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Do Pet Hamsters Need to Chew Wood?

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Something you may not know about your new hamster is that his teeth require special care. Chances are you've seen a number of chew products available for hamsters, including wooden toys. You must provide these items for your hamster to ensure his teeth stay healthy. You need to carefully select wood for your hamster to chew on or provide alternative chew treats. Remember, it's up to you to keep your hamster's teeth in check.

About Hamster Teeth

Hamster teeth are not like human teeth. Their teeth keep growing, similar to the way your fingernails grow. In the wild, hamsters grind down teeth through regular eating behavior and chewing on sticks or pine cones. Provide wooden blocks or wooden chew sticks in order to help your hamster keep his teeth ground down. Without items for your hamster to chew on, his teeth can become damaged or cause injury.

Risks of Overgrown Teeth

The biggest risk of allowing your hamster's teeth to overgrow is starvation. If the teeth grow faster than a hamster can grind them down through gnawing and chewing, the hamster will not be able to get food into his mouth and could die from starvation. In the case that the teeth are overgrown, you can take the hamster to the vet to have the teeth clipped. During the visit, ask your vet to show you how to clip them at home. Check the teeth monthly to make sure they are not causing obstruction and clip them if necessary.

Choosing Safe Wood

Unpainted, untreated wooden hamster toys are the safest option for your hamster. Never pick up sticks from the yard, because they could carry parasites -- particularly deadwood. Provide hamster chew sticks that are made of apple or pear wood. Avoid woods that contain oils that can cause respiratory upset in hamsters, such as cedar. Also avoid toys that are made in China. These toys may contain toxic chemicals that could kill your hamster.

Wood Alternatives

While wood is the most natural chewing material, you can give your hamster dog biscuits that are free of garlic. Hard, crunchy treats will help grind the teeth down. Another option is paper towel rolls. These make a good chewing material, and hamsters love to hide out in them. Even hard cereal, such as rolled oat cereals, can keep the teeth in check. If you don't provide chewing materials, the hamster may start to chew on his housing, which can prove dangerous.