We’ve all heard it — “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. This succulent, crisp, and delicious fruit is a staple item in most households. Aside from their nutritional composition, apples are very versatile in a way that they can be paired with almost any other food, such as oatmeal and pancakes.
How about for our pet hamsters? Does an apple being suitable for human health automatically mean that we can feed our cute rodent housemates the same? Will giving them this fruit keep the vet away, or will it cause more harm than good? Together, let’s find out the answers!
Benefits of Apples for Hamsters
The phrase above about apples and doctors is no bluff. Apples are very well known to be a rich source of several nutrients that are beneficial to humans and hamsters alike. Listed below are some of these substances and why they are good for health.
1. Vitamin C
Chemically known as ascorbic acid, Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant. It can be considered the ultimate immune system booster. It helps in fighting off diseases and healing wounds, and is also beneficial to the skin.
Aside from Vitamin C, apples are also rich in other antioxidants. Antioxidants help to counteract the detrimental effects of free radicals in the body.
Free radicals are damaging molecules and are commonly linked to the development of various cancers. Although there is still not much research involving hamsters, antioxidants were shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease in humans.
One type of antioxidant that is aplenty in apples is polyphenols, which are commonly found in peels. Epicatechin and flavonoids are some examples of polyphenols. Both compounds help reduce blood pressure, and flavonoids also lower the bad cholesterols.
3. Dietary Fiber
Do you feel like after each time you eat apples, your stomach starts to work, and you need to have a bowel movement? This happens because of the high dietary fiber content of this fruit. This is beneficial for both humans and hamsters since it removes toxins from the body and ensures a healthy gut.
Another substance found in apples that promotes gut health is pectin. It is prebiotic, which means it serves as food for the good bacteria present in the stomach. They should not be confused with probiotics, which are foods that contain good bacteria themselves.
4. Apples are good for their teeth too
Aside from the nutritional composition of apples, another benefit of giving hamsters this fruit is they get to file those growing teeth. By gnawing into the apple peels, they get the benefit of consuming fibers and controlling the growth of their teeth.
What Are the Risks Involved?
Whether it’s apples or any other food, introducing a new item in your hamsters’ diet can upset their stomach and cause diarrhea. Hence, it is wise to feed them small amounts slowly and see how they will react. Obviously, you must stop feeding them anything that they don’t respond very well to.
The following are the risks associated with feeding apples to your hamsters. As observed, these risks occur when you give an excessive amount of the fruit to your pet. Therefore, even if they respond well to it, ensure that they consume apples in moderation.
Apples are also high in fruit sugars called fructose. Too much of this nutrient can lead to diabetes and weight gain, so make sure to control your pets’ intake.
Weight gain can cause a whole lot of complications, such as joint problems and cardiovascular complications. It is also beneficial to know if your pet has fructose intolerance.
2. Vitamin C and fibers
Another reason to monitor your hamsters’ apple consumption is the high Vitamin C and dietary fiber content of this fruit. While they may offer various health benefits, both substances act like double-edged swords. An excess of these nutrients can lead to diarrhea, which, when left unattended, can cause dehydration, and ultimately, death.
3. Calories and water
Apples are also low in calories, which in itself is a good thing for your hamsters’ health. This low caloric content is because apples are high in water, and water has no caloric value. Since hamsters have a dry diet, excess water intake can lead to several health disorders such as water intoxication or kidney failure.
Since apples are high in moisture, they are breeding nests for molds when left unattended. Make sure that you give only what your hamster can consume in one seating. Check out the corners of their cage, as these are where they usually hide the food they hoard. Aside from molds, other microorganisms may also increase in rotting food items.
The reputation of apples as high in pesticide residue was highlighted when it ranked number 5 in the Environmental Work Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen list, which studied the worst offenders in produce. So, thoroughly wash whatever you are feeding to your pet, and as much as possible, go for organically grown fruits.
Washing also removes debris or other unwanted organic matter on the surface of your fruits. It can also potentially remove wax materials, which are often illegally used to coat apples to make them look shinier.
Can they eat the whole thing?
Eating the flesh and peels is safe for your pet, just as it is to you. Never feed them the seeds, though, as they contain amygdalin, which degrades into hydrogen cyanide, a highly toxic substance. Hydrogen cyanide is also bad for humans, but due to the difference in body weight, hamsters only need a small number of apple seeds to die due to seed ingestion.
When ingested as a whole, apple seeds are harmless. Once it is chewed and digested, that is the time that amygdalin deteriorates to hydrogen cyanide.
One trick to avoid complications is to feed your pet with seedless varieties. This also ensures that your hamsters will not choke due to seed ingestion.
Can all hamster types eat apples?
Not all hamsters are created equal. Syrian hamsters will do just fine with a quarter teaspoon of apple twice a week. This amount and frequency of feeding ensure that they don’t get obese and suffer from other health problems.
On the other hand, Robo hamsters, Winter Whites, Campbell and Chinese dwarfs can be seriously hurt with the high sugar content of apples. So, the best way to know is to consult with your vet first.
How to feed apples to your hamsters?
As mentioned above, seeds must be avoided to avoid choking and cyanide poisoning. It must also be noted to avoid pre-cut portions, as these are soaked in certain chemical solutions to prevent browning.
Now, just because apples are generally good for your hamsters does not mean that any product that contains the word “apple” in it will benefit them as well. Items such as applesauce, apple juice, or apple chips contain preservatives and added sugars most of the time. These are detrimental to your pet, so stay away from this stuff.
Lastly, do not feed your hamster solely with apples. While they may be nutritious, apples do not provide the complete dietary requirements of hamsters. Make sure that they get enough protein by giving them high-quality pellets. Their water supply must also be replenished regularly to avoid microbial growth.
To summarize, giving apples to your pet hamster has its good and bad sides. However, the cons can be addressed with proper monitoring of the quantity and quality of the fruit being given. Depending on their breed, some hamsters are better off with or without apples. Overall, it is safe to say that you can feed apples to your beloved hamsters.