July 1, 2020

Can Hamsters Eat Blueberries?

Risks and Benefits

Fact checked by Dr. Leonie McKinlay, DVM
Published by Emma Hughes

Vet Approved

Not everyone realizes it, but hamsters are omnivores, not herbivores. In the wild, they'll subsist on a mixture of plant and animal matter. They'll eat various seeds, leaves and grasses, and spice up their diet with berries, mushrooms, insects, and even worms.

Our domesticated hamsters are kept safe from predators and spoiled with a choice of foods. It can be very tempting to feed your hamster tasty morsels of food that we love to eat ourselves. But not everything that we eat is suitable for our pets.

For humans, blueberries are not only tasty; they're packed with health benefits. But is that the same for hamsters?

Can Hamsters Eat Blueberries?

Yes, hamsters can eat blueberries. Blueberries contain antioxidants, fiber, and many vitamins like A, C, and K. Still, it’s important to follow our feeding instructions as blueberries contain quite a lot of sugar, which may cause diabetes and severe gastrointestinal issues like bloating, indigestion, and even diarrhea when overfed to hamsters.

Berries are part of a hamster's natural diet in the wild, along with other plants and animal protein. However, they do not make up a big overall percentage of what a hamster will eat, especially as they are seasonal.

Blueberries are jam-packed with health benefits for human beings, and much of this carries over to our furry little pals as well. Hamsters can eat blueberries safely, but don't rush and give your hamster a blueberry feast. As the saying goes, too much of a good thing is bad for you.

Blueberries can make an occasional delicious treat for your hamster, but moderation is key as with most things.
- Dr. Leonie McKinlay, DVM

This is true of blueberries, and giving your hamster too much too frequently will only cause trouble. You may end up negating all their benefits and replacing them with unwanted health problems instead.

High-quality pellets or seed mix should make up 90% of your hamster’s food. Because it plays such an important role in their diet, check out our top recommendations for safe foods for hamsters.

Health Benefits: Are Blueberries Good for Hamsters?

Blueberries are all the rage and are considered a super-food in the human world. They certainly pack a lot of goodies, and much of what is good about them for us is also good for hamsters.

1. A Good Source of Vitamin K

The importance of vitamin K is often overlooked, yet it plays a vital role in several body functions. There are two categories of vitamin K; K1 and K2. In both cases, the letter refers to a group of fat-soluble vitamins rather than a single vitamin.

Vitamin K1 is obtained from plant matter and K2 from animal sources. One of the most important roles of this vitamin is in helping with blood clotting. A lack of vitamin K for your hamster could result in infections due to poorly healing cuts and scrapes.

Blueberries are an excellent source of vitamin K, and while it's true that your hamster is probably eating a healthy, balanced diet, a little extra vitamin K is only to your pet's advantage.

2. Blueberries Contain Vitamin C

Another good reason to feed your hamster a few blueberries every now and then is their vitamin C content. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin and does a lot to keep your hamster in overall good health.

Of the many roles that vitamin C plays in the body, perhaps the best known is boosting the immune system. It helps to keep your hamster strong and healthy, fighting off sneezes and chills. Vitamin C also contributes to helping wounds heal faster.

Fresh blueberries in a glass bowl

3. Blueberries Are a Good Source of Fiber

Unlike some other fruits, at 2.4 grams out of 100, blueberries contain a respectable amount of fiber. It is great news for your hamster, whose digestive system cannot function properly without it.

Hamsters need a good, constant supply of fiber in their diet to keep their metabolism functioning well. Fiber helps to keep the teeth in good condition and breaks food down inside the stomach. And very importantly, it helps to slow down the absorption of sugars, preventing blood sugar spikes.

Fiber also helps hamsters maintain adequate bowel movements, and works to keep the balance of their gut flora as it should be. Without sufficient fiber in its diet, your hamster will quickly develop a range of metabolic issues that can potentially be fatal.

4. A Great Source of Manganese

Manganese is a trace mineral that is required by the body in very small amounts but is still essential for various body functions. It is present mostly in the bones, liver, pancreas, and kidneys.

This mineral is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats and contributes to the absorption of calcium. It is also heavily involved in regulating blood sugar. Your hamster also requires manganese to form connective tissues and maintain healthy nerve and brain function.

Blueberries are quite high in this important mineral, making them a great addition to an otherwise balanced and varied diet for your hamster.

Again, we'd like to underline that even though they have lots of health benefits, they should be fed in moderation, and you'll soon see why.

Health Risks: Are Blueberries Bad for Hamsters?

We've already seen many health benefits of blueberries for your hamster. Add to that the fact that they're also super-tasty, and you might be tempted to feed your hamster a nice big handful as often as you get hold of one for yourself.

