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
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
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.