Wet Tail (Proliferative Ileitus)

I’ve heard the term ‘Wet Tail’ thrown around by people who obviously don’t know what they’re talking about. Hopefully with this post we’ll be spreading some awareness, as well as helping those whose hamsters are suffering from it.

We’re going to be answering the some of the most asked questions in depth, particularly:

  • What Causes Wet Tail and Can I Prevent It?
  • What Are The Symptoms of Wet Tail?
  • How Do You Cure Wet Tail?
  • Can My Hamster Get Wet Tail?

I would recommend learning about some common diseases before you get a pet, not just when you notice something isn’t right. By doing this you will notice symptoms right away, and that could save your pet’s life.

What Causes Wet Tail?

Wet Tail, or Proliferative Ileitis, as the nerds might know it, is a disease found in hamsters (Cricetinae). The majority of hamsters affected by Wet Tail are younger Syrians. Roborovskis, on the other hand, are rarely stricken with the disease.

After doing some research, I’ve come to the conclusion that:

  • Stress plays a major part in the onset of Wet Tail.
  • Stress can be caused by improper husbandry (small cage, improper diet, etc…), an overcrowded and/or dirty cage, or a sudden change in diet.

One or more of these stressors causes a bacteria called Lawsonia Intracellularis to grow in the hamster’s digestive system, which leads to a compromised and/or weakened immune system. This is the ideal environment for Proliferative Enteritis, a small intestine inflammation which results in…

Proliferative Ileitis, commonly known as Wet Tail.

A less common cause of Wet Tail is age. An older hamster might not be capable of properly grooming themselves. This lack of hygiene can weaken the hamster’s immune system and increase the risk of Wet Tail.

Preventing Wet Tail

In order to prevent Wet Tail, you need to start at the beginning. Stress. Avoid creating a stressful lifestyle for your hamster, and you should be Gucci. Some things you can do to bypass a stressful lifestyle are:

  • Have an appropriately sized cage of at least 450 square inches of solid, unbroken floor space, preferably more.
  • Don’t keep hamsters together; when kept together, hamsters tend to fight and this can be a huge stressor for your pet.
  • Spot clean a couple times a week and do monthly deep cleans to prevent a filthy environment.
  • Serve a healthy, varied diet (fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and animal proteins).
  • Provide lots of substrate, toys, and hides so your hamster feels safe.
  • Tame your hamster so they don’t get stressed out when you interact with them.

PLEASE NOTE: There are many products on the market that are advertised as “Wet Tail Prevention Medication.” These medications do not work and can cause various health issues.

Symptoms Of Wet Tail

Even the name ‘Wet Tail’ makes the symptoms sound pretty obvious. Wet, meaning covered or saturated with water or another liquid, and tail, being the appendage pursuing the animal’s hindquarters.

Wet Tail literally means their hind end is wet. A hamster with Wet Tail will be showing most, if not all, of these symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Foul odor
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Inability to walk properly
  • Arched back when walking
  • Unusual sleeping patterns or sleeping more than usual
  • Folded ears
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Damp and/or scraggly appearance

If you notice any of these symptoms, Wet Tail or not, something is wrong (if your hamster is old, lethargy is to be expected).

Commonly, the first sign of Wet Tail is excessive diarrhea. If your hamster’s rear end appears damp or soggy, seek veterinary aid!

If your hamster is untamed and/or aggressive, and you are unable to get a good look at them, use a mug or similar container to scoop them into a clear plastic tub. Holding the tub up and looking into it through the bottom will give you a better view.

How To Cure Wet Tail

Sadly, Wet Tail kills almost all of its victims within 72 hours of its torturous symptoms showing themselves. The key word here is almost. If you spring into action within 24 hours of symptoms showing, your hamster has a chance.

First of all, no Wet Tail afflicted hamster can pull through without antibiotics, so you will need to consult a vet. Visit your exotic vet, and follow their instructions.

Once your hamster is back home, here are the things you need to do to increase the chances of recovery:

  • First off, Wet Tail is extremely contagious. Quarantine the afflicted hamster in a separate room away from any other hamsters.
  • DO NOT miss a prescribed medication time.
  • Everything needs to be sanitized; you’ll need to dispose of used substrates, nesting, and natural toys. Using hot water, soap and/or white vinegar, sanitize all the redeemable items (things that are plastic, ceramic, glass, etc) and the cage.
  • Line the bottom of the cage with paper towels and use shredded tissue to provide something for burrowing. This will be easier to replace.
  • Create a simple setup using the sanitized plastic, metal, ceramic, and glass toys and dishes only.
  • Only feed dry foods, and have a water bowl (not a water bottle) available at all times.
  • If recommended by your vet, you can also syringe-feed safe baby foods and/or Probiotic Natural Yogurt. You can also syringe-feed water. This will help hydrate and clean out your hamster’s system.
  • Wear gloves when caring for your hamster and wash your hands frequently.
  • When you freak out, so does your hamster. Remain calm.

Can My Hamster Get Wet Tail?

Something to keep in mind is that any hamster can contract Wet Tail, not just younger Syrians. Any hamster can suffer severe stress, and since some suspect that Wet Tail could be genetic, it’s entirely possible your hamster could get this disease sometime in their life.


Wet Tail shouldn’t deter you from bringing home a hamster. If you provide proper care, chances are your hamster will live a long, happy life without health issues. It’s important to be aware of this disease, because preventing is easier than curing.

Please note I have no personal experience with Wet Tail, and all the information in this post was taken from the sources listed below. I gathered information from six different sites to make sure the information is compatible.

If you have any tips, experiences, or additional information, please leave it in the comments down below!

If you’re interested in more hamster-related content, follow the blog and I’ll be back on Tuesday with more small pet care, DIYs, recipes, cage setups, stories, and more! Have a ham-tastic day!

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Thank you to:

for providing the questions, definitions, answers and information in this post!

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