Wet tail is a very nasty hamster ailment. It is the common name for watery diarrhea that also causes pain and can lead to severe dehydration and eventually death. It can happen to any hamster of any age but is most common in Syrian hamsters that are under three months old.
It is possible to treat wet tail in hamsters but it requires immediate veterinary attention. Sadly, it is a leading cause of death in these furry little friends so it is important that you understand all about it and know what to do if your hamster develops symptoms. Here’s what you need to know.
The Causes of Wet Tail in Hamsters
There is no single cause of this condition, it can be caused by any of the following or by a combination of them.
This is always the most likely cause. Typically, the symptoms start in a very young hamster that has just been separated from their mother. It is also the most common illness that your new hamster could get when you first get them home from the breeder or the pet store. You can prevent it by leaving your hamster alone in their cage for at least 48 hours. They will have a chance to adjust and scent their new surroundings. During this period, put the cage in a quiet room and keep young children away.
- Bacterial infection
Hamsters have natural bacteria living in their intestines but sometimes they multiply and the numbers are too high for the body to deal with. This causes a similar effect to a stomach bug that humans get. The bacteria cause a foul odor.
- Poor living conditions
Hamsters that are not cleaned out regularly are more likely to experience an overgrowth of gut bacteria and get diarrhea.
Some veterinary medicines cause stomach upsets. If this happens, you need to speak to the vet that prescribed the medication and get some advice.
- Bladder infections
Older female hamsters can get infections of the urinary tract which cause there to be blood in the urine and brown stains around the genitals.
- Problems with the uterus
Female hamsters can get a brown or yellow discharge that smells bad which can be a sign of a uterine infection or growth.
If you feed your hamster too many fresh greens, it can make their poop very runny or sticky with a strong odor. This can mimic the symptoms of wet tail.
Because hamster wet tail is contagious to other hamsters and humans, it is very important that you wash your hands thoroughly after handling or cleaning out a sick hamster. Also, separate the sick pet from other hamsters until they are recovered.
If your hamster suffers from wet tail, you must get them to a vet right away. It is important that you find out what caused it so that you can do what you can to prevent it from happening again.
Symptoms of Wet Tail
You must be able to recognize wet tail in hamsters so you can get them to vet as quickly as possible. Sadly, hamsters can die very quickly so you must get an emergency appointment as soon as you spot the symptoms. This is what you need to look out for.
- Signs of diarrhea in the cage. You will see watery feces (poop) in puddles all around the cage as well as in their usual toilet area.
- Signs of diarrhea on your hamster. The area around the tail and bottom will be wet and could be brown or black. It could also be sticky.
- Foul odor. There is no mistaking the smell of wet tail in hamsters. It is very unpleasant. Hamster poop is usually pretty odorless so if it begins to smell, it means you need to see the vet.
- Refusing food and drink. It is usual for a hamster with wet tail to refuse food and drink. This will quickly lead to dehydration and death. You may be able to get some fluids into your hamster using a clean syringe or dropper which your vet can supply.
- A hamster with wet tail feels pretty rough! They will be sleepy and will appear weak. They won’t want to move around very much.
- As well as the wetness around the tail, your hamster may have a ruffled coat and may appear to be hunched over or waddling. Some cannot walk at all. They may also have a runny nose and eyes and a discharge from their ears.
Preventing and Treating Wet Tail
The main causes of wet tail are infection and stress so the way to prevent it is to maintain scrupulous hygiene and to cut down on stress.
You can help to prevent wet tail by separating any hamsters that appear sick. You also need to clean your hamster out regularly and provide them with fresh bedding.
Watch out for anything that could cause your hamster stress. They do not like change. They will be stressed when you move them from one environment to another. When you first get your hamster, they will be very vulnerable to stress and need to be left alone for a few days. Then, only handle them for short periods whilst they get used to you.
The only treatment for wet tail is antibiotics from your vet. They may need hydration as well. There is no diet that can cure it and natural remedies will not help. Whilst your hamster is recovering, they need to be alone in their cage in a warm, quiet room but away from direct sunlight and sources of heat.
Try to avoid handling them but if you do, wash your hands thoroughly. Before putting them back in their cage, clean it thoroughly with a special cage cleaner that is antibacterial. Put fresh bedding, water and food. Keep an eye on them and give them water with a syringe if they are not drinking.