Wet Tail in the Hamster

 Wet tail, or proliferative ileitis, is probably the most common disease in the pet golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus). It is an intestinal infectious inflammation believed to be caused by E. coli and Campylobacter. Weaning and young hamsters three to eight weeks old are typically affected and in this group the mortality rate is very high. Adults and lactating mothers usually do not show signs of the disease. Entire colonies may be affected with disastrous results.  

Affected hamsters show wetness of the tail and die shortly (two to seven days) after the onset of illness. Signs include depression, anorexia (not eating), lethargy, irritability, diarrhea and weight loss. Stress, crowding and weak immunity are predisposing factors. 

Colony treatment of wet tail outbreak is rarely effective. High hygienic and sanitary level, stress reduction, avoiding overcrowding and genetic selection of resistant lines are more preventative effective approaches. Individual pet hamsters are treated with antibiotics and supportive care.  

Hamsters may have diarrhea because of other bacterial infections, intestinal parasites and antibiotic treatment altering the gut bacterial equilibrium. 

A young pet hamster exhibiting signs of wet tail should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. The prognosis is guarded and many patients will not survive despite intensive care.

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