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Wet Tail in Hamsters

Wet tail is a very serious disease in hamsters that unfortunately has a high mortality rate even when caught early and treated. “Wet Tail”, named from the obvious sign of wetness around the rear end and tail of the hamster from diarrhea, comes from a bacterial infection that is generally brought on by stress. This stress could be from a change in environment such as bringing a new hamster home to a new habitat, too frequent handling, housing with another hamster, keeping in an unclean habitat or not providing a habitat where your hamster feels secure.  Although this disease is frequently seen in young hamsters with immature immune systems, it can affect hamsters of any age. While diarrhea is the most common symptom, other concerns such as loss of appetite, lethargy, hunched appearance, or an unkempt coat may also be seen in hamsters with wet tail.

Prevention is Key

Preventing wet tail is a key component to avoiding this terrible and deadly disease. When choosing a new hamster to bring home, look for signs of health including eyes that are wide open and clear of any discharge, active and curious behavior, a well-groomed, clean coat, and a bottom that is clean and dry. Due to the bacteria being contagious, you should avoid purchasing a hamster that is housed with any others that appear ill. 

As this disease is brought on by stress, reducing stress is key to preventing infection. Having your hamster’s habitat completely set up and ready before you bring your pet home will help ensure a smooth transition to your pet’s new habitat. Once you get your new hamster home, give them plenty of time to get adjusted to the new environment and keep handling to a minimum for the first few days. House your hamster in a quiet room, away from any other pets such as cats or dogs that your hamster may feel threatened by. Feeding your hamster a high-quality diet as well as pro-biotics are also important in keeping your pet’s immune system strong and reducing the risk of infection.

What To Do if Your Hamster Develops Wet Tail

If you suspect your hamster has wet tail, having them seen by your veterinarian as soon as possible is a critical first step. Your vet will likely start your pet on an antibiotic and may also recommend administering subcutaneous fluids to aid in hydration as well as syringe feeding if your hamster is not eating. A veterinary visit should be scheduled within 24 hours of symptoms being noticed if at all possible for the best prognosis. If you are not able to schedule a veterinary visit immediately, consult with your vet to see if providing a quiet place for their habitat and syringe feeding to help retain hydration and electrolyte balance can help until they can be examined. While there are products like wet tail drops which can be purchased at local pet stores, this should not take the place of veterinary care. Maintaining hydration and getting the bacteria under control is critical for the recovery of your companion. As wet tail is brought on by a flare-up of bacteria, special care should be taken to sanitize the habitat and any supplies used by your hamster. If your hamster is housed with another hamster, they should be immediately separated to reduce the risk of spreading the bacteria to each other.  Be sure to always thoroughly wash your hands any time you are handling your pet or their habitat and accessories.