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Can Hamsters Eat Dog Food? Vet Reviewed Facts & Health Concerns

Chris Dinesen Rogers

By Chris Dinesen Rogers

dry dog food in a bowl

Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Chyrle Bonk

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Americans spend a lot of money on pet supplies every year, with the majority of that money going toward pet food. It makes sense that you’d want to save a few bucks if your home is a multi-pet household, and many hamster owners wonder if they can feed their pocket pet dog food to save a few bucks. While hamsters are technically omnivores similar to dogs, you should not feed your pet hamster dog food. 

Remember that the FDA regulates pet food based on the guidance of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Local and state regulations may also apply. This framework ensures that your pets get the right food formulated for their dietary needs. Manufacturers often have veterinary nutritionists on staff to ensure this. With that in mind, let’s delve into why dog food is a bad idea for hamsters, starting with their individual diets.

Hepper_divider_hamster

Varying Diets

Hamsters and dogs are both omnivores, meaning they can handle both plant and animal materials, but there is a lot of variation in an omnivorous diet.  Hamsters are well-equipped to handle a diet of nuts, seeds, grains, vegetables, and even a few insects. Though they can digest animal proteins, the majority of their diet leans towards plant matter.

Dogs rely more heavily on animal-based proteins. They are able to digest plant matter, and many commercial dog foods contain grains, fruits and vegetables as sources of energy, vitamins and minerals. However, the plant-based ingredients in dog food are in far less amounts than what a healthy hamster diet contains.

hamster eating a bowl of vegetables and fruits
Photo Credit: Ultraskrip, Shutterstock

Different Nutritional Needs

The crux of the answer of whether hamsters can eat dog food boils down to their varying nutritional needs. A hamster’s digestive tract is more similar to that of a herbivore, meaning it is longer than a dogs and more set up for digesting plant material.

Hamsters also require less protein and fats than dogs, making most dog foods too high in these nutrients for them. Because of this, feeding your hamster dog food can lead to digestive upset, including diarrhea, which can be very serious for hamsters, leading to dehydration very quickly. The extra calories can also contribute to weight gain and obesity if given for longer periods of time.

Dog food also contains less fiber than a hamster’s ideal diet. Fiber is necessary to help regulate digestion. If a hamster doesn’t get enough fiber in their diet from things like hay and fresh vegetables, they may become constipated.

The Ideal Hamster Diet

The ideal diet for a hamster meets the animal’s nutritional needs in the recommended amounts. You should give your pet a commercial pellet food formulated for hamsters. That will ensure their dietary needs are met. You can supplement with hay, a bit of a seed mix and occasional fresh fruits and vegetables as a treat.

Some items to consider include the following:
  • Sweet potato
  • Cauliflower, broccoli
  • Romaine lettuce, spinach
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Apples

Always talk to your veterinarian before adding foods to your hamster’s diet to make sure they are safe and given in proper quantities.

syrian hamster eating lettuce
Photo Credit: amelameli, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Dog food may satisfy some of your hamster’s nutritional needs. However, it’s not a substitute for a diet formulated specifically for these animals. Both pets differ in their dietary requirements, making giving your hammy some of your pup’s food a bad choice. It’s not good for the long haul and may increase your pocket pet’s risk of obesity and other health problems.


Featured Image Credit: 279photo Studio, Shutterstock

Chris Dinesen Rogers

Authored by

Chris is an experienced pet writer specializing in science topics, with a particular passion for health and the environment. She has been a writer for over 15 years and lives with her husband and three cats in Michigan. Beyond writing about cats and dogs, Chris loves to learn about wine. She has WSET 1 and 2 certifications and is currently pursuing her Certified Wine Specialist Award (CSW).

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