I am a long-time pet owner experienced with a range of domesticated animals from dogs to horses, mice to snails.
What Is Wet Tail?
Wet tail is an extremely serious health condition that is especially common in Syrian hamsters under 12 weeks old. A hamster of any species and age can get wet tail which causes foul-smelling watery diarrhea, severe dehydration, discomfort, and death.
It is important to know that wet tail can only be treated with antibiotics prescribed from your vet, if you suspect wet tail, please take your furry friend to the vets immediately for an examination. Wet tail is one of the most fatal illnesses a hamster can get.
What Causes Wet Tail?
There are a number of causes of wet tail that have been identified. It is important to know what has caused it to prevent future outbreaks. You should also be aware that wet tail is contagious to other hamsters and in some rarer cases can cause stomach upsets in humans as well so it is very important to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling a sick pet and to quarantine them from other animals until all symptoms have disappeared.
- Stress: The most common cause is stress in younger hamsters that have been parted from their mothers or have been moved to a new home recently, especially so in hamsters that have come from a litter, released to homes too young or have suffered other traumas, e.g., handling too soon, animal attacks, noisy living environment. The latter issues are common causes in older hamsters as well as young.
- Bacterial issues in the stomach: Wet tail is caused by bacterial overgrowth in the stomach, just like a stomach bug in humans. The bacteria that live naturally in their gut may overgrow, causing unpleasant symptoms and a foul odour.
- Dirty living environment: In some cases, if the hamster has been living in squalor for a period of time, it can cause bacteria to build up in their system and result in wet tail.
- Medicinal issues: Sometimes, antibiotics can cause an upset stomach, which can lead to wet tail. This is obviously the least common cause, as most hamsters never require antibiotics treatments.
Who Is at Risk?
Any hamster of any age, gender, or species can be at risk of wet tail.
Wet tail facts:
- Wet tail is much less common in Roborovski dwarf hamsters.
- Wet tail is most common in Syrian hamsters under 12 weeks of age.
- Wet tail can be a common problem for elderly hamsters, especially if they can't clean themselves properly.
- A dirty cage is not the primary cause of wet tail.
- It can only be treated with antibiotics from your vet.
- Other health problems may contribute to wet tail.
- It is highly contagious, especially to other hamsters.
Symptoms of Wet Tail
It is important to familiarise yourself with all wet tail symptoms, so if your hamster begins to show signs you can get them treated as soon as possible. You must not wait to see if they are better tomorrow or if it's really wet tail, your hamster will be smelly and suffering and may even die before you get them to the vets. Immediate treatment is necessary for recovery.
- Watery diarrhea may be spread throughout the cage or in puddles around the toilet corner.
- A dirty bottom: Hamsters with wet tail have a dirty, smelly bottom which may be brown, black or very sticky.
- A foul odour: Wet tail smells. BAD. If your hamster is smelling strongly or much worse than usual you should seek help immediately.
- Loss of appetite and not drinking: Not drinking will lead to dehydration, so it is important to get a clean syringe from your vets or a dropper and give your hamster water often throughout their treatment. Dehydration can cause them to die very quickly.
- Lethargy, sleeping more, weakness of limbs, loss of activity and physical strength.
- Ruffled or dirty coat: sign of general illness.
- Hamster is hunched over, waddling, unable to walk properly.
- Symptoms of infection or stress may be present such as runny or dirty nose, watery or sticky eyes, discharge from ears or genitals.
If you notice any of these symptoms, please take your pet to a small animals vet or an exotic vet immediately. If untreated, wet tail kills.
Treatment of Wet Tail
The ONLY way to cure wet tail is to take your hamster to the vets for antibiotics and sometimes even a course of hydration (the vet may use a syringe or dropper to force feed your hamster water) there is no diet to cure it, no natural remedies, no home remedies and they don't get better alone. If untreated, your hamster will die. Wet tail is extremely serious and can kill them within hours.
Once your pet has seen a vet make sure you keep a close eye on them in a clean cage. Quarantine your animal from any other pet, don't allow your clothing to come into contact with the infected animal, always change clothes, wash up thoroughly and even wear gloves when handling or feeding the pet to prevent contamination. Your hamster should be somewhere warm, quiet and comfortable and not in direct sunlight, against a radiator or around other animals. If your hamster has a cage mate, separate them and make sure you keep a close eye out for symptoms in the other one, your vet may also prescribe them antibiotics to prevent infection or just in case they show signs.
Make sure you clean the cage thoroughly before putting your pet back in, boiling water will kill the germs as will cage cleaner with antibacterial elements. Replace all of the bedding and wipe down the bars or tank sides. Thoroughly wash food and water dishes each time you feed your hamster. Make sure clean water is always available.
- Monitor your pet: Make sure you monitor their behaviour, check on them frequently, never miss a dose of antibiotics, and to be safe, use the syringe or dropper to give your pet water. This is essential for hydration, especially if you're unsure whether your pet is drinking or not.
