping hamsters healthy involves providing them with the right living space, enrichment, and dietary regimen. Many people think hamsters are vegetarian, but this isn’t the case.
Hamsters are omnivorous creatures, so they can safely eat dog food, but you should avoid offering it to them regularly. However, it can be offered as a one-off if your supply of hamster food has run out.
Also, some owners offer their hamsters certain dog biscuits, sticks, and treats as snacks.
While dog food isn’t toxic to hamsters and won’t harm them if eaten once or twice, it doesn’t meet the dietary needs of a hamster in the long term., so they’d grow increasingly unhealthy.
This largely concerns the proportional value of nutrients and the difference between the day-to-day calorie requirements of dogs and hamsters.
Can I Feed My Hamster Dog Food?
Both dogs and hamsters are omnivorous animals, consuming plant and animal matter. However, dogs lean far more toward carnivorous needs, while hamsters lean more toward herbivorous dietary needs.
Up to 2/3rd of a canine’s diet should be animal meat, organ meat, fish, seafood, and other protein sources. Meanwhile, 1/3rd should be vegetables, grains, and other forms of soluble fiber.
For this reason, a small amount of dog food won’t harm your hamster’s health. However, an extended dog food diet wouldn’t provide a hamster with all the necessary fiber.
Certain dog foods provide more fiber than others, but specialized hamster foods are preferred.
Can Hamsters Eat Dry Dog Food?
Feeding your hamster a small amount of dry dog food occasionally won’t cause any issues. However, you should never regularly feed your hamster dry dog food because it has the wrong balance of nutrients.
Dog food is significantly higher in fat and protein than hamster food. Although dry dog food often contains less fat and more fiber than wet dog food, it’s still not a good fit for your hamster’s needs.
Furthermore, dog kibble is too hard for hamsters (although it’s good for wearing down their teeth) and may be high in indigestible brans due to high cellulose levels.
If you want to give your hamster more soluble fiber, it’s far better to provide the following:
- Cooked broccoli.
- Cooked wholemeal pasta.
If you give your hamster dry dog food regularly, it may experience digestive issues, such as:
These stomach upsets can be distressing for hamsters and will lead to complications if prolonged. So, dry dog food should make up no more than 5% of the overall diet, ideally much less.
However, giving your hamster specialized hamster food is far better than dry dog kibble.
Can Hamsters Eat Wet Dog Food?
While a small amount of dry dog food can be healthy as part of a hamster’s diet, wet dog food shouldn’t be offered. It’s not toxic to hamsters and won’t cause digestive issues if ingested infrequently.
However, wet dog food is high in protein and fat, making it unhealthy for hamsters. Even the smallest dogs are much bigger than the largest hamster breed (Syrian hamsters).
Furthermore, while dogs are omnivorous, their diet is heavily skewed toward meat and protein. Hamsters, meanwhile, should only supplement a largely herbivorous diet with meat and protein. If you give your hamster wet dog food, there’s a high likelihood that it’ll become obese.
This is a problem for any animal but can impact hamsters sooner due to their small size. Being overweight or having a diet high in fat can cause the following health conditions:
- Fatty liver disease.
- Heart problems.
- Bowel conditions.
- Joint damage.
Furthermore, obese hamsters are at higher risk of cancer and pancreatic failure. According to the Journal of Surgical Research, hamsters can also be impacted by diabetes mellitus.
While larger animals, such as dogs, can be provided with regular insulin injections and testing to manage diabetes, small animals are much harder to treat.
Untreated diabetes can lead to health complications such as:
- Kidney failure.
- Loss of bladder control.
- Heart failure.
- Loss of circulation to extremities.
Do Hamsters Like to Eat Meat?
In the wild, fresh protein sources such as insects and insect larvae can be a part of their natural diet. So, adding small amounts of raw or cooked meat to a hamster’s diet would be safe.
If you think your hamster has a protein deficiency or you’re concerned it’s not eating enough protein in its diet, contact a vet for advice. Symptoms of protein deficiency include:
- Skin and fur degeneration.
- Muscle wasting.
- Bone breakage.
So, if you notice the above signs in your hamster, offering meat will benefit you.
You can avoid a protein deficiency by ensuring the food contains the right balance of nutrients. A healthy adult hamster’s diet should be 16% protein and 4-5% fat.
The average adult hamster needs 11-14g of food per day, which means around 2.25g of that should consist of meat, fish, seafood, insect larvae, or another form of protein.
Wet dog food can provide protein but contains extra fat.
Of course, you don’t need to provide meat as a protein source. While human-safe meats such as cooked chicken, beef, or pork can provide protein, you can also offer insects, such as crickets and mealworms.
Tofu is also safe for hamsters and can provide a wealth of protein (amino acids) with minimal saturated fat. The best protein foods for hamsters aren’t meat-based.
Boiled eggs, low-fat cottage cheese, and plain, low-fat yogurt are good examples of protein-rich foods without harmful amounts of fat. So, your hamster can benefit from occasional consumption.