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What To Do When Your Hamster Has Diarrhea [A Recovery Guide]

(Last Updated On: January 14, 2023)

Diarrhea is often caused by eating too many fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich foods.

However, it can also be due to intestinal inflammation, bacterial infections, parasites, and stress. So, take your hamster to the vet at the first sign of diarrhea.

A hamster with diarrhea needs a 7-day course of vet-prescribed antibiotics to recover.

If too much fruit and veg was the cause of diarrhea, switch to dry food. Minimize stress, keep the enclosure clean, and give your hamster water with a syringe until it’s rehydrated.

Never leave your hamster’s diarrhea to clear up by itself, as there could be a health issue that must be addressed. Hamsters are likely to succumb to dehydration or malnutrition within days.

Is It Normal for Hamsters To Have Diarrhea?

According to MSD Veterinary Manual, diarrhea is a common digestive issue in hamsters. However, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy or normal. 

Healthy hamster poop should be firm, dark brown, and oblong. The pellets shouldn’t leave any residue as they exit the body because of their dryness.

Diarrhea appears wet and sticky. It can be brown or yellow, depending on your hamster’s digestive tract’s health and the bacteria present.

Don’t confuse diarrhea with cecotropes. The Journal of Nutrition describes how rodents are hindgut fermenters, producing soft, mushy droppings, known as cecotropes, containing beneficial bacteria.

Hamsters eat cecotropes to consume the nutrients they didn’t digest the first time around. Cecotropes are coated with mucus and smell unpleasant, so they’re easy to confuse with diarrhea.

What’s the Difference Between Wet Tail and Diarrhea?

The symptoms of wet tail and diarrhea are similar, but the two conditions differ. Confusingly, some owners use the terms interchangeably, so they’re incorrectly classified as the same thing.

Wet tail is a specific disease caused by harmful bacteria in the gut. It’s precipitated by stress and is fatal in approximately 90% of cases.

Diarrhea is watery poop with many causes. It can be hard to determine what’s responsible for diarrhea, but hamsters have a higher chance of survival with vet-prescribed antibiotics.

why does your hamster have diarrhea?

Can Hamsters Die from Diarrhea?

Diarrhea in hamsters can be fatal, as it depletes the body of essential fluids and nutrients within hours, making them susceptible to dehydration and starvation.

Nutrients and fluids can’t be replaced until diarrhea has gone, