The term ‘wet tail’ can be used to describe a variety of conditions in hamsters, some more serious than others.
True Wet Tail is a serious gastrointestinal infection that can be life-threatening.
However, the term ‘wet tail’ is sometimes used more generally to describe any condition resulting in diarrhoea or wetness around the back end.
What Is Wet Tail?
The phrase “wet tail” means your pet hamster has a wet tail.
This is called proliferative ileitis or regional enteritis, and it is basically diarrhoea or loose stools.
People think that too many bacteria in the gut are to blame for diarrhoea.
Causes of Wet Tail in Hamsters
Wet-tail is a disease in the animal’s intestines caused by the bacteria, Lawsonia intracellular.
Wet-tail is a stress-related illness—such stress can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Too much handling
- Change in environment
- Change in diet
- Extremely unclean caging
- Being away from mother and/or siblings
- Illness or death of a pair-bond or mate
- Improper caging
Symptoms of Wet Tail in Hamsters
The symptoms may not appear for several days.
The main symptom is the animal has a wet tail, matted with faeces. Other signs of the disease are:
- Smell/ foul odour
- Lack of appetite
- Excess sleeping
- Walking with a hunched back
- Unusual or staggered movement
- Folded ears
- Unusual temper (biting or nipping)
How Does a Hamster Get Wet Tail?
Most of the time, a wet tail is caused by stress. Within a few weeks, young hamsters move from a breeder or vendor to a pet store, then to a new home, and sometimes back to the pet store again.
This would be scary for anyone, but especially for a little baby hamster. Because of this stress, there are too many bacteria in the gut, which leads to diarrhoea.
A wet tail is also very easy to spread. So, if your new hamster was kept in a large cage with other hamsters that had a wet tail, your hamster or the other hamsters could also get a wet tail.
When choosing a hamster to bring home, make sure it is active and moving around. This will make it less likely that it already has a wet tail.
How to Treat Wet Tail?
Before you can treat your hamster’s wet tail, you need to know that it has a wet tail and not diarrhoea caused by something else.
Since a wet tail is a bacterial problem that causes diarrhoea, it’s important to remember that your hamster can have diarrhoea for reasons other than having a wet tail.
For instance, if your hamster eats some fresh fruit or vegetables that are high in water, he might get diarrhoea.
Most likely, this diarrhoea is not from the wet tail, but from all the extra water he drank.
If you don’t know what caused diarrhoea, the best place to start is with an exotics vet.
If he does have a wet tail, your exotics vet will likely give him antibiotics that are safe for hamsters and may give him some fluids under the skin to help him get back to normal.
If he won’t eat, you might have to use a syringe to feed him Oxbow Critical Care, Emerald hamster food, or vegetable baby food.
You can try giving your hamster wet tail drops at home if you can’t take it to an exotics vet. These drops have an antibiotic in them and taste like orange.
You can buy them without going to a vet, and you can put them in a water bottle or put them right in the hamster’s mouth.
If these drops don’t help your hamster feel better in a few days, take it to the vet. Exotic animals get sick very quickly, and if you wait too long, your hamster could die.
How to Prevent Wet Tail?
When you bring your new hamster home, some exotics vets may tell you to give it wet tail drops to keep it from getting sick.
This can be done by putting the right amount of wet tail drops into the water bottle for your hamster.
When choosing a hamster from a pet store, make sure it is active, its eyes are open, and its rear end is dry and free of faeces.
Even safer, don’t take home a hamster that is living with another hamster that doesn’t look too healthy (i.e., eyes closed, sitting in the corner, wet bottom).
If you have more than one hamster and one of them gets a wet tail, you should separate them right away and wash your hands after you handle the sick one and before you handle the healthy one.
A veterinarian should check on your hamster’s health and well-being within the first month after you get it to make sure it is healthy and doing well.
This can help you look for signs of dehydration, diarrhoea, or anything else that might be wrong with your new pet.
You can also talk about any other worries you may have about your new pet.