Wet tail in hamsters is a bacterial disease that causes an infection of the intestinal tract of hamsters. Proliferative lletitis is another name for this very serious disease, which generally afflicts hamsters younger than seven weeks old. An outward appearance of this intestinal disease is the wet or soiled appearance around the hamster's tail. A strain of bacteria known as lawsonia intracellularis is responsible for infection, which occurs when infected fecal matter contaminates water or food the animal has come in contact with.
Although wet tail in hamsters can strike various hamster breeds, the long haired teddy bear variety is most prone to developing the disease. Immature hamsters are most likely to contract the illness, but adult hamsters may also be stricken. It is often seen in hamsters who are kept in unsanitary conditions at pet stores, or as a result of poor breeding conditions.
A newly acquired pet that has been exposed to the bacteria causing wet tail in hamsters may exhibit a host of symptoms. Most commonly, however, wet tail in hamsters will produce watery stools and inactivity. The hamster may show no interest in eating or grooming. In more severe cases, there may be mucus or blood in the hamster's stool.
Due to the serious nature of this bacterial disease, a hamster may fail to respond to treatment if the condition is not caught at the earliest sign. A veterinarian will typically prescribe antibiotics and a solution to replenish lost fluids. The veterinarian will also recommend the animal be kept in a dry, clean, and quiet location during recovery. Other hamsters and pets should be kept apart from the ill hamster. The hamster's housing will need to be disinfected as well.
Even with early intervention and treatment, it is uncommon for a young hamster with wet tail to survive if it is exhibiting many symptoms of the disease. Some experts believe this is because of a genetic defect that weakens the animal's immune system. Ultimately, severe dehydration generally leads to the animal's death.
As with any pet, hamster care should involve preventative measures to ensure optimum health. Hamster feeding tubes and dishes should be changed and cleaned daily. If droppings are noticed in the water or food containers, these should be changed and cleaned immediately. Cages should be sanitized on a weekly basis. Abrupt changes in diet should be avoided as well, as a stressed hamster is more prone to developing illness.