Welcome To Our Complete Guide To Hamster Wet Tail. Helping You To Understand Wet Tail Causes, Symptoms And The Best Options For Treatment.
Are you thinking about getting a hamster?
Do you already own hamsters?
If you answered yes to either of those questions, you need to know about wet tail disease.
Hamster wet tail is a very real problem, and something all hamster owners need to know how to spot.
What is hamster wet tail?
Hamster wet tail is a deadly intestinal disease.
It is also called proliferative ileitis, which is caused by the bacterial Lawsonia intracellularis.
Wet tail typically affects young hamsters. However, hamster wet tail disease can infect hamsters of any age, and requires immediate medical treatment.
Luckily, wet tail is relatively easy to identify. The main wet tail symptoms are a wet, dirty tail.
This particular bacteria can also infect pigs, horses, ferrets, dogs, and primates. But luckily for us, it does not appear to be transmissible to people.
In hamsters, it causes watery diarrhea and often death.
Young hamsters between three to six weeks old (the weaning stage) are particularly susceptible to wet tail.
Since many of the hamsters sold in pet stores are around this age, wet tail can occur shortly after you bring your new hamster home.
This is one reason why it is crucial that all new hamster owners know the signs of wet tail and what to do if their hamster has wet tail.
What does wet tail look like?
Wet tail disease is characterized by a wet, dirty tail and hindquarters.
This is the result of diarrhea.
The wet tail bacteria cause a very liquid diarrhea.
This can lead to matted, dirty hair around your hamster’s rear.
In some cases, you may even notice blood in the diarrhea or around the anus.
Wet tail symptoms
A wet tail is the most noticeable symptom of wet tail disease, but there are other wet tail symptoms you need to watch out for.
Diarrhea causes abdominal discomfort and dehydration in hamsters.
Your hamster may appear hunched, thanks to this discomfort.
Some hamsters with wet tail become irritable.
Your hamster may also have a dull, dry coat, and her eyes might appear dull and sunken as a result of dehydration.
In severe cases, hamsters may strain so much from the constant diarrhea that their rectum may even begin to protrude.
If you notice any of these hamster wet tail symptoms, bring your hamster to your veterinarian immediately.
How do hamsters get wet tail?
Lawsonia intracellularis is transmitted through feces.
Young hamsters can pick up the bacteria from food and water that is contaminated by feces.
These feces can come from their mother or other adult hamsters in the same cage.
Adult hamsters can carry the bacteria without showing symptoms, so make sure you ask the pet store if there is any history of wet tail disease in their hamsters.
There are a few other steps you can take to lower the risk of your hamster getting wet tail.
Keep your hamster’s cage clean. This will help prevent contaminated food or water, and dry bedding is healthier for hamsters than damp, soiled bedding.
Stress can weaken your hamster’s immune system, making them more susceptible to wet tail.
Avoid handling young hamsters for a few days after bringing them home.
This gives them time to adjust to their environment and reduces stress.
You should also avoid switching their food right away.
Find out what food the pet store fed your hamster. Transition them slowly over a few days after your hamster has settled in to avoid upsetting their digestive systems.
Wet tail is not always preventable, but following these steps will give your hamster their best shot at avoiding it.
Hamster wet tail treatment
Wet tail is a deadly disease.
However, there are hamster wet tail treatment options.
The first thing you should do is get your hamster to a veterinarian.
Hamster wet tail home remedy solutions are rarely effective and could waste precious time.
In many cases, your veterinarian will place your hamster on antibiotics to kill the wet tail bacteria.
In the meantime, your doctor may also recommend supportive care like subcutaneous fluids. This will counter the dehydration caused by the diarrhea, along with antidiarrheal medication.
During this time, your veterinarian will try to keep your hamster warm and clean, but it is important for owners to be prepared for the worst.
Even with treatment, many hamsters die within 48 hours of showing symptoms of wet tail.
Wet tail drops
You may have heard of wet tail drops.
