Health

Wet tail disease of Syrian hamsters

Wet Tail Disease is a disease specific to the Syrian hamster. Young hamsters between the ages of three and eight weeks are the most susceptible, although in principle the disease can occur at any age.
What is Wet tail disease?
If a hamster is infected with wet tail disease, it takes an average of a week for the animal to become ill. This incubation period can be up to two weeks. A wet-tailed hamster disease develops a severe, smelly, watery diarrhea, sometimes with admixture of blood. The animal is seriously ill, lethargic and eats and drinks little or nothing. Typically, the back of the hamster is completely wet, not just some diarrhea around the anus. Sometimes the diarrhea is preceded by a brief period of irritability, bitingness or irritability.

The severe diarrhea quickly dehydrates a wet-tailed hamster. As an owner, you can notice this by looking at your hamster’s skin. If you lift a fold of the skin, it should normally snap back almost immediately. However, if a hamster is dehydrated, that fold will remain for a while.

The mortality rate is very high: without treatment 90% of the sick animals die. The animals usually die within 1 to 3 days after the diarrhea has started. The leading cause of death is dehydration. Even with the correct, intensive treatment, the mortality is still high: around 50%. If a hamster survives the infection, several serious complications can arise. Known include small intestine blockage, peritonitis and rectal prolapse (a condition in which a piece of intestine protrudes from the anus inside out). If there are no complications and the hamster survives the disease, antibodies are produced, allowing the animal to develop lifelong immunity against wet tail disease.
My hamster has wet tail disease, what should I do?
If you suspect wet tail disease in a hamster, it is important to go to the vet as soon as possible so that proper treatment can be initiated. The sooner this happens, the more likely the hamster will survive. The wet tail treatment is quite intensive. The most important parts of it are antibiotics and the prevention or relief of dehydration. Furthermore, additional measures such as strict hygiene and quarantine are very important.

To restore the fluid balance, special liquids are available that can be given by mouth, but it is better to administer liquid by injection. The best liquid to use for this is so-called lactated Ringer’s solution. This is an infusion fluid that, in addition to moisture, also contains the important salts that are lost in diarrhea. It can be administered under the skin or in the abdomen. The latter method will have to be done by the vet. Despite this therapy, it must be taken into account that a significant number of hamsters will not survive the disease.

It is also very important to ensure good hygiene. The enclosure of the infected hamster must be cleaned every day to prevent the animal from re-infecting itself. An infected hamster must also be kept strictly separate from non-infected animals. So an infected hamster in another room, with its own materials, take care of it last and only touch it with gloves.

If a hamster has died of wet tail disease, it is important to thoroughly clean and disinfect the enclosure. We recommend a thorough cleaning with soapy water, then disinfection with chlorine, and then at least one and a half to two months of vacancy. During this time, no new hamster may come in either.

Preventive it is important to keep a new hamster in quarantine for at least two weeks. It also makes a lot of difference where you buy a new hamster; if you have a reliable breeder, you are much less likely to bring in an infected hamster. Furthermore, a good diet, regular changing of the stay and the prevention of overcrowding are of course essential.

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