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Hamsters in Research

The United States Department of Agriculture reports indicate that 102,633 hamsters were used in research, testing, teaching or experimentation in 2016, accounting for 13% of the Animal Welfare Act-covered animals used that year. Over half of the hamsters were used in painful procedures in 2016, with 32% being used in painful procedures for which pain-relieving drugs were not administered.

Syrian (golden) hamsters are the most commonly used species, although English (black) and Chinese hamsters are used in research protocols as well. They are commonly used as research subjects because they are widely available, easy to breed, develop rapidly, have short life cycles and are susceptible to many pathogens.

Hamsters have been used in a wide variety of research areas including cancer research, infectious disease research and for behavioral studies. They have served as genetic models for human diseases including atrial thrombosis, epilepsy and muscular dystrophy. They have also been used in dental research, in studies of periodontal disease, although the development of the disease is known to differ between human and hamsters.