Hamsters make adorable pets and in general tend to be relatively healthy pets. However, they can – like all other animals – become unwell for various reasons. To ensure the health of any animal kept as a pet, it is important to monitor them on a daily basis. Checking your pets’ faeces, food and water consumption, coat condition and behaviour can all help to reveal the state of their health.
A healthy hamsters’ faeces (or stools) will be small, firm, dark coloured pellets and if they are suffering from diarrhoea, this will not be the case. Instead stools will be paler in colour, soft and watery. If it’s a persistent problem and potentially caused by a virus, you may also notice other symptoms such as weight loss, anorexia and lethargy.
Causes of Hamster Diarrhoea
There are a few possible causes of your hamster’s diarrhoea episode, some of which can be more serious than others.
Most commonly diarrhoea can be a result of a sudden change in diet and eating excessive amounts of fresh fruits or vegetables, especially those with a high water content, such as cucumber, tomato lettuce, orange etc. Whilst fresh veggies are a great addition to a hamster’s diet, they are best given in small quantities, alongside the recommended dry mix.
Disease and Infection
Other causes of hamster diarrhoea can include infections and diseases such as influenza and salmonella. More serious causes could be due to wet tail which requires immediate veterinary treatment. Hamster’s can contract the flu virus through humans, so if you’ve recently had the virus this could be a possible cause. However, if this is the case you will notice other symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose. In severe cases, they may also experience runny eyes, lethargy, weight loss and refusal to eat or drink.
Salmonella is rare in hamsters and in addition to diarrhoea, they will usually show other signs including fever, lethargy, vomiting, poor body coat and loss of appetite. If you hamster has wet tail it will likely present diarrhoea as well as other symptoms. Usually as the name suggests, the hamster’s tail will be wet and covered in faeces, likely accompanied by a bad smell. Hamsters with wet tail will not want to eat, will lack energy, sleep excessively and may walk with a hunched back.
Wet Tail in Hamsters
Wet tail is one of the most notorious and alarming conditions associated with hamsters, especially in young ones. Often linked to stress, dietary changes, or bacterial infections, wet tail presents itself primarily through diarrhoea, giving the condition its name due to the damp appearance of the hamster’s tail region. The severity of this ailment shouldn’t be underestimated. Beyond the apparent diarrhoea, hamsters suffering from wet tail might display signs of lethargy, lack of appetite, and a hunched posture. Rapid treatment is crucial, as the condition can be fatal if not addressed promptly. Should you suspect your hamster is exhibiting symptoms of wet tail, immediate veterinary care is essential. Maintaining clean living conditions, providing a balanced diet, and minimizing stress are vital preventative measures every hamster owner should be mindful of to ward off this concerning condition.
Hamster Diarrhoea Treatment
The treatment will depend on the symptoms and cause of the diarrhoea. If your hamster’s only symptom is diarrhoea and there are no other signs of illness, the cause is likely to be dietary. Withhold fresh fruit and veg and just feed dry food, provide plenty of fresh water, keep the environment warm, ensuring a draft free location and monitor this whilst your hamster is unwell. If this is the cause, the diarrhoea should clear up quickly within a few days.
However, if you haven’t changed your hamsters’ diet and do not feed fresh fruit or vegetables, or the problem persists, it could be caused by something else. In this case, the best course of action is to take them to a vet to rule out other more serious conditions.
Hamsters showing accompanying signs of illness may well have salmonella, flu or well tail, in which case they will require prompt veterinary attention. Salmonella can be easily passed to humans so avoid contact if you think this may be the cause. Wet tail can be fatal and even if in doubt, its best to have them checked over by a veterinarian.
Dietary Supplements to Combat Hamster Diarrhoea
When we discuss hamster diarrhoea, it’s essential to understand that a balanced diet plays a pivotal role in their gastrointestinal health. One potentially beneficial addition to a hamster’s diet during digestive disturbances is probiotics. Probiotics, also known as “good bacteria,” can help restore the natural balance of gut flora, which may be disrupted due to diarrhoea. Offering a small dab of probiotic yogurt (ensuring it’s free of any added sugars or flavors) might assist in this recovery. However, it’s always recommended to introduce any new food or supplement gradually and in minimal amounts. Additionally, always observe your hamster for any adverse reactions. If unsure, consulting with a veterinarian can guide you on the suitability and amount of probiotics for your specific hamster breed and situation.
Stress and Its Link to Hamster Diarrhoea
Stress is a significant factor that can directly impact a hamster’s digestive health, leading to symptoms like diarrhoea. Hamsters are sensitive creatures, and changes in their environment, loud noises, or frequent disturbances can elevate their stress levels. An anxious hamster may present signs like restlessness, aggressive behavior, or even digestive issues. Therefore, creating a serene and stable habitat is essential. This includes choosing a quiet location for their cage, using comfortable hamster-friendly bedding, and ensuring that they have a space to hide and feel secure.
A stress-free environment can effectively mitigate the risks of health complications, including diarrhoea. If you notice that your hamster seems unusually agitated, consider any recent changes in its environment or routine and make necessary adjustments.
Hydration: Key to Managing Hamster Diarrhoea
One of the often-overlooked aspects when dealing with hamster diarrhoea is hydration. As diarrhoea can cause a significant loss of fluids, maintaining hydration becomes paramount. Dehydration can lead to a series of complications, making a hamster’s condition deteriorate rapidly. Ensure that your hamster always has access to fresh and clean water. If you observe that they aren’t drinking as usual, consider offering water through a syringe (without the needle) to encourage hydration.
It’s also beneficial to keep the cage environment humidified to prevent excessive water loss from their bodies. Signs of dehydration in hamsters include sunken eyes, lethargy, and a pinched skin that doesn’t bounce back quickly. Should you suspect that your hamster is severely dehydrated, it’s imperative to seek immediate veterinary care.
Preventing Diarrhoea in Hamsters
Choosing to feed small amounts of fresh food which contain a lower water content will help avoid potential diarrhoea episodes – broccoli and carrot are good choices.
Ensuring the cage is regularly and thoroughly cleaned will help prevent bacteria growth. Be sure to provide fresh water each day and keep the water bottle clean and free from algae build up. Take out old food and replace with fresh food daily.
Keep your hamster cage away from drafts (such as by windows and doors) and in an area with a consistently warm temperature. This will help you care for your pet hamster!