Hamsters make excellent pets for most people looking for a small, fuzzy and cute companion that’s exciting to look at. Furthermore, these wonderful rodents only need minimal attention and are easy to care for. But for animals so small and fuzzy and that feel so soft to the touch, some might wonder whether or not hamsters have bones.
Hamsters have bones. Their skeletal structure is made up of a total of 124 bones distributed around their bodies. Like humans, hamsters are vertebrates and therefore rely on their skeletal system for support, locomotion, and protection for their internal organs.
This article will discuss a hamster’s skeletal system and the type and number of bones the animal has. I’ll also explain which bones are most vulnerable for these furry creatures, what to do when you suspect a bone injury, and what foods and supplements you can provide your hamster for proper bone development. Keep reading.
People often wonder if hamsters have bones because it’s usually difficult to feel their bones when holding them. You likely already noticed this when handling your hamster. Typically, you need to squeeze your hamster to feel its bones.
Hamsters have a total of 124 bones. Contrary to common belief, hamsters have a backbone and other bones connected to the spine to form the rib cage and bones forming the arms and legs.
In many ways, particularly from a skeletal viewpoint, hamsters are like us. However, one of the main differences in the setal structure, specifically the spine between humans and hamsters, is that hamsters have a more flexible spine. In comparison, the human spine is much more rigid.
Imagine how uncomfortable and difficult it feels when you’re confined to small spaces.
A hamster’s spine and series of bones are crucial to its movement and stability. A hamster’s spine allows it to stay erect and stable. Without these bones, hamsters wouldn’t be able to stay upright and perform other critical functions like moving and feeding.
The flexibility of the spine is also crucial to the hamster’s survival. Accordingly, these creatures can bend easily in all directions, unlike humans, thanks to their flexible spines. This evolutionary adaptation allows them to live in the wild, burrowing and moving within confined spaces.
While the degree to which a hamster can contour its body creates the impression of having no backbone, it has a flexible spine covered under that thick layer of flesh and fur. You may not be able to notice it unless you take your time examining your hamster.
A hamster’s bones shouldn’t be visible. Since a hamster’s body is covered by fur and flesh, its bone outline should not stand out. A visible bone outline may indicate a sign of malnutrition or the hamster being underweight.
If your hamster is healthy, you should have trouble feeling the bones with your hands, much less seeing their outline. Therefore, visible bones or bones that feel sharp to the touch indicate that your hamster might be underweight.
Alternatively, this could be a sign that your hamster has an underlying disease, which could impede its appetite or result in rapid weight loss. In such situations, I recommend taking your hamster to a veterinarian immediately.
It’s also essential to be observant of your hamster’s outlook, paying keen attention to any sudden weight loss and other signs of malnutrition to maintain a healthy pet.
A hamster’s bones are extremely fragile. You want to handle your hamster with extra care to avoid hurting it. Don’t hold your hamster tightly, as you’ll risk breaking its bones. Also, ensure your hamster isn’t at risk of accidental falls.
There are numerous instances where pet owners drop their hamsters on the floor. In some cases, hamsters jump from their cages or their owners’ hands, resulting in falls.
These incidents are common among hamster owners in the United States and can cause injuries or result in broken bones. Therefore, it’s crucial to take necessary precautions, including ensuring that floors are carpeted or covered with a blanket to protect the hamster in case of accidental falls.
The Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association (LVMA) also explains that it’s essential to remember that your hamster will bite you if you handle it improperly or roughly. A hamster might also bite when it’s startled or injured.
To save yourself the trip to the doctor’s for a tetanus shot and to safeguard your pet against such scenarios, the LVMA recommends taking the following steps to ensure proper handling, particularly when transferring your hamster from its cage:
- Let the hamster get inside a small container and carry it. This allows movement and handling without touching your hamster.
- Grab the hamster by the loose skin on the neck of its head using forceps. To protect yourself against bites and your hamster against accidental drops, you’d hold the hamster by the loose skin located on the back of its neck using rubber-tipped thumb forceps.
- Grab the hamster by the loose skin on the back of its neck using your hand. You can also use your hands if you don’t have forceps. Grasp a large amount of this loose skin to prevent the hamster from turning around and biting you.
In the end, your option should be guided by safety, both for you and the hamster.
Accordingly, if your hamster doesn’t receive the required calcium or phosphorus from its diet or supplements, its bones may become weak and susceptible to fracturing or breaking.
A rule of thumb is to check the nutritional labels on your commercial pet food blends. You want to make sure that your hamster food has adequate calcium and phosphorus.
Although it’s difficult to tell just from looking whether a hamster has broken bones due to their fur coats, there are some key symptoms that may signify fractured or broken bones.
The pet experts at PetMD explain that fractures are common in hamsters. Most of these fractures are avoidable and occur due to accidents associated with improper handling. They can also occur when a part of the hamster’s leg or arm is stuck in the mesh, and the hamster tries to dislodge it.
This tagging motion as the hamster tries to free itself can also cause dislocation.
Some of the common signs of fractures include the following:
- Exhibiting severe pain when moving or being reluctant to move: Like in humans, broken bones and fractures are very painful. Therefore, your hamster will most likely exhibit severe pain when trying to move or refuse to move entirely.
- Swelling: One of the main signs of fractures or broken bones is swelling. If you notice any significant swelling on your hamster and also notice its reluctance to move, chances are it has a fracture or broken bone.
- Popping or crackling: Another symptom of broken bones is a popping or crackling sound that results from the rubbing between the broken bits of the bone.
- Open wound: In some rare cases, you may notice an open wound and a bone piercing out.
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s best to take your hamster to a veterinarian to confirm through an X-ray examination whether your hamster has any broken bones or not.