But you've got to hold back on that temptation. A handful of blueberries may not be too much for you, but it's way too much for your hamster.

Since hamsters are so tiny, they can get dehydrated easily, which is why GI upset and diarrhea can be so dangerous for them.
- Dr. Leonie McKinlay, DVM

Blueberries Contain Sugar

Berries indeed form a natural part of a hamster's diet in the wild, and blueberries are part of that list. But out in nature, your hamster will only get a small amount of these, and only during a small portion of the year.

It's true that blueberries contain lots of good stuff that your hamster can benefit from. But one thing a hamster's digestive system simply wasn't designed to handle is large amounts of sugar, no matter what kind.

Blueberries contain almost 10 grams of sugar for every 100. That's not the highest sugar content when looking at some other fruits, but it's still high enough to cause all sorts of digestive problems if your hamster gets too much.

Feeding your hamster blueberries too frequently can result in its teeth going bad. And that's not all – too much sugar will upset the natural balance of your hamster's gut flora and bacteria, leading to GI tract issues. Your pet may end up suffering from bloating, indigestion, and even diarrhea.

And finally, feeding your hamster too many blueberries too frequently can cause diabetes and related problems. Hamsters are prone to developing diabetes and heart issues; some breeds more so than others. Too much sugar in their diet will lead to blood sugar spikes, eventually escalating to pre-diabetes and diabetes.

In fact, if your hamster is pre-diabetic or diabetic, blueberries and all other fruit are probably best left out of its diet. The best solution is to consult with your vet on what and how to feed your pet.

Be Careful with Pesticides

A few of us are lucky enough to have access to blueberries that have grown wild in forests, safe from human pollution. But most blueberries in the fruit stalls come from farms and are likely to contain traces of pesticides and fertilizers.

Blueberries themselves are not toxic to hamsters, but any trace of chemicals on them can be a very different story. Pesticides can cause poisoning, with severe cases being fatal.

The best way to avoid accidentally poisoning your hamster (and yourself) is to wash the blueberries first thoroughly. Another great way to go around this is to buy organic produce. It may be more expensive but is guaranteed to be chemical-free.

Feeding Guidelines

Besides washing, blueberries don't really require any special preparation and can be fed to your hamster as they are.

Feed a couple of berries a few times a week.

Tempting as it may be to give more, stick to just a couple of blueberries 3-4 times per week. Your hamster is a fraction of your size, and it will not do well with the handful that you easily consume.

Nutrition Facts

We've already seen that blueberries are a good source of the essential vitamins C and K.

They contain some vitamin A, E, and a few of the B vitamins as well. They do contain some of the essential minerals like manganese and copper, too, making them an excellent overall source of nutrition.

Blueberries are nutritious and rich in fiber, but they also contain a lot of sugar. It is the main reason why your hamster shouldn't eat too much of them.

Bottom line: Can Hamsters Have Blueberries?

Overall, blueberries are a great, nutritious snack for a hamster. And just like us humans, most hamsters love the taste. There are a lot of important essential vitamins and minerals packed in blueberries, and a healthy dose of fiber too.

But blueberries also contain a lot of sugar, which is really not good for any hamster in larger amounts. It can lead to all sorts of digestive problems, as well as diabetes and heart issues.

Blueberries should only be fed in small quantities a few times a week. And if your hamster already has health issues, best ask your vet before feeding it any.

Blueberries for Hamsters -FAQ

Can hamsters eat frozen blueberries?

Yes, hamsters can eat frozen blueberries once they have been thawed at room temperature. Please do not use the microwave for defrosting because it can heat up the food unevenly, causing one side to be piping hot while the other side is still frozen. Some people even give their hamsters blueberries that are still slightly frozen in the middle to cool them off on a hot summer day.

Vet's Comment

Blueberries can make an occasional delicious treat for your hamster, but moderation is key as with most things.

The majority of your hamster's diet should be a pelleted rodent ration. A pelleted diet is better than a seed-based diet. Many hamsters will choose to eat some types of seeds much more than others, which can lead to obesity and nutrient deficiencies.

Since hamsters are so tiny, they can get dehydrated easily, which is why GI upset and diarrhea can be so dangerous for them. For this reason, it's important to limit the amount of treats and new foods you give your pet – they should make up no more than 10% of your pet's daily diet.

- Dr. Leonie McKinlay, DVM

Dr. Leonie McKinlay, DVM

Vet-Approved by
Dr. Leonie McKinlay

DVM

Dr. Leonie McKinlay has always had a special fondness for animals and knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a veterinarian. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of Calgary and then her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in 2011. Since graduation, Dr. McKinlay has been working at the same small animal practice, caring for dogs and cats.

NOTE: Advice provided within this article is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your hamster's specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.

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