A Daily Telegraph reader recently contacted me with an interesting query:
My answer to this reader is as follows:
A high proportion of Chinese Hamsters are born with a genetic predisposition to develop diabetes; the species has been studied extensively in the laboratory as a model for human diabetes. If your hamster has this genetic make up, then you can delay or prevent the onset of diabetes by careful attention to his diet.
The aim is to feed a high protein, low sugar, low fat diet, so sweet fruit and hamster treats should not be given. Signs of diabetes in hamsters include weight loss, cataracts and an increased thirst, so if these develop, you should discuss treatment possibilities with your vet.
For a full list of suitable foods, see here http://hamsterhideout.com/forum/topic/74051-safe-and-unsafe-foods-for-hamsters/
For a detailed account of diabetes in Chinese Hamsters, see here http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/31/Supplement_1/14.full.pdf
I should add that not all Chinese Hamsters have the genetic predisposition to diabetes, but even if they do not, it will not do any harm to restrict their diet in this way.