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News Article

Study provides an evidence base on pet hamster health

To reduce data gaps, a large practice-based study investigated demography, commonly diagnosed disorders and causes of mortality of pet hamsters in the UK

Although hamsters are popular pets worldwide, there is limited evidence on the health issues of these animals. Research from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) aimed to fill knowledge gaps, to help owners better understand what conditions to look out for and help set expectations for how long their hamster may live. The findings are published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice.

The study, the largest in the world to date, was led by the RVC’s VetCompass programme and investigated anonymised veterinary clinical records of a random sample of almost 4,000 hamsters in the UK. The three most common hamster species were Syrian (golden) hamster (73.5%), Djungarian (winter white dwarf) hamster (13.8%) and Roborovski hamster (6.4%).

From a list of the 20 most common disorders across all hamster species, the most common disorders were "wet tail" – (diarrhoea or liquid discharge) (7.33%), bite injuries from other hamsters (5.88%), overgrown nail(s) (4.13%), overgrown front teeth (3.98%) and traumatic injury (3.80%).

The average age at death across all hamsters was 21 months (1.75 years).

Other key findings of the study included:

  • The most common causes of deaths were “wet tail” (7.9%), abdominal mass (6.4%), cancer (5.4%) and difficulty breathing (4.0%).
  • Compared to other types of hamster, Syrian (golden) hamsters had higher risk of 7/20 (35%) common disorders and lower odds of 1/20 (5%) common disorders groups.
  • Disorders with highest risk in Syrian (golden) hamsters compared with hamsters that were not Syrian (golden) included: female reproductive disorder (x 5.19), urinary system disorder (x 5.04) and appetite disorders (x2.68).
  • The disorder with the lowest risk in Syrian (golden) hamsters was traumatic injury (x 0.34).
  • The average lifetime disorder count across all hamsters was one disorder although the Syrian (golden) hamster had a higher number of disorders than the other two species.


The researchers say the results can contribute to an improved understanding of common diseases in pet hamsters and will help veterinary professionals guide owners in the care of their pet hamsters and appropriate euthanasia decisions.

Article: O'Neill, D. G., Kim, K., Brodbelt, D. C., Church, D. B., Pegram, C., Baldrey, V. (2022). Demography, disorders and mortality of pet hamsters under primary veterinary care in the United Kingdom in 2016. Journal of Small Animal Practice, advance online publication, doi: 10.1111/jsap.13527

Article details

  • Date
  • 01 July 2022
  • Source
  • Royal Veterinary College
  • Subject(s)
  • Dogs, Cats, and other Companion Animals