Hamster Health – Wet Tail
Proliferative ileitis, commonly known as hamster wet tail, is a life threatening disease affecting hamsters. Long-haired teddy bear hamsters are the most susceptible, but the bacterial disease can develop in any hamster breed and in hamsters of any age. Wet tail is mostly a problem in hamsters, but other rodents are also susceptible. Hamsters with wet tail may succumb to the disease and die within 1-2 days, so it is extremely important that you know the symptoms and treatment options.
The disease is caused by contact with Lawsonia intracellularis, a bacterium. This bacterium is often present in unclean food or water. Stress is thought to be a major contributing factor in the susceptibility to this disease.
Wet Tail Symptoms
While the tell-tale sign of hamster wet tail is a soiled, wet area around the tail, other symptoms may be present. Here is a run down of the signs and symptoms to look for if you suspect that your hamster may have a nasty case of wet tail.
- Bloody stools
- Dull eyes
- Lack of grooming behavior
- Loss of appetite
- Watery diarrhea
- Wet tail
If your hamster is showing some of these signs, it is important to get your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible. If you are wondering what a hamster with wet tail looks like, the picture on the right shows a severe case of wet tail. The picture at the top of this article is what a healthy hamster tail looks like – dry and fluffy.
Wet Tail Treatment
Spotting the disease early on is the key to being able to successfully treat the disease. Wet tail is incredibly aggressive though, so hamsters will often succumb to the disease even with timely intervention. A veterinarian will often treat wet tail with antibiotics, anti-diarrheal medications, and sometimes fluids for hydration.
Prevention of Hamster Wet Tail
Even the best of living conditions will not guarantee that a hamster will not contract the disease. With that said, there are certainly things you can do as a hamster owner to minimize the risks. Keep the cage clean by removing soiled litter daily and cleaning the entire cage weekly. This will help to keep bacteria in low numbers, minimizing the risk of infection to the hamster.
Stress is another huge risk factor for hamsters. It isn’t uncommon for new hamster owners to have their little pets contract wet tail within days of bringing it home. This is likely due to excessive handling and sudden changes in the food offered to your hamster. As tempting as it may be, limit the handling of a new hamster for a week or two. This lets him get comfortable in his new home on his own terms, limiting stress.
Providing an ideal habitat will also minimize the risks of hamster wet tail. Here is a great hamster caresheet that highlights what hamsters need in order to thrive and be stress-free.