Hamsters Diabetic diet

Diabetes in a hamster is a condition where the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin to meet the body's needs that is required to control the blood sugar levels in the body (glucose) The pancreas is a gland that produces digestive enzymes and manufactures insulin. When starchy food is digested it breaks down into glucose. Glucose can build up in the blood stream. The Insulin controls the level of the glucose in the blood by helping glucose go from the bloodstream into the body's cells. Once in the cells glucose can be used for energy or stored for future needs. When the pancreas fails to work properly and does not produce enough or no insulin this results in the condition known as Diabetes.

Blood sugar levels must be kept in balance. If the blood sugar level is allowed to drop too low hypoglycemia (or hypo is the term used) the hamster may experience shaking this is sometimes referred to as trembling, a rapid heartbeat, heavy breathing, tiredness, irritability, behavior changes and eventually possible coma. Treatment of mild a hypo involves consumption of a sugary food or drink (honey mixed with warm milk) followed by something more substantial. If a mild hypo is left untreated the blood sugar level will continue to fall starving the rest of the body of glucose and energy and leading to more serious problems. In most cases the early symptoms can be recognized and treated.

A high blood sugar level hyperglycemia (or hyper) may cause the hamster to feel fatigued and dehydrated. The hamster will experience an un-quenchable thirst and drink excessively passing a lot more urine than is considered normal.

When a hamster is first diagnosed with diabetes Type 2, the first and most important step is to prevent dehydration this is major problem associated with diabetes. Severe dehydration can lead to changes in the body's chemistry and it is this that becomes life threatening. Using water alone is not the best way to deal with dehydration. Pedialyte or Lectade are Electrolyte re-hydration solutions and are the best and quickest way of dealing with it. Once the diabetes is under control dehydration becomes less of a problem.

Diet is critical in the treatment of diabetes mellitus and can prove to be very effective on its own. A hamster that has been diagnosed with diabetes should be fed a low or fat free diet. Protein rich foods for hamsters include steamed fish, chicken, tofu, lentils, fat free cottage cheese, and fat free unsweetened yogurt. A low carbohydrate and high fibre diet slows down the absorption of sugars helping to keep insulin levels steady and reduces the amount of insulin needed this keeps the variation in blood sugar low and easier to predict.

It is essential to avoid hamster food and commercial treats / foods that contain sucrose, lactose, dextrose, maltose, fructose, (fructose is the natural sugar found in fruit) maltodextrins, honey, molasses and other sweet things. Intake of sweet fruit should be limited to small quantities such as the occasional treat, or in the case of a hamster with diabetes not at all. Even with the golden hamster it may be wise to follow these simple guidelines in order to avoid an overweight hamster and digestive disorders. A diabetic hamster will need regular testing of blood sugar levels then adjusting the diet accordingly, your vet will be able to advise you on this.

The cage the utensils and toys should be carefully selected to make sure they are safe and no injuries can be sustained from them. Severe diabetics should be housed alone to prevent any injury from fighting. Diabetes affects the body's ability to heal and fight infection. The risk of infection is high and diabetics don't cope with infections very well.

Fructose is the sweetest naturally occurring sugar estimated to be twice as sweet as sucrose: (sucrose is common table sugar.) Fructose is found in all fruit and some root vegetables such as Beets, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Parsnips etc. The thing to remember is simple sugars convert quickly into glucose (blood sugars) therefore they rate higher and should be avoided. Foods high in fiber take longer to convert into sugars and therefore are rated lower.


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