- Probiotics: These are great for urinary tract or uterine infections, ask your vet before giving them. Probiotic natural yoghurt is a great way to help your hamster's stomach filter out any dirt and keep the balance even after symptoms have stopped.
Other Possible Explanations
Like with any illness, your hamster may have symptoms similar to wet tail without wet tail being present. It is important to be very clear with your vet and have the animal checked.
- UTI (urinary tract infection): This is most common in older female hamsters but can happen to any hamster of any age. Symptoms include: blood in the urine, smelly urine, dirty yellow or brown stains around the genitals, ruffled coat, excessive drinking, tiredness, loss of appetite, squeaking when going to the toilet.
- Uterine Problems: Only happen in female hamsters, especially older ones that have been bred from. Symptoms include: bleeding around the genitals, a smelly metallic brown or yellow discharge, a swollen or lumpy abdomen, protrusion from the genitalia, e.g., something hanging out, symptoms do not improve with antibiotics. Your hamster may seem bright and healthy. Possibilities are infection, obstruction, tumour, injury, or birthing problems.
- Poor Diet: This can cause mushy, sticky, or the runs without a strong odour or symptoms of wet tail. There may be diarrhea in the cage, the hamster may be quiet with a loss of appetite, but it is not usually as severe. This can, however, lead to wet tail. Cut back on greens and only give them as a treat and do not feed your hamster human foods.
- Sitting in Their Own Mess: Usually causes a staining or damp urine smell/poo stuck to the hamster that is not runny or mushy. Your hamster will likely smell and improve after being wiped with a baby wipe and the cage thoroughly cleaned out.
Outlook for Wet Tail
The outlook for wet tail is not usually a positive one, especially in very young, very old or very sick hamsters that have gone untreated. Remember to get your pet immediately to the vets if you suspect wet tail or another health condition as deaths can be prevented and illnesses CAN be treated. With proper care, there is no reason why your friend cannot make a full recovery in time.
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.
© 2015 ThePetMaster
Ambya on May 23, 2020:
Just took 3 syrian babies (age 4-8 weeks) from local pet store and all of them are died in 2 days. Seems one of them having this nightmare called wet tail and spread to the others. I've tried to seperated them to the other cages after the first one died. But it was too late
Jack-1989 on May 20, 2020:
@Grace, what is an "aswel"? This word does not exist, so I am unsure of your full sentence. Did you mean his face looks wet and swollen? Please clarify.
And now, after the time has passed, can you tell us what happened?
Grace on March 17, 2020:
hi, my hamster does have wet tail and i have taken him to the vet and he has been treated. Before i took him his face was fine, however i have noticed since he has been home his face looks wet aswel. Is this something the antibiotics do? or does this mean he is getting worse.
Janesse on October 08, 2019:
6 of my hamsters died bcos of wet tail..2 were left,im gving them Oresol to hydrate them,,putting coconut oil in their anus aftr cleaning wety poop and Oregano xtract. Hope it will help them recover,no vet n our place
anonymous on June 24, 2019:
jack i think he has wet tail but my dad thinks he’s fine and i’m too young to get him to a vet his tail is drenched and smells so bad he’s gonna die help please
Joanna Underhill on January 05, 2019:
My hamster is very still and sleeping a lot he also has his eyes shut he also has a really bad smell the last couple of weeks does anyone know what this could be
Maya on June 30, 2018:
I'm pretty sure my hamster has wet tail. He has been having gunk and what I thought was a small cut around his eye. I just noticed that his tail is a little wet and sticking out more. I think this may be the early stages of wet tail. I will try to get him to the vet. Thank You!
Adila on April 19, 2018:
Hi. I'm so scared cuz I think my little hamster has a wet tail. He is very sick. Vet gave me antibiotics, but he won't drink them. He doesn't even drink water. He eats so little. He is just 7weeks old, and as you said syrian hamsters got wet tail, that is true. Ig you know how to help me, if you know how to give him water and food please tell me because I don't want him to die. He is just 2weeks with me, and he was so cute, but now he looks so sad and wet. Thanks.
chris on April 05, 2018:
my poor pebbles had a gunky eye weeks ago. cleaned it, and she was ok again, little did I know she is suffering with wet tail, me n kids so upset, she's ready to due, because she's hardly moving, please send them to get checked no matter how small. I'm going to let her die in peace. but if your spot anything take them.
Marco on June 05, 2017:
Hi everyone . I believe my hamster Rocky just past away recently.5 Days ago I gave him some seed and 2days ago a piece of apple . 3 days ago it got really cold (he was still alive ) but didnt toched his food or anything. Now that I went to clean his cage he didnt move there were no sighns of breathing. So my dad came and checked and said that my little almost year old boy past away his sorry. I went to burry him love your hamster so much and plz take care of them
Schoolkid on May 17, 2017:
What part of the body is attacked by wet tail?
Mikey on May 06, 2017:
My hamster lucy pass away lastnight. Took her to the vet she was doing fine yesterday i got home from work she pass away. God rest her soul. I miss her so much.