Every hamster owner should be aware of a very serious disease known as “wet tail”.
Wet tail disease is so serious that unfortunately, even when treated, there is a high chance that the hamster will die within 24 to 48 hours.
Even if your hamster isn’t currently showing symptoms of wet tail, you should read this article to learn the symptoms and find out how you can minimise the chances of your hamster being affected.
If your hamster is showing symptoms, you should urgently consult a vet and follow the treatment instructions below.
What causes wet tail
Wet tail affects hamsters kept in cages and is caused by bacteria. However, it is a stress-related disease, which means you can prevent it by minimising your hamster’s stress levels.
Stress can be caused by:
- Picking your hamster up too often or handling them in a rough manner
- Changing your hamster’s living environment
- Keeping your hamster in a dirty cage
- Making sudden changes to your hamster’s diet
- Keeping your hamster away from its family members
- The death of a mate
As mentioned above – if you can prevent your hamster from getting stressed then you have a good chance of avoiding wet tail disease!
It’s important for all hamster owners to constantly look out for the following symptoms of wet tail disease:
- A tail covered in faeces
- A bad smell
- A lack of appetite
- A lack of energy and enthusiasm
- Walking with a hunched back
- Sleeping a lot
- Folded ears
- Aggression, such as biting their owner or other hamsters
Treating wet tail
Unfortunately, wet tail can be difficult to treat. Hamsters suffering from the condition often die, even when the problem is spotted early and properly treated.
For the best chance of recovery, it is important to identify wet tail and begin treatment within 24 hours of symptoms appearing.
As soon as you see symptoms of wet tail in your hamster, you should take the following steps:
- Quarantine the hamster away from other hamsters so that the disease cannot spread.
- Seek the advice of a vet (the vet will most likely prescribe antibiotics and something to treat the diarrhoea).
- Clean all objects that the infected hamster has touched, including its cage, wheel and any other items in the cage. Wet tail is very contagious!
- Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly to avoid passing the disease from one cage to another.
- Only feed dry foods. Avoid foods that contain a lot of water as they could make the diarrhoea worse.
- Do not wash the hamster in a bath. Use a cotton ball or a q-tip to very gently clean the hamster’s tail if necessary – but only if you think you can do so without stressing your hamster any further.
- Do everything you can to minimise the amount of stress your hamster experiences.
The most important step is to see a vet as quickly as possible. You should always follow the advise of a vet above all else (including the instructions in this article and anything else you read on the internet!).
Finally, if your hamster is not eating or drinking then you can help them using a technique called “scruffing”.
Scruffing involves holding the hamster by the skin on the back of its neck so that their mouth opens, then gently feeding small amounts of food and squirting small amounts of water into their mouths.
You can try feeding mashed baby food using the “scruffing” method. Just make sure that it is free of onion, garlic and contains no added sugar. Unflavored Pedialyte may also help with wet tail disease.