ArticlePDF Available

Suspected Case of Hyperadrenocorticism in a Golden Hamster (Mesocricetus auratus)


Abstract and Figures

Dermatologic disease is a common problem in pet rodents. This article describes the case of a pet golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) with dermatologic and other clinical signs (polyuria, polydypsia) similar to those found in other mammalian species with hyperadrenocorticism. Among other diagnostic tests, the urine cortisol/creatinine ratio was measured and was found to be increased, which appeared to support the diagnosis. Treatment with ketoconazole was initiated, without apparent success.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Suspected Case of Hyperadrenocorticism
in a Golden Hamster
(Mesocricetus auratus)
Filipe Martinho, DVM
Clı´nica Me
´ria, R. Ma
´rio Viegas Lt. 1 Lj. 2, 2755-057 Alcabideche, Portugal
Skin problems are common in pet rodents. Their causes are diverse, in-
cluding bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infection, behavior, and nutrition is-
sues. However, little is known about the effects of endocrine disease on the
skin in these animals.
In other mammal species (cat, dog) the cutaneous changes caused by hy-
peradrenocorticism (or Cushing’s disease) are well described, as are other
clinical signs and its causes, pathology, and diagnosis. In laboratory set-
tings, hamsters are reported to have a high incidence of adrenal adenomas
and adrenocortical hyperplasia, but there are few reported cases of hypera-
drenocorticism in pet hamsters in the literature [1,2].
Pet hamsters with a history and clinical signs similar to those of dogs with
hyperadrenocorticism are often presented to clinicians. The diagnosis in
these cases is usually based on history and signs.
Theoretically, the laboratory diagnosis could be based on the serum mea-
surement of alkaline phosphatase and cortisol. However, blood collection
may be limited by the occasional difficulty of venous access, small vein
size, and the volume of the sample required for analysis. Additionally, ham-
sters secrete cortisol and corticosterone in similar proportions [3], and the
diagnostic significance of cortisol is not yet fully understood.
The cause of hyperadrenocorticism in this species (adrenal neoplasia or
hyperplasia or excessive production of corticotropin through a pituitary ad-
enoma) is even more difficult to determine.
In the case described here, a presumptive diagnosis of hyperadrenocorti-
cism was made after excluding other possible causes of the observed skin
changes and by determining the urine cortisol/creatinine ratio. In addition
E-mail address:
1094-9194/06/$ - see front matter Ó2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Vet Clin Exot Anim 9 (2006) 717–721
to correcting other problems present, the author initiated therapy with
ketoconazole, with no apparent success.
Case report
The patient was an 18-month-old male golden hamster, kept in a wire
cage with bedding made of wood shavings. It was fed a diet composed of
a mixture of seeds ad libitum and supplemented with occasional fresh fruits
and vegetables. Water was supplied by a bottle and changed daily. There
were no previous health issues or contact with other animals.
In the few weeks before presentation, the hamster had developed a pro-
gressive, nonpruritic alopecia, and the owners had noticed increased drink-
ing and urine output and abdominal distension. No respiratory or digestive
disorder was noted, and appetite and behavior remained normal.
The patient had already been seen by another veterinarian and was being
treated for external parasites with ivermectin injections weekly for a total of
three injections. Benzyl benzoate (Acarilbial, Bial) was also being applied
topically to the lesions, but there was no change in the condition.
The hamster was bright and alert; no problems were detected on exami-
nation of the head and mouth. Some degree of abdominal distension was
observed, but no abnormalities could be detected on palpation. The alopecia
was bilaterally symmetric; the skin was slightly erythematous, with areas of
hyperpigmentation, comedones, and ulcerations of variable diameter
(Fig. 1).
At this point, the differential diagnosis included demodecosis (Demodex
criceti or D auratus), mange, ringworm, pyoderma, epitheliotropic lym-
phoma, and hyperadrenocorticism.
