Gerbils & Hamsters/Dwarf hamster.


I have a female Russian dwarf hamster. She at first seemed ok but i noticed that she keeps on getting fat then very skinny. I try to keep up with this but it seems i am no help. I also noticed that she often shakes. She is young so i do not think it could be a stroke. Sometimes she is very forgetful about things. She also only eats some of her food. Which is odd for her because she loves all of her food. I am really worried and I do not have the money to go to the vet. Please help.

Hi Kennedy

Thanks for your question.

it is hard for me to know for sure what is wrong.  however, the first thing you need to consider is diabetes.  This is quite common in dwarf hamsters, especially Campbells.

What is her drinking like?  Does she drink a lot?  Does her pee smell sweet?  Is her bedding often wet?

It would be worth eliminating this possibility.  You can test for diabetes quite easily - you need to get hold of a 'diastix' from a chemist.  Then you put the hamster in a plastic tray (make sure she can't escape so either watch her all the time, or put a mesh over the top), then wait for her to pee - test this with the diastix.  if the Diastix registers high levels of glucose then you are pretty sure it is diabetes.  Obviously a blood test would confirm this, but with a hamster a blood test is impossible.

If you can't get a diastix, then for a week or two I would assume it is diabetes and take action immediately to see if there is any improvement.

Remove any sweet foods from her diet - this includes any dried fruits in her dry mix, any fresh fruits, any treats.  You need to make up a special mix of linseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.  Sometimes you can buy this already mixed in health stores, otherwise buy a small packet of each and mix them together then give about a teaspoonful each day in addition to a dry mix (that doesn't contain any sugars) and a little fresh vegetable.  This seed mix contains essential fatty acids and helps regulate sugar levels.  Also make sure she has plenty of fresh water,and change her bedding daily if necessary as you don't want it getting damp, which could be the reason why she is trembling/shivering.

I've had several with diabetes - some have recovered totally and gone onto live a normal life, sadly others haven't.  It is difficult to know if this will work, but at this point I would strongly advise that you take this immediate action in case this is what is causing her to behave the way she is.  When they are diabetic their weight can fluctuate a lot.

If there is no improvement, or she starts to get worse, then it would be worth getting a veterinary opinion.  If this is the case then it is always best to phone one or two to make sure they have a vet there who specialises in hamsters - also check what their fees are so you don't end up with a shock when they give you the bill.

I hope this helps you.


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Sheila Adby


Syrian hamsters are my specialty, however, I have kept Campbells,Winter Whites and gerbils in the past. I can advise on most subjects associated with hamsters, including housing, bedding, feeding, handling, new borns and catching escapees. I have had some experience of various health problems with hamsters and can offer my opinion and advice on basic health issues, however I am not a qualified vet and therefore cannot recommend drugs etc. My website is


I have been keeping hamsters and other small animals for more than 12 years. My favourites are Syrian hamsters and I foster litters and 'difficult' hamsters for a rescue centre. My job is to tame hamsters ready for re-homing, which is extremely rewarding. I also enjoy looking after new litters and raising the pups. I have co-written a book on hamsters with my local vet and have a website:

Hamsters in Sickness and in Health - Sheila Adby and Dan O'Neill ISBN186163218-5 (Capall Bann Publishing)

Educated to A Level standard in the UK.

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