Hamsters are popular pets worldwide but there is limited evidence on the overall health issues of pet hamsters. This study aimed to characterise the demography, disorder prevalence and mortality of pet hamsters in the United Kingdom.
The VetCompass study included anonymised clinical records of 16,605 hamsters.
The most common hamster species were Syrian (golden) (Mesocricetus auratus) (n=12,197, 73.45%), Djungarian (winter white dwarf) (Phodopus sungorus) (2286, 13.77%) and Roborovski hamsters (Phodopus roborovskii) (1054, 6.35%). The most prevalent precise-level disorders recorded across all hamsters were a presentation categorised as 'wet tail' (n=293, 7.33%), disorder undiagnosed (292, 7.30%), bite injuries from other hamsters (235, 5.88%), overgrown nail(s) (165, 4.13%), overgrown incisor(s) (159, 3.98%) and traumatic injury (152, 3.80%). The most prevalent disorders groups across all species of hamster were traumatic injury (n=616, 15.41%), enteropathy (450, 11.26%), ophthalmological disorder (445, 11.13%), skin disorder (362, 9.05%) and mass (361, 9.03%). The median age at death across all hamsters was 1.75 years (interquartile range: 0.83 to 2.20, range: 0.01 to 3.65). The most common causes of death at a precise level were wet tail (7.88%, 95% confidence interval: 6.35 to 9.66), abdominal mass (6.40%, 95% confidence interval: 5.01 to 8.03), neoplasia (5.38%, 95% confidence interval: 4.11 to 6.90) and dyspnoea (3.99%, 95% confidence interval: 2.9 to 5.34).
This study provides veterinary professionals, educators, welfare scientists and owners with an evidence base on pet hamster health. A greater understanding of the common disorders of pet hamsters can support veterinary professionals to communicate more effectively with owners on key issues and outcomes to expect from hamster ownership.