As far as hamster health goes, the most common illnesses that these furry creatures can catch are the common cold, tumors, and wet tail.
Of the three, you would probably think cancerous tumors would be the worst thing your pet may have but you should know that wet tails are just as bad, if not worse.
To put it simply, wet tails or proliferative ileitis is an infection in the stomach that is caused by a number of bacteria.
It is characterized and named after the ever noticeable wet tail exhibited by hamsters inflicted by this disease which is basically loose stools or diarrhea collected around the tail area.
Stress: The Wet Tail Trigger
While this may happen to hamsters of any age, young hamsters are oftentimes the favorite target of this disease and the reason for this is widely believed to be due to stress.
Young hamsters are known to suffer through a lot of stress especially as they endure the sudden changes they are plunged into once they are separated from their mothers. Add the stresses of transportation, a new home, and environment, as well as improper handling; something is bound to go wrong with the hamster.
Unfortunately, the stress can trigger a bacterial overgrowth in the stomach which would then lead to diarrhea and wet tail. Animals and even humans have natural bacteria growing inside the gut in order to help with digestion. Stress, however, causes these bacteria to proliferate and grow.
Other Causes of Wet Tail
Aside from stress and intestinal bacterial overgrowth, how do hamsters get wet tail?
Well, a dirty living environment can certainly increase a hamster’s chance of getting the disease especially when it has been living there for quite some time. An unsanitary environment can expose the hamster to bacteria that could lead to wet tail disease as well.
Another cause of wet tail, albeit a rare one, would be the excessive use of antibiotics which could lead to an upset stomach. However, since hamsters seldom find the need for antibiotics, wet tail is less likely to be caused by this. But it could still happen.
Wet Tail Could Be Fatal When Left Untreated
Wet tail is a serious illness and what makes it incredibly scary is the fact that when it is left untreated, a hamster’s health could rapidly deteriorate and die in a span of 24 to 48 hours.
Not only that, the wet tail disease can also be quite contagious which isn’t good if you have other hamsters around. When you notice one of your pet hamsters exhibiting signs of wet tail, remove it immediately from the rest and clean the cages. This is because fecal matter contaminating the food and water can help spread the disease to other hamsters.
Symptoms of Wet Tail in Hamsters
If you think your pet may have caught wet tail, make sure to watch out for the following symptoms. If your hamster is exhibiting these symptoms, don’t wait for it to get better. Take it to the vet immediately to get treated.
- One of the first and most obvious signs of wet tail disease is the wetness around the animal’s tail which is brought by diarrhea. In some cases, the tail can also become matted or very sticky.
- Watery diarrhea may also spread in puddles around the cage.
- Hamsters suffering from wet tails will smell terribly bad due to watery diarrhea. Since hamsters are self-groomers and rarely need to get cleaned by their owners, smelling bad is an indication that something is wrong.
- Their appearance would be uncharacteristically unruly with ruffled and dirty coats.
- The hamster would also appear to be very weak and lethargic; often finding it asleep or unable to move. Since hamsters are generally active creatures due to their high metabolisms, persisting inactivity may also be one of the biggest signs that something is wrong with your pet.
- If a hamster has the wet tail disease, you may notice a loss in appetite and would refuse to eat or drink. When this happens, it is highly likely that your pet would become dehydrated. Dehydration is one of the biggest causes of death for hamsters with wet tails that is why you should immediately take your pet to a veterinarian for immediate treatment.
- Other symptoms would include a prolapsed anus due to the straining, runny nose, sunken eyes, and discharge coming out of the genitals or ears.
- Blood may also appear on the stools if your pet is suffering from wet tail disease.
Hamster Wet Tail Treatment & Care
There is no other effective treatment for wet tails besides taking your pet to the vet. Meeting up with a veterinarian is important because he or she would be able to administer the necessary antibiotics. Furthermore, a vet would be able to rehydrate your pet when it refuses to drink water or eat.
Below are some ways you can do to help your pet hamster when it is stricken with wet tail.
- If you think your hamster may be suffering from wet tail disease, schedule an appointment with your vet immediately because doing so would increase your pet’s chances of survival.
- While waiting, it would be a good idea for you to isolate the sick hamster from the healthy ones. Don’t feel bad about doing this since the sick hamster would want to be alone anyway and you’d be able to prevent the disease from spreading.
- While fruits and vegetables would help keep your hamster from dehydration, the water content of these types of food would only aggravate diarrhea further. Try making your hamster eat dry food only during recovery.
- Do not miss out on your scheduled appointment and take your sick hamster to the vet as soon as possible. When it is determined that your hamster’s illness is wet tail disease, the vet would prescribe antibiotics and anti-diarrhea medication that you would need to follow religiously.
- Avoid adding the antibiotics to the food and water because it is highly unlikely that your hamster would want to eat or drink. If your pet is able to drink, you also wouldn’t want to ruin this by adding a different taste to the water.
- Your vet may have to inject the antibiotics if the hamster is too sick. If it is refusing to drink, the vet may also need to inject saline to prevent your pet from dehydrating.
- Allow your pet to be hospitalized if the vet thinks it is necessary. That way, the vet and nurses would be able to monitor your sick hamster closer and make sure it is given the proper medication that it needs.
- Once you and your pet get home, you should give a considerable amount of focus on your sick hamster and make sure that it is given the proper amount of medication at the right time. If you have other hamsters to take care of, ask someone close to you to take care of them in your stead while you devote your time caring for the sick one.
- Your sick hamster would definitely want to keep warm while it tries to recover from the wet tail because these animals get cold easily. Try to make its living conditions as warm as possible and make sure that it is not further stressed out.
- Since the recovery rate for hamsters stricken with wet tails is incredibly low, you should also ready yourself for what may come. If your hamster’s condition does not get any better after 48 hours, then it may not get better at all. Sometimes the best care you can provide for your sick hamster is to help free it from its pain.
Hamsters, marvelous creatures they may be, are still highly susceptible to sickness and disease. Because of this, it is important that you make a routine check on your pet to make sure that it has not caught anything that would be detrimental to its health.
The best way to approach this would be during the time you clean your hamster’s cage because doing so would help you observe your pet’s droppings and see if anything is out of the ordinary.