Sick Hamsters: Signs and Treatment of Wet Tail in Hamsters
What Is Wet Tail in Hamsters?
Hamsters are not the only small animal that can get wet tail, but they are the most common small animal to succumb to it. Chinchillas, rabbits, gerbils, rats, and mice can all get wet tail, as it is caused by stress. For the most part, this condition is indicated by nothing more than extreme diarrhea. However, without treatment, your pet can die within 24–48 hours, depending on how soon you catch it. Once your hamster has had this condition and has been treated for it, they cannot get it again.
What Causes This Condition?
As I mentioned above, this illness is stress-related. It can be caused by the following:
- Too much handling
- Change in the environment
- Change in diet
- Inadequate cage cleaning
- Being away from the mother and/or siblings
- The death of a tank mate
Baby hamsters are more susceptible to wet tail than juvenile and adult hamsters.
Symptoms of Wet Tail
The following symptoms may not appear for a few days or so, but once they set in, they are quite noticeable:
- A wet rear/tail area
- Foul odor
- Lack of appetite
- Excessive sleeping
- Lack of grooming
- Hunched back
The most obvious symptom of this condition will be a wet rear/tail area on your hamster.
How Is This Condition Treated?
Luckily, there are several products out today that can help to resolve this condition, but it is always recommended that you first see a veterinarian. You can take a trip to most of your local pet stores (e.g., PetSmart and Petland) and grab a bottle of "Dri-Tail" or "Wet-tail Drops." You can also go to a veterinarian that sees hamsters, and they can put the hamster on Baytril or Sulfatrim (this is the best and most responsible option).
How to Prevent This Condition
For a new hamster, you can prevent this condition by:
- having the cage completely set up before bringing the new hamster home,
- setting the hamster up in their cage and leaving them alone for a minimum of 1–2 days (allowing them time to adjust to their new surroundings), and
- setting up the cage in a quiet place with less traffic.
If you already have a hamster that you're worried about, you should:
- watch how much you handle them,
- limit the duration that he or she is out of their enclosure,
- try not to change their food or surroundings drastically, and
- not add any new hamsters to their environment.
My Experience With Wet Tail
I see hamster after hamster getting wet tail at my work almost daily. Many of the hamsters are on a heavily walked section of the store. With people knocking on the cages, peering in, and just plain walking by constantly, the hamsters are stressed. Luckily, we have been able to get rid of of the condition using "Dri-Tail" and veterinarian-prescribed medicines.
Wet tail is not a pretty illness for hamsters to get, and if not caught early enough, not even vet-prescribed medicines or commercial brand medicines will heal a hamster. Your best bet is to keep a commercial-brand remedy on hand just in case and try to watch the environment of your hamster—including placement of the cage and duration of handling.
A Warning: My Hamster Developed the Condition and Died
At one time, I had three hamsters (two girls and one boy). Rocky, the boy, was supposed to be a female, but it turned out that he was a boy. He bonded very closely with my other hamster, Pebbles, so I kept them caged together. Where one was, the other was not too far behind. Because they had bonded, I kept them together for months.
One day, however, my boyfriend was trying to clean the cage and, not paying attention, slammed the lid back on. I found poor Rocky with his head caught in-between two tubes where the tube from the lid and the tube from the base met. Pebbles was on the other side of the cage, heavily pregnant at this point, not moving and not eating. Very soon she developed wet tail, as I can only imagine that she was upset from the death of her companion. I quickly ran to Petland and bought "Dri-Tail."
She was almost free of illness when she had her litter. Having her litter stressed her body out so much more, however, and unfortunately, she ate the babies a few days after she had them and died shortly after. So currently, I just have Roxy left of the original three.
Monitor Your Companions Carefully
This experience was particularly hard to get through, so I recommend that every hamster owner carefully monitor their companions for any indications of poor health. The sooner you intervene, the better.
More on Hamster Illnesses
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.