Pet Consider

Can Hamsters Eat Bread?

Can Hamsters Have Bread?

Though most of our favorite foods are exciting, flavorful dishes such as chocolate cake, garlic-laden pasta dishes, and other things loaded with salt, sugar, or spices, one universally loved staple food is actually quite bland: bread. Whether you opt for white, whole wheat, gluten-free, or some other unique, seed-laden variety, you probably have some sort of bread sitting in your kitchen. One of the best things about bread is its practicality and its versatility—we can buy it ready to eat and use it for everything from sandwiches to personal-sized ‘lazy pizza.’ Many of us have gone through phases where we live solely on different varieties of toast. When things get hectic, it’s all too easy to toast some bread and smear jelly, peanut butter, mashed avocado, or baked beans on top of it.

Bread’s blandness is another asset. When stomach flu strikes, bread is one of the few foods we can keep down. This mild flavor and easy digestion is why it seems like such a harmless food when we’re looking for ways to treat our pets—after all, if you could handle bread when you had food poisoning, why can’t your perfectly healthy hamster have some as a snack? 
Can you give your hamster bread?

The answer is technically yes, hamsters can consume small quantities of most types of bread. Bland, wheat-based bread does not contain anything that would be considered poisonous to hamsters, so there is no need to rush your pet to the hospital if they’ve been eating sandwich crusts. However, most breads are not healthy for our pets; they are, at best, empty calories that may contribute to obesity if given in excess. Ideally, we would avoid giving our hamsters this processed, nutritionally empty food, but, if you just want to give them an occasional soft, chewy treat, it’s perfectly safe to give them a bite of bread.

Health Benefits?

breadThere are no health benefits associated with giving hamsters most types of bread, but it is possible to argue that there is some nutrition in whole grain bread. Whole grain bread contains moderate amounts of fiber, complex carbohydrates, folate, and calcium, which may provide a small nutritional boost for your hamster.

Dietary fiber is helpful for hamsters in many of the same ways that it is helpful for us. The biggest and most readily noticeable benefit of fiber is its ability to regulate digestion. Fiber soaks up fluid and adds bulk to stool, which can help alleviate both constipation and diarrhea. Fiber can soak up excess water in the colon, making runny stool firmer and fuller. It can also absorb water in the stomach and carry it into the intestines, softening and loosening hard or impacted stool.

Bread is not, however, an ideal treatment for digestive woes—fresh fruits and vegetables will probably help a lot more than a chunk of whole grain bread. If your hamster has chronic or severe digestive issues, take them to see a veterinarian. Fiber can help with digestion, but it will not address any underlying conditions that may throw your hamster’s body out of balance.

The type of bread you give to your hamster matters. Whereas whole grain breads contain healthy fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates, and a balance of minerals that may boost overall health, white bread is junk food. White bread is made using highly refined flour that has had all of the good stuff stripped out of it—it has a fraction of the fiber, protein, and minerals, and far more simple sugars that can cause your hamster’s blood sugar to spike. This can cause your hamster to become hungry soon after eating, which can contribute to overeating.

Things to Consider

There are no serious risks associated with feeding your hamster bread on occasion, but feeding it to them in large quantities is a recipe for disaster. Bread, especially white bread, is not a nutritionally adequate food. If your hamster is filling up on bread instead of their usual hamster mix, they will develop nutritional deficiencies that can lead to serious health problems down the road.

If they eat a ton of bread in addition to their usual food, they will almost certainly end up overweight or obese, which can shorten their lifespan dramatically. Remember: hamsters are tiny animals with tiny caloric needs! Given that hamsters can eat a wide variety of nutritious whole foods (such as apples, carrots, and berries), there is no real reason to introduce them to empty calories like bread. Your hamster will probably be better off eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and seeds for dessert.

Final Thoughts

In the end, while a bite of bread every now and then will almost certainly not cause any life-threatening side effects, most experts agree that bread is not a suitable source of nutrition for hamsters. If you want to give your pet a chunk of your sandwich crust every now and then, feel free, but try not to make it part of their usual diet.

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