A number of skin scrapings, taken from several areas of the skin, were
negative for mites. Hair was collected from the periphery of the lesions
and placed in Saboraud’s growth media for detection of fungal organisms,
with no growth detected after 7 days. Skin cytology revealed some nonde-
generate neutrophils and a mixed population of bacteria, suggestive of
a mild pyoderma.
Whole-body radiographs revealed loss of abdominal contrast and some
intestinal gas. A small radiodense area (1 mm in diameter) was detected
in midabdomen (Fig. 2).
The owners were asked to collect a urine sample at home, to reduce the
effect that stress might have on cortisol levels when the sample was collected
in the clinic. This was achieved by removing all the wood shavings from the
floor of the cage and collecting urine over a 24-hour period, which was then
refrigerated. The sample was submitted for determination of the urine cor-
tisol/creatinine ratio (Table 1).
The patient was started on 30 mg/kg of trimethoprim plus sulfamethox-
azole orally twice daily and topical treatment with chlorhexidine 0.2% for
the pyoderma.
A week later, the hamster was re-evaluated. Some improvement of the
skin condition was noted (healing of some of the ulcers and a decrease in
erythema). The antibiotic and chlorhexidine were maintained for another
week, and therapy with 5 mg/kg of ketoconazole orally every 12 hours
was initiated.
Two weeks later, further re-evaluation revealed that the pyoderma was
mostly localized in the ventral neck area. There was no progression of the
alopecia, and the abdominal distension was reduced, but the other signs
were not improved. Behavior, level of activity, and appetite remained
Two weeks after this evaluation, the author was notified by the owner
that the hamster had died. Its body was not available for autopsy.
Fig. 1. (A,B) Skin lesions seen in the golden hamster include erythema, hyperpigmentation,
comedones, and ulcers.
Discussion and summary
Dermatologic disease is common in pet rodents, including golden ham-
sters. Most of the cases are related to husbandry or to bacterial, fungal,
or parasitic disease. Other causes are more obscure.
Adrenal disease has been recognized in golden hamsters and well described
in laboratory animals, but its effect on the skin is not well understood. Al-
though individuals with signs consistent with hyperadrenocorticism are occa-
sionally reported, few have been definitively diagnosed, and the presumptive
diagnosis of hyperadrenocorticism is based on history and clinical signs.
The urine cortisol/creatinine ratio has been used as a screening test for
hyperadrenocorticism in dogs and cats [4,5], where it is significantly in-
creased in both random and 24-hour urine samples taken from individuals
with confirmed hyperadrenocorticism. However, the test has a low specific-
ity, because the ratio may be increased in animals with nonadrenal illness
and in animals that have signs compatible with hyperadrenocorticism but
normal pituitary-adrenocortical function. As such, it is more useful as
a screening test for normal individuals. Urine samples should be collected
at home or in a familiar environment to reduce the effect of stress on cortisol
excretion, which could increase the urine cortisol/creatinine ratio.
Fig. 2. Whole-body lateral radiograph shows loss of abdominal detail, small amount of intes-
tinal gas, and presence of a small radiodense area in the midabdomen.
Table 1
Urine concentration of cortisol and cortisol/creatinine ratio in this patient Mesocricetus auratus
Urine cortisol
Urine creatinine
Creatinine ratio Comments
Patient 3.74 0.25 45.6 Cushing?
The laboratory reference range for cortisol/creatinine ratio was !20 higher values were con-
sidered pathologic.
This article describes a case of a golden hamster with ‘‘classic’’ signs of
hyperadrenocorticism. Although the determination of blood cortisol level
could be used to test for hyperadrenocorticism, there are few clinical reports
of its use. Because of the patient’s small size and the comparatively large vol-
ume of blood required to run some adrenal function tests, it was decided to
use the urine cortisol/creatinine ratio as a screening test. The urine cortisol/
creatinine ratio was significantly increased compared with the reference
range used by the laboratory.
Because o,p0-DDD is unavailable in Portugal, therapy with ketoconazole
was attempted, by adapting protocols for treating dogs with hyperadreno-
corticism. Although some of the clinical signs resolved, recovery was not
complete by the fifth week of treatment. Because it was not possible to do
a necropsy, it remains unknown whether the death of the patient was caused
by complications related to adrenal dysfunction, some other health problem,
or drug toxicosis during treatment.
