Wet tail is a bacterial infection that can be fatal to hamsters if left untreated.
Lawsonia intracellularis, the bacteria that cause hamster wet tail, thrives on feces. When a hamster ingests food or water that has been contaminated with the bacteria through fecal droppings, he can contract the disease.
Avoiding stress is one way to keep your pet healthy. Stressful conditions, like excessive handling or unfavorable living conditions, can compromise a hamster's immune system and make the rodent more susceptible to the illness. Newborn rodents are also still developing their immune system, making them more prone to the disease.
Wet tail is most notable by excessive diarrhea. The soft feces often collects on a hamster's stubby tail, explaining the disease's namesake. As the illness is characterized by GI upset, a hamster would also show physical signs of abdominal discomfort, such as hunching.
Other symptoms include lethargy, sunken eyes, inappetence, bloody stool, or a swollen rectum.
Wet tail can be treated with a dose of antibiotics if caught and addressed in a timely manner. Medications to help with intestinal discomfort might also be prescribed.
Because severe diarrhea often results in dehydration, fluids might be administered orally or injected subcutaneously. Fibrous fruits and vegetables should also be put on hold as a dry, pelleted diet can soak up some of the intestinal liquid, helping to retain water and solidify feces.
In addition to maintaining a calm and comfortable environment for your hamster, a clean cage is vital to preventing this disease. Wet tail is easily transmitted between hamsters, so it is wise to look into the pet store conditions before adopting one. Additionally, if you have two of the rodents in the same habitat, separate them at the first sign of possible symptoms, whether behaviorally or physically.
Some breeds are more susceptible than others. Dwarf hamsters do not get wet tail while teddy hamsters, known for their tail nubs, are the most commonly afflicted.