Perhaps you saw them in the pet store or online, or you are hoping for an alternative to a visit to the veterinarian.
Wet tail drops may help treat diarrhea in hamsters.
Most wet tail drops contain an antibiotic that could help treat Lawsonia intracelluaris.
However, if your hamster has Lawsonia intracellularis, the drops may not be enough to save your hamster’s life.
In addition to antibiotics, your hamster may need supportive care, and the wet tail drops could also be the wrong antibiotic for your hamster.
If you regularly keep or breed hamsters, talk to your veterinarian about any wet tail drops they might recommend, and any other steps you can take to treat wet tail at home.
If your hamster is sick, don’t just buy hamster wet tail drops online. Always take your pet to the veterinarian.
Wet tail medicine
The best thing you can do for a hamster with wet tail is take them to a veterinarian.
Your veterinarian will most likely provide you with wet tail medicine appropriate for your hamster’s breed and size.
This can include antibiotics, subcutaneous fluids, and antidiarrheal medication.
Wet tail is a serious, often lethal condition.
Trying to treat it at home or with over the counter products not approved by your veterinarian may not be effective.
Is wet tail contagious?
Wet tail is passed through contaminated feces.
Since hamsters are known to consume their own feces, as well as food and water that may have been in contact with feces, it is important to isolate sick hamsters from other hamsters.
Thoroughly clean and sterilize the cage. Be sure to provide clean, fresh bedding for your healthy hamsters. Keep an eye on them for symptoms of illness.
You can help prevent contagion by keeping new hamsters separate from other hamsters until you have had your hamster examined by a veterinarian or at least a week has passed without signs of illness.
Does my hamster have wet tail?
It’s the worst-case scenario for a hamster owner.
You go to greet your hamster, only to find him hunched in his cage with a wet tail and some of the other symptoms of wet tail disease.
The first thought on your mind is, “Does my hamster have wet tail?”
Before you panic, there are other causes of diarrhea in hamsters, like diarrhea associated with certain antibiotics
However, if your hamster is exhibiting symptoms of wet tail, play it safe and get him to the veterinarian as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis.
Wet tail is especially dangerous for young hamsters.
If your new hamster has a wet tail, assume your hamster has wet tail unless your veterinarian tells you otherwise. And follow quarantine protocols to protect your other hammies.
My hamster has wet tail – what do I do?
If you think your hamster has wet tail, the first thing you should do is contact your veterinarian.
Once you have arranged to bring your hamster in, place him in a dry, clean carrying cage. Try to handle him as little as possible, to prevent stressing him further until you get to the veterinarian.
If you have other hamsters, thoroughly clean and disinfect the cage to prevent the spread of wet tail disease.
Once you are at the vet’s office, follow any instructions your veterinarian gives you regarding the care of your hamster. Prepare any young hamster owners with you for the possibility of a loss of their beloved hammie.
Hamster Wet Tail
Hamster wet tail is a scary thing, and hopefully one you won’t have to deal with yourself. But it is the most frequently seen hamster disease, so it always pays to know the symptoms.
This means that if you do see any of the signs then you can act straight away.
Some hamsters do recover from wet tail disease.
The faster you get your hamster in for treatment, the greater the chances are that he will make a full recovery.
Further Reading and Resources
- Amend, NK et al 1976 Transmission of enteritis in the Syrian hamster. Europe PMC
- Donnelly, T. M. BVSc, DVP, DACLAM, DABVP(ECM). ‘Hamsters.’ Merck Veterinary Manual.
- Harland, W et al 1975 A survey of naturally occurring diseases of the Syrian hamster. Sage Journals Laboratory Animals.
- Quesenberry, K. E. DVM, MPH, DABVP (Avian). ‘Routing Health Care of Hamsters.’ Merck Veterinary Manual.
- ‘Wet Tail (Regional Enteritis, Proliferative Ileitis) in Hamsters.’ Drs. Foster and Smith.