Further measurements of urine cortisol and creatinine levels, from both
normal and affected individuals, would be useful in determining the applica-
bility of this test to diagnosis of hamsters (and other rodents) suspected of
having hyperadrenocorticism. It is also important to try different treatment
protocols with ketoconazole in this species, to access its efficacy in control-
ling this pathologic condition.
[1] Bauck L, Orr JP, Lawrence KH. Hyperadrenocorticism in three teddy bear hamsters. Can Vet
J 1985;25:247–50.
[2] Donnelly TM. Disease problems of small rodents. In: Quesenberry KE, Carpenter JW, edi-
tors. Ferrets, rabbits and rodents: clinical medicine and surgery. 2nd edition. WB Saunders;
[3] Ottenweller JE, Tapp WN, Burke JN, et al. Plasma cortisol and corticosterone concentrations
in the golden hamster. Life Sci 1985;37:1551–8.
[4] Goossens MM, Meyer HP, Voorhout G, et al. Urinary excretion of glucocorticoids in the
diagnosis of hyperadrenocorticism in cats. Domest Anim Endocrinol 1995;12:355–62.
[5] Jensen AL, Iversen L, Koch J, et al. Evaluation of the urinary cortisol:creatinine ratio in the
diagnosis of hyperadrenocorticism in dogs. J Small Anim Pract 1997;38:99–102.
... A case of hyperadrenocorticism has been reported in golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus). 99 The patient presented with dermatologic and other clinical signs (PU, PD). 99 Urine cortisol/creatinine ratio was elevated (45.6 although values < 20 were considered normal) and clinical diagnosis of hyperadrenocorticism (presumptive Cushing's disease) was made. ...
... 99 The patient presented with dermatologic and other clinical signs (PU, PD). 99 Urine cortisol/creatinine ratio was elevated (45.6 although values < 20 were considered normal) and clinical diagnosis of hyperadrenocorticism (presumptive Cushing's disease) was made. 99 Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing's syndrome) was suggested to be the third most common endocrinopathy in guinea pigs, and both adrenal-and pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism can be present. ...
... 99 Urine cortisol/creatinine ratio was elevated (45.6 although values < 20 were considered normal) and clinical diagnosis of hyperadrenocorticism (presumptive Cushing's disease) was made. 99 Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing's syndrome) was suggested to be the third most common endocrinopathy in guinea pigs, and both adrenal-and pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism can be present. 100 In one guinea pig case, Endocrine Diagnostics for Exotic Animals hyperadrenocorticism was diagnosed using synthetic ACTH stimulation (5 mg/kg IM, Cosyntropin 0.25 mg/mL; Amphastar Pharmaceuticals Inc., ON, Canada). ...
Endocrine disease in exotic species is less common than in small animals. Nevertheless, the diagnostic principles used in small animals can be adapted to evaluate endocrine disease in many of the exotic species although species-specific aspects need to be considered. This article covers important diseases such as thyroid dysfunction in reptiles and birds, hyperthyroidism in guinea pigs, and hyperadrenocorticism in ferrets. Glucose metabolism in neoplasms affecting normal physiology, such as insulinoma in ferrets and gastric neuroendocrine carcinoma in bearded dragons, is discussed. Calcium abnormalities, including metabolic bone disease in reptiles and hypocalcemia in birds, are also covered.
... An adapted canine HAC protocol with ketoconazole treatment was mentioned in a suspected case of HAC in a hamster with limited results too [7]. Trilostane was the only available drug to source in order to block the adrenal synthesis of glucocorticoids for this patient [3]. ...
Full-text available
This case report describes a practical approach for diagnosing and treating a 17-month-old Syrian hamster with hyperadrenocorticism based on: history, systemic signs, dermatological lesions, and therapeutic trial. The patient was monitored for 16 weeks while he was treated with trilostane and achieved hair regrowth and the resolution of systemic and demeanour signs.