You risk exacerbating the hamster’s injury or getting bitten when you try to handle the case on your own. It’s advisable to call the vet when you’re anxious about moving the injured hamster so that they can come to you.
You cannot treat fractures or broken bones in hamsters on your own. Due to their small size, it’s difficult to treat their broken bones. However, you can nurse your hamster to health by ensuring adequate rest and minimizing its motion to allow healing.
In some instances, the veterinarian may prescribe some painkillers temporarily for pain management and to alleviate the hamster’s suffering.
Because of the difficulty in treating these broken bones, all you can do after taking your hamster to the vet is restrict its movement and provide proper dietary supplements and a well-balanced for your hamster to aid in recovery.
All bones on a hamster are vulnerable to breaking or fracturing. However, the degree of vulnerability will depend on numerous factors such as handling, cage status, and health.
For instance, North Carolina based researchers Thomas Donnelly and Katherine Quesenberry explain that hamster bones are generally delicate and can be easily crushed when dropped or improperly handled,
If your pet hamster falls on its side, then it’s likely that it’ll injure or fracture its ribs. On the same breadth, if it falls on its arms or legs, these are the parts that will be most vulnerable to fractures or breaking.
It’s also important to note that nutritional deficiencies and illnesses may also weaken certain parts of the hamster, such as its feet and arms, making them susceptible to breaking when they get stuck in the cage or when handled roughly.
Ultimately, taking necessary precautions to avoid injury to any of the hamster’s bones is preferable.
Knowing the mineral requirements for hamsters is crucial to enhancing your ability to provide a well-balanced diet and guiding you on proper supplementation. The following discusses the mineral requirements for healthy bone development in hamsters.
A study on the mineral needs for proper bone development in hamsters found that hamsters needed a diet with phosphorus and calcium for normal bone formation. The study also found that among young hamsters, a diet high in calcium and phosphorus is also necessary to prevent dental caries in hamsters.
A good source of calcium for hamsters is cuttlefish bone, while good sources of phosphorus include boiled chicken or turkey. You can also purchase dietary supplements for your hamster, which are available from most pet stores in the United States.
Vitamin D is also an essential mineral for proper bone development. In the study mentioned above, the researchers discovered that hamsters deficient in Vitamin D were prone to developing rickets.
This susceptibility to rickets is mainly because Vitamin D facilitates dietary calcium and phosphorus absorption in hamsters, helping to maintain proper body weight and strong bones.
Some of the familiar sources of Vitamin D for hamsters include green vegetables and cod liver oil. For cod liver oil, you can coat some of your hamster’s food with it to include it in its diet.
However, be careful not to overfeed your hamster, which may cause diarrhea.
Vitamin D can also be provided as a supplement. I recommend adding the Kordon Oasis Vita drops (available on Amazon.com) to supplement your hamster’s vitamin intake. The product is suitable for hamsters of all sizes.
It’s important to note that these supplements will only promote normal bone development. However, it won’t make your hamster’s boneless brittle or abnormally strong.
Nutrition is vital for the proper growth and development of your hamsters. One of the challenges of drafting your own meal plan for your hamster is that you risk missing some crucial nutrients or minerals.
However, the good news is that numerous commercial pelleted hamster foods are available on the market. The Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association recommends providing several portions of pellet feed and water approximately every two hours.
Wherever you live in the United States, be it New Jersey or Nebraska, you can surely find good hamster food for your furry friend. Below are some options of commercial hamster feeds (available on Amazon.com) you can find in a store near you:
Kaytee Fiesta Hamster and Gerbil Food
Kaytee Fiesta Hamster and Gerbil food are recommended for small hamsters. It features prebiotics and probiotics that will support your hamster’s digestive system.
The product also includes fruits and vegetables to give your hamster the nutrients it needs. It’s rich in antioxidants, meaning it’ll benefit your hamster’s immune system and overall well-being.
Oxbow Essentials Hamster and Gerbil Food
Next is the Oxbow Essentials Hamster and Gerbil Food. Suitable for small breeds, this hamster food features a chicken flavor that your hamster will love. It contains the protein, fat, and carbohydrates your hamster will appreciate for its active lifestyle.
As it contains antioxidants and prebiotics, this hamster food will support your hamster’s immune system.
Higgins Sunburst Gourmet Food Mix
Suitable for all breed sizes, this fruity-flavored hamster food will keep your hamster happy and healthy. It comes in the form of seeds and contains DHA-Omega 3 and digestive probiotics.
Whether you have a Syrian or Chinese hamster, go ahead and serve it these seeds, or mix the seeds with other hamster food of your choice.
You can get Higgins Sunburst Gourmet Food Mix from Amazon.com easily.
You may like the following hamster articles:
- Why Is My Hamster Not Moving?
- Why Is My Hamster Breathing Fast?
- How Long Can You Leave a Hamster Alone?
- Why Is My Hamster Squeaking?
- Why Is My Hamster Trying To Escape?
Hamsters have bones that are flexible but are also highly fragile. That said, it’s crucial to handle them with extra care.
While proper nutrition and supplementation are crucial to ensure normal bone development, they’ll not strengthen your hamster’s bones significantly to withstand drops and falls, especially from high places.
Therefore, exercise caution when handling your hamster, and contact your veterinarian if you notice any signs of broken bones or fractures.
My name is Everly. I am a Milwaukee-based mom of 2 and have been a proud owner of many hamsters throughout my life. Like many of us, my introduction to hamsters happened when I was very young. My family saw several hamsters come and go through the years, and I enjoyed playing with them, but I never fully appreciated them until I grew up and my own children decided to jump on the hamster bandwagon. At that point, I was determined to learn all I could about caring for these adorable pets. Read more