If you’re a hamster owner, you know the importance of keeping your small friend healthy and happy. While it can be easy to recognize diarrhea in animals like cats and dogs, it’s not always easy to tell what’s “normal” for hamsters. It’s essential to know what hamster diarrhea looks like; suppose your hamster experiences one.
Hamster diarrhea looks lighter in color and runnier than typical hamster feces. It loses its signature pellet shape and sometimes comes with the wet tail condition or hind end on the hamster.
In this article, I’ll discuss what hamster diarrhea looks like in more detail, what potential causes of diarrhea in hamsters are, and what you should do if you think your hamster has diarrhea. Keep reading.
With animals as small as hamsters, paying attention to changes in their health is especially important, as they can be more prone to severe side effects.
A hamster with diarrhea looks like it has feces paler in color than healthy hamster feces. Diarrhea in hamsters typically results in a runny presentation rather than pellets. Sometimes, you may notice wet areas around your hamster’s backside and tail when they have diarrhea.
Healthy hamster feces should look like very small pellets that are dark in color and relatively firm to the touch. It’s normal to find areas of concentrated feces where your hamster spends most of its time.
On the other hand, hamster diarrhea has a paler and wetter consistency, and even if it’s not entirely liquid, it’s abnormal for hamster feces to lose its shape or be soft and moist.
You shouldn’t confuse hamster diarrhea with hamster urine, which has a white, filmy consistency and leaves white stains in areas where it’s been sitting for a while.
Don’t be concerned with removing white stains from your hamster’s habitat; they’re perfectly normal, and as long as you wipe the liquid and appropriately cleanse their cage, there should be no lingering odor from these stains.
One major indicator that your hamster has diarrhea is that your hamster’s hind end and tail will appear wet. This condition is known as “wet tail,” and it’s a severe condition in hamsters.
While there are numerous reasons for hamsters to develop diarrhea that aren’t life-threatening and will typically resolve within a few days, hamster diarrhea can also be an indicator of the wet tail, which is a potentially life-threatening condition in hamsters.
If you notice your hamster has begun having diarrhea, you’ll want to pay close attention, as the severity of this can have a wide range of implications.
However, if you notice that your hamster has diarrhea in conjunction with other symptoms, then they likely have a wet tail, which you should take very seriously.
Additional symptoms of the wet tail that you should pay attention to are:
- Lethargy and excessive sleeping
- Feces has a strong, foul-smelling odor
- Weight loss
- Occasionally a hunched back is also noticed in hamsters with wet tails.
Wet tail is mainly concerning due to how quickly diarrhea can dehydrate hamsters. Because of how small they are, hamsters must retain homeostasis, and wet tails can cause fatal dehydration in these small animals.
Wet tail is mainly brought on by stress and is especially common in young hamsters with sensitive immune systems that are going through many changes.
Stress brought on by moving to a new home and adapting to a new environment and routine can cause the wet tail disease.
If you own more than one hamster, you’ll want to separate them as soon as you notice diarrhea in their habitat. This way, you can identify which hamster has the issue and see if it resolves in a few days.
If it does, then the hamsters can cohabitate once again, but if one of them has a wet tail, you’ll want to keep them separate until they’re well, as it’s highly contagious.
The wet tail disease can cause your hamster to have diarrhea. But other causes include a sudden change in diet or an imbalanced diet. In addition to this, other bacterial or viral infections can cause your hamster to have diarrhea.
Dietary changes are the most common and least severe reason your hamster has diarrhea. If you’ve recently changed your hamster’s food and noted diarrhea, give it a few days, and it’ll likely resolve.
You’ll want to watch how much water your hamster is drinking to ensure it doesn’t get too dehydrated. In addition, make sure to eliminate any fresh fruits and vegetables from their diet until diarrhea resolves, and stick to feeding them dry kibble.
If dietary changes are causing your hamster’s diarrhea, they’ll likely not display any secondary signs of illness, which is a good indicator that their condition is less severe.
Aside from dietary changes, hamsters are susceptible to viral and bacterial infections besides the wet tail disease. I’ll provide a brief overview below.
Tyzzer’s disease presents in similar ways to wet tail and can cause inappetence and weight loss alongside diarrhea, as well as sudden death. Hamsters contract Tyzzer’s disease by ingesting fecal matter that has the bacteria present.
Your vet can diagnose your hamster through lab work and typically treat Tyzzer’s disease with antibiotics.
Hamsters can contract many diseases specific to their species and ones that can be transmitted to humans.
It’s best to contact your vet if your hamster starts having diarrhea in conjunction with other issues so that they can accurately diagnose and treat the underlying problem.
Although less common, hamsters can develop salmonella, which can be problematic. Symptoms typically include diarrhea, weight loss, dehydration, and a rough coat.
Salmonella is a zoonotic disease and can be transmitted to humans, so limit contact with your hamster if you believe they might be infected, and contact your veterinarian to discuss the next steps.
All bedding, toys, and items that have come into contact with your hamster should be considered contaminated and either thrown away or thoroughly sanitized.
The actions you should take if you notice your hamster has diarrhea differs based on what you think the root cause of diarrhea may be.
Put your hamster on a dry food-only diet if the diarrhea is a reaction to dietary changes. Monitor its eating, drinking, and stool for at least 48 hours or until its diarrhea resolves. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your hamster has a bacterial or viral infection.
Below is a breakdown of what you should do if your hamster has diarrhea based on whether you believe it’s reacting to dietary changes or an illness.
Monitoring the situation is essential if you believe your hamster has diarrhea because of dietary changes.
First, eliminate any non-dry foods or natural laxatives (such as dandelions) that contribute to their diarrhea. Then ensure that your hamster is drinking enough water and not showing any additional signs of illness such as lack of appetite or lethargy.
To avoid a gastrointestinal upset in the future, try slowly adding new foods into their preexisting diet to ease them into it.
If your hamster’s diarrhea is in conjunction with other poor health indicators such as lethargy, dehydration, inappetence, or a wet backside, the issue is likely more severe. Because of how small hamsters are, dehydration is a grave concern, and issues like wet tail can result in your hamster’s death within 48–72 hours.
If you believe your hamster may be seriously ill, contact your veterinarian immediately or an emergency vet in your area that works with small animals.
Because of how small they are, diarrhea can cause severe problems in hamsters if not quickly resolved. Diarrhea can occur temporarily from changes in their diet or environment. Still, it can also indicate more severe issues such as wet tail or influenza—the wet tail disease can be life-threatening to hamsters.
If you recently changed your hamster’s food, give your furry friend a few days to settle its system, keeping a close eye on it. However, if you believe it may be a more serious problem, contact your veterinarian immediately before the situation worsens.
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- Why Is My Hamster Bleeding From Its Bottom?
- How To Train Your Hamster To Cuddle
- Difference Between a Hamster and a Gerbil
My name is Everly. I am a Milwaukee-based mom of 2 and have been a proud owner of many hamsters throughout my life. Like many of us, my introduction to hamsters happened when I was very young. My family saw several hamsters come and go through the years, and I enjoyed playing with them, but I never fully appreciated them until I grew up and my own children decided to jump on the hamster bandwagon. At that point, I was determined to learn all I could about caring for these adorable pets. Read more