Hamsters and gerbils are often presented on an emergent basis. Common presenting complaints include diarrhea, neurologic signs, ocular signs, respiratory distress, and trauma. Provided is an overview of these presenting complaints, with additional detail on underlying conditions. Unique species considerations are addressed, and an abbreviated formulary of anticonvulsant, antimicrobial, and antiparasitic agents is provided.
Hamsters are commonly kept as children's pets and although there are approximately 24 different species, only five are established pets. Of these the Syrian or golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) and dwarf hamsters (Phodopus sungorus, Phodopus campbelli and Phodopus roborowskii) are popular whereas the Chinese hamster (Cricetulus griseus) is less frequently kept. Hamsters are spontaneous ovulators, with a defined breeding season. They respond to photoperiod, with long days inducing reproductive activity in wild individuals and breeding occurring in Spring and Summer. This chapter discusses the clinical evaluation, basic techniques, common medical and surgical conditions, preventative health measures, and radiographic imaging for the hamsters. The clinical evaluation includes history‐taking, handling, sex determination, and clinical examination. The basic techniques include sample collection, nutritional support, fluid therapy, anaesthesia, euthanasia, and hospitalisation requirements.
Hamsters and gerbils belong to the order Rodentia and lives in relatively arid environments and both are extremely popular as pets. Hamsters and gerbils are also being used in clinical research across the globe and knowledge of their basic anatomy and physiology is of extreme importance in providing adequate care of these species. Hamsters and Gerbils commonly present for a variety of conditions which are discussed in this chapter. GI diseases, neurological and dermatologic diseases, reproductive tract problems and tumors are among the most common conditions in hamsters and gerbils presented for veterinary care. This chapter addresses the most common presentations for the two species.
Hamsters are very popular pets in the UK and owner expectations regarding advice and treatment for their pets are increasing. Hamsters are frequently seen in general veterinary practice and may be presented for routine procedures such as health checks, but are more often presented for treatment of illnesses. As hamsters are prey species they instinctively hide any signs of illness and so often present later into a disease process. Conditions frequently observed in hamsters include diarrhoea, skin wounds, incisor malocclusion, weight loss and neoplasia.
Cancer incidence in rodent species varies dramatically from a common occurrence in mice and rats to just a limited number of documented cases in chinchillas and degus. This article summarizes common tumors, both benign and malignant, that have been reported to occur in rodents. Outlined are clinical signs, diagnostics, and treatments that have been described for rodents presenting with specific neoplasms.
This chapter discusses pathogenesis, classical signs, diagnosis, and treatment for hyperadrenocorticism and adrenal tumors in pet rodents and birds. Hyperadrenocorticism is an uncommon diagnosis in pet gerbils but is seen in repeatedly bred and aging laboratory gerbils. Adrenocortical adenoma is one of the most common benign neoplasms in the Syrian hamster. Pituitary adenomas are the most commonly reported neuroendocrine tumors in birds. These pituitary tumors are nonfunctional or hypersecrete adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and be associated with bilateral adrenal hyperplasia. The diagnosis is generally presumed on the basis of history and clinical signs. Mitotane has been suggested as a therapeutic consideration in birds. Necropsy, histopathology, and immunohistochemistry are required for definitive diagnosis. Iatrogenic hyperadrenocorticism is avoided by judicious use of therapeutic corticosteroids in all species.
Because some recent studies of hamster adrenocortical function have depended on older studies that may have been inadequate or misinterpreted, the present study re-examined plasma corticosterone and cortisol concentrations in hamsters under several conditions to determine which plasma glucocorticoid predominated in this animal. Sensitive radioimmunoassays were used to measure separately the two glucocorticoids in the basal condition, after adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) treatment, after acute stress, and after chronic stress. In the basal condition, corticosterone concentrations were 3-4 times higher than those of cortisol. After stimulation, this difference disappeared, but rarely were any hamster's cortisol levels higher than their corticosterone levels. Both ACTH and acute stress elevated plasma corticosterone and cortisol concentrations, but only plasma cortisol concentrations were elevated following chronic stress. The dissociation between cortisol and corticosterone concentrations after chronic stress suggests that the two glucocorticoid hormones in the hamster may be regulated independently. The data also indicate that both corticosterone and cortisol should be measured when assessing adrenocortical function in the hamster.
