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.
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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.
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.
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.