Wet Tail in Hamsters: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Wet tail is a severe bacterial infection that mainly affects young hamsters. The term “wet tail” refers to the most common symptom; excessive diarrhea or wetness around the rear end.

Bacteria and stress are the leading causes of wet tail in hamsters. Stress could be caused by habitat changes, frequent handling of the hamster, the introduction of a new hamster to the home, unsanitary living conditions, and the hamster feeling insecure.

This article will highlight important things you should know about the infection especially if you’re planning to have a pet hamster in your home. It will focus on the following.

wet tail in hamsters

What is wet tail in hamsters?

Wet tail, also called proliferative ileitis, is a severe bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Lawsonia intracellularis which causes severe diarrhea and dehydration. The name proliferative ileitis is derived from two terms – proliferation and ileitis.

Proliferative refers to the multiplication of cells while ileitis refers to the inflammation of the small intestine, also called the ileum.

The infection is characterized by the inflammation and thickening of the inner layer of the small intestines as a result of the multiplication of the mucosal cells.

When this happens, the normal absorption of nutrients by the small intestines becomes almost impossible, which in turn causes severe diarrhea, dehydration, lack of appetite, and weight loss.

Symptoms of wet tail in hamsters

Wet tail is not only a common illness in hamsters but also one of the infections with the highest mortality rates. Knowing the symptoms to look out for could be the difference between saving your hammy’s life and losing your little friend.

It’s worth noting that wet tail can progress very quickly, which means quick interventions will be key for recovery.

Common symptoms of wet tail in hamsters include:

  • Watery diarrhea: The hamster will have a wet rear end and the wetness may spread throughout the cage.
  • Dirty bottom: The hamster’s bottom will not only be wet but also dirty. A wet bottom will get soiled easily making it look very dirty.
  • Lack of appetite: You will also notice your hamster is disinterested in eating food or drinking water.
  • Dehydration: The hamster will appear dehydrated with notable signs being sunken eyes, dry mucous membranes, and loose skin.
  • Lethargy: Your hamster will become inactive, sleep more, and have weak limbs.
  • Matted, unkempt fur: This is always a sign of general illness, and could also mean your hamster has wet tail.
  • Hunched posture: The hamster will have a hunched posture, waddle, and will struggle to walk properly.
  • Foul odor: Wet tail smells really bad, and that can never go unnoticed.
  • Dull, sunken eyes: A hamster suffering from a severe wet tail will be severely dehydrated, which shows through signs such as dull & sunken eyes.

Causes of wet tail in hamsters

Wet tail can be caused by a number of things, including bacteria, stress, unsanitary living conditions, and sudden habitat changes. Identifying the possible causes of the infection will help you prevent future infections and keep your hamsters healthy and happy.

  • Bacteria: Bacterium Lawsonia intracellularis is known to cause wet tail in hamsters. Bacterial overgrowth also causes intestinal issues that lead to severe diarrhea and other illnesses.
  • Unsanitary living environment: Poor hygiene in and around the cage leads to a build-up of bacteria, which eventually causes infections.
  • Stress: Hamsters are prone to stress, especially younger hamsters. Stress can be caused by habitat changes, trauma, the introduction of new hamsters to the home, frequent handling of the hamsters, and unsanitary living conditions.

You can read this guide about stress in hamsters to identify the cause and symptoms, and how to calm them down.

Diagnosis of wet tail in hamsters

Diagnosis of wet tail in hamsters is done by looking for the clinical signs such as severe diarrhea and dehydration accompanied by lethargy, lack of appetite, foul-smelling rear end, and hunched posture.

It’s imperative to keep in mind that some of these symptoms could also indicate the presence of another infection, not only wet tail. However, make sure to get in touch with your veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms.

Treatment for wet tail in hamsters

The appropriate treatment for wet tail depends largely on the severity of the infection. The veterinarian may administer antibiotics but only if there is a genuine cause for it.

In the case of dehydration, fluid therapy is the best option. There are also instances when the vet will prescribe anti-diarrheal medications.

Most hamsters do not survive especially if the infection becomes severe. Your vet may recommend euthanasia rather than watching your pet suffer in pain with little to no chance of pulling through.

How to prevent wet tail in hamsters

Prevention is always better than cure. There are things you can do to prevent your hamster from getting infected. Some of the things you can do include:

  • Keep the hamster’s cage clean and disinfect it on a weekly basis
  • Provide a clean living environment to prevent infection
  • Limit handling of the hamsters by you or anyone else
  • Keep the hamster in a calm and stress-free environment
  • Do not introduce more than one pet to your home at a time
  • Limit cage interruptions or interfering with the hamster’s daily routine
  • Avoid excessive noise and light near the hamster’s cage (to avoid stress)

Hamsters are prone to stress, which makes them more susceptible to infections and diseases. Keep your hamster happy, stress-free, and well-fed. Also, ensure its living environment is clean and noise-free.

Hamsters prone to wet tail

Young hamsters aged between 3-12 weeks are the most prone to wet tail. The infection is also more common in Syrian hamsters but less common in Roborovski dwarf hamsters. Apart from age, other factors that determine how likely a hamster is to get wet tail include sex and breed.

FAQs about wet tail in hamsters

Let’s now have a look at a few of the most common questions regarding wet tail and hamsters.

a). What are the symptoms of wet tail in hamsters?

Wet tail symptoms in hamsters include watery diarrhea, dirty bottom, lack of appetite, dehydration, matted & unkempt fur, lethargy, foul odor, dull & sunken eyes, and hunched posture.

b). What is the survival rate for hamsters with wet tail?

Hamster wet tail survival rates are very low, especially if you fail to seek immediate vet care. Most hamsters do not survive as the infection can become severe in a matter of days.

c). Is wet tail painful for hamsters?

Yes, wet tail is painful for hamsters. A sick hamster will have a hunched-up posture and will find it difficult to move around or engage in playful activities. The hamster may also isolate itself from the other hamsters because contact is painful.

d). What causes wet tail in hamsters?

Stress and bacteria are the two main causes of wet tail in hamsters. Bacterium Lawsonia intracellularis causes the infection while other factors such as poor living conditions, dirty cages, sudden habitat changes, noise, and too much light cause stress, which makes hamsters more susceptible to illnesses.