Wet tail

“Wet tail” is a very serious intestinal disease of young hamsters, which often causes death. It gets its name because the main symptom is diarrhea, and affected hamsters often have wet and dirty tails. It is caused by bacteria called Lawsonia intracellularis which can also cause disease in swine, horses, dogs, ferrets, primates and other animals. This disease does not appear to be transmissible to people.

Wet tail is more commonly seen in hamsters of weaning age (3-6 weeks old), but hamsters of all ages are susceptible. Hamsters sold in pet stores generally have just been weaned, so “wet tail” may occur soon after the hamster is taken home. All breeds of hamsters can develop wet tail, but long-haired “teddy bear” hamsters are most susceptible.

What are the symptoms of wet tail?

Hamsters with wet tail are generally lethargic with a loss of appetite and generally stop grooming. They have a very fluid diarrhea, and develop a wet, soiled and matted area around the anus and tail. The diarrhea causes them to become dehydrated, so their eyes may appear dull and sunken. They may sit “hunched up” and be irritable because of the abdominal discomfort. In serious cases, blood may be seen in the diarrhea or around the anus, and/or the rectum may protrude out of the anus because of the constant straining.

Wet tail is a very serious disease, and hamsters with the above symptoms should be examined by a veterinarian immediately.

How is wet tail treated?

Antibiotics are given to kill the bacteria. Supportive care is given including subcutaneous fluids to correct the dehydration, antidiarrheal medication to alleviate some of the symptoms, and the hamster is kept warm and clean. Even with treatment, most hamsters die of this disease, often as soon as 48 hours after the onset of initial signs.

Can wet tail be prevented?

Wet tail can not necessarily be prevented but the risk of a hamster acquiring this disease can be reduced. Hamsters should be kept in a clean environment, since transmission of the bacteria from the mother or other hamsters to the young occurs when the young eat fecal-contaminated food or water. Before acquiring a young hamster, ask the source about the occurrence of wet tail in their facility. Choose your hamster from a line of hamsters that has no history of this disease. Avoid stressing young hamsters when moving them to a new environment, e.g., limit handling them the first few days, keep the hamsters on the same food they were eating for a few days and then slowly switch to a new food if necessary, etc.

14 Comments

  1. Anonymous on January 4 at 9:27 pm

    HI IM VICTORIA AND IM TEN YEARS OLD.I HAD TWO BABY GUINEA PIGS BUT THEY DIED.WE THINK IT WAS FROM WET TAIL.BUT IWAS THE MOST SADDEST PERSON IN THE WORLD

  2. natalia smith on April 20 at 8:24 pm

    this makes me soooo lsad my hamster albert dies last nigth im still crying im 24
    he got it in the morning i went out to get him medication i was looking everywhere for it when i got back he was dead~~~~~~ i hope people will realize that this SOO HORRIBLE HE GOT SOOOOO SICK IN 24 HOURS AND DIED RIP MY PRINCE ALBERT

  3. Eva on August 8 at 11:52 am

    i have a hasmter and he has mushy poop.

    does he have wet-tail?

  4. Sarah on August 29 at 8:02 am

    my hamster has it??

  5. gbgym on December 13 at 8:08 am

    she has wet tail

  6. gbgym on December 13 at 8:09 am

    what should i do

  7. Gerry on July 17 at 2:22 pm

    My lovely hamster piccola is ill and may have wet tail, I am taking her to the vet-please let her recover.

  8. Vina on August 8 at 2:35 pm

    My first hamster died of Wet Tail. If your animal has wet/yellow stains around its bottom it has wet tail. Soft stools are normal if they have been eating a lot of wet foods, and not necessarily a sign of Wet Tail.

  9. Anonymous on September 28 at 5:23 pm

    My dog attacked my dying Wet Tail infested hamster and got a couple good bites in. My hamster is dead of course but now I’m worried about my dog. Can my dog get Wet Tail from biting my hamster?

  10. Karen on September 30 at 5:44 am

    I’ve never owned a hamptser, therefore, not knowing the early signs of wet tail can be fatal to the poor little things. Mr. Jingles, our pet hampster of 3 years died this morning after I stayed up with him all night trying to nurse him back to health…but my efforts along with the vets just wasn’t enough. Please, if you have a hampster who shows signs of crusty sunk in eyes, a wet bottom, swollen abdomin, and a loss in appetite and is lethargic, get him to the vet ASAP! Do whatever you can to get them seen by a vet for the proper meds, because this intestinal disease can kill as quickly as 24 hours. I wasn’t fast enough to save my sweet hampster’s life, but catching this disease early on will give your hampster a fighting chance at survival. Rest in Peace Mr. Jingles…gone but will never be forgotten!

  11. Brynna on October 6 at 6:12 pm

    My hamster just died of wet tail today im still very sad about it.

  12. rianna on October 12 at 1:30 pm

    My hamster has not lost his appatite but has mushy poo… What should I do?

  13. Theresa on November 11 at 2:12 pm

    I think my hampster has wet tail.Has anyone had a hampster with wet tail that survived?
    Do hampsters go in heat? Are they nocternal?

  14. Raquel on November 30 at 1:27 am

    My dearest Hamster Wafers died at 2a.m. I had no idea she had wet tail nor knew what it was. She spent her last moments in my hand. As I was crying I help as much as a I could. I cleaned the puss out her eyes with warm water, cleaned her bottom, and tried giving her water… Before she died she opened her eyes to look at me then finally took her last breath. Another problem is that her boyfriend Hammy is showing early signs of wet tail. I now know what I have to do and try my hardest to prevent it from killing him.
    R.I.P. Wafers <3

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