Wet Tail in Hamsters

Wet tail is a common disease in hamsters, especially Syrian hamsters and hamsters who are weaning (from 4 to 7 weeks old).  It is a serious, life-threatening condition and should be treated promptly.  The disease can be fatal within 24 to 48 hours after symptoms first are shown.

Symptoms: Symptoms for wet tail include lethargy, hunched posture (or walking while hunching the back), irritability, diarrhea and wet, soiled fur around the anal area (which is where the disease gets its name).

Causes: Wet tail is primarily a disease caused by too much stress for your hamster.

Complications: If left untreated, wet tail can lead to rectal prolapse.  This is a condition caused by prolonged diarrhea and occurs when the walls of the rectum start to protrude through the anus and become visible outside of the hamster’s body.  If the condition is still left untreated, it can cause death.

Treatment: Your hamster’s veterinarian can prescribe medication for this condition.  There are several over-the-counter products that are inexpensive and effective when used properly and quickly.  These can be found at your local pet supply store and some chain retail stores.

Prevention: Prevention is truly the preferred way to handle wet tail.  Making sure your pet does not get it in the first place is much easier on your pet.  The key to remember is that stress is a huge factor in wet tail.  Keeping your pet as stress-free as possible is the best way to keep wet tail from happening to your pet.  With this in mind, follow these guidelines:

  • When you are bringing home a new hamster, make sure you have the cage already set up for him.  Have food, water and a nesting box in place, and be sure not to disturb your pet for a minimum of 2 or 3 days once you bring him home.  Keep new hamsters quarantined for at least 2 weeks before introducing them to the hamsters you already have.  Keep a new hamster away from excessive noise and activity.  (This means not to put him in the busiest room of the house.)
  • Make changes in diet or environment gradual and keep them to a minimum.  Avoid them completely if at all possible.
  • Keep your hamster’s cage clean.  Dirty cages are very stressful for hamsters.  Make sure you clean the cage at least once a week and wash it out and disinfect it at least once per month.
  • Keep a close watch on your hamster when it has a stressful event happen, such as the death of a house mate or when he is removed from his mother.  Try to make transitions as easy as possible.
  • Visually inspect your hamster once a day, if possible.  This does not have to be a thorough inspection, but at least check long enough to note any possible symptoms.  This is especially important if he has just gone through a stressful event.