The condition known as “wet tail” is one of the most dreaded conditions that can occur in a pet hamster. Many hamsters die from this condition, sometimes in as little as 48 hours after it becomes noticeable. However, there are many misconceptions about wet tail in hamsters that may be confusing. Some people think that the term “wet tail” can be used to describe any instance in which a hamster has diarrhea. In reality, the cause of wet tail is specific to this condition.
Cause: The main cause of wet tail is a bacteria known as Lawsonia intracellularis. This bacteria affects many different animals, including horses, pigs, ferrets, horses, primates and other animals. It infects an animal’s intestines by invading the epithelial cells in the intestines. This then leads to the progressive pathogenesis of the disease. As of right now, this bacteria is not known as being able to be transmitted to humans.
Symptoms: The most common and noticeable symptom of wet tail is diarrhea. In wet tail, a hamster’s stools will be loose, watery and thin. This also promotes the “wet” appearance of the tail, as constant diarrhea forms a matted, dirty and wet area around a hamster’s tail. Other symptoms include extreme lethargy, loss of appetite, irritability and lack of grooming. Due to the extreme dehydration that occurs with the constant diarrhea, a hamster’s eyes may appear sunken and dull.
Treatment: The most effective treatment for wet tail in hamsters includes administration of antibiotics, as well as subcutaneous fluids. Anti-diarrhea medication may also be used in extreme cases. The treatment may or may not be effective, as the majority of hamsters with wet tail die soon after contracting this disease.
Prevention: The most effective way to prevent wet tail in hamsters is to keep their cage clean. A clean cage is not as susceptible to bacteria, and can also promote good health in a hamster. As some people cite that wet tail can be caused by stress, avoid excessive handling of your hamster for the first 1 – 2 days after you bring them into your home (or transfer them to a new cage). Never purchase a hamster that has been exposed to other hamsters with wet tail, since they may also contract this disease. Before purchasing from a pet store, be sure to ask if any of the hamsters in their facility have had wet tail recently.