In dogs and humans, the measurement of urinary corticoid excretion has become a standard screening test for the diagnosis of hyperadrenocorticism. Mainly because the urinary excretion of cortisol was considered to be very low in cats, its measurement was not used in the diagnosis of hyperadrenocorticism in this species. We therefore studied the urinary excretion of [3H]cortisol and measured the corticoid/creatinine (C/C) ratio in healthy cats and in cats with hyperadrenocorticism in order to evaluate the applicability of this measurement in the diagnosis of feline hyperadrenocorticism. The median urinary excretion of intravenously administered [3H]cortisol was 1.85% (measured as excreted 3H; range, 1.56 to 1.99; n = 4). High-performance liquid chromatography analysis showed a small peak of cortisol and a large peak consisting primarily of conjugates of cortisol and/or its metabolites. The 2.5 and 97.5 percentiles of the urinary C/C ratio in healthy cats were 2 x 10(-6) to 36 x 10(-6) (n = 42). The C/C ratio was significantly higher in six cats with pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism (median, 122 x 10(-6); range 51 x 10(-6) to 272 x 10(-6)). The administration of a high dose of dexamethasone (0.1 mg/kg thrice daily per os) led to marked suppression of the C/C ratio in healthy cats (median suppression of the average of the C/C ratio of the first two consecutive days was 92%; range, 74 to 96%; n = 12), as well as in five cats with pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
The diagnostic accuracy of the urinary cortisol:creatinine ratio (CCR), with the cortisol being measured by ELISA, was evaluated by subjecting data from 18 dogs with and 20 dogs without hyperadrenocorticism to receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis. The area under the ROC curve (W 0.93, SE(w) 0.044) was much higher than 0.5, indicating that the CCR did distinguish between dogs with and without hyperadrenocorticism. A cutoff value of about 60 x 10(-6) was associated with the highest sensitivity (1.0) and specificity (0.85). At the disease prevalence rate of the present study (0.47), the positive and negative predictive values were 0.87 and 1.0, respectively. These numbers indicate that canine hyperadrenocorticism may be safely excluded when the CCR is below 60 x 10(-6) but that a test of higher specificity (eg, the ACTH stimulation test) should be used to confirm the diagnosis of canine hyperadrenocorticism when the CCR is above 60 x 10(-6).
Hyperadrenocorticism was diagnosed in three related teddy bear hamsters with presenting complaints of alopecia and hyperpigmentation of the skin. Treatment was attempted in two of the hamsters and was successful in one case. Metyrapone and o,p'-DDD (1,1-dichloro-2-2bis (p-chlorophenyl) ethane) were the drugs used. Necropsy and histopathological examinations revealed a pituitary chromophobe adenoma in one hamster and an adrenocortical adenocarcinoma in a second hamster. The third related hamster was clinically diagnosed as having hyperadrenocorticism but the origin of the disease has not yet been determined.
Disease problems of small rodents In: Quesenberry KE, Carpenter JW, edi-tors. Ferrets, rabbits and rodents: clinical medicine and surgery
  • Tm Donnelly
Donnelly TM. Disease problems of small rodents. In: Quesenberry KE, Carpenter JW, edi-tors. Ferrets, rabbits and rodents: clinical medicine and surgery. 2nd edition. WB Saunders; 2005.
Plasma cortisol and corticosterone concentrations in the golden hamster
  • Ottenweller Je
  • Tapp
  • Wn
  • Burke
  • Jn
Ottenweller JE, Tapp WN, Burke JN, et al. Plasma cortisol and corticosterone concentrations in the golden hamster. Life Sci 1985;37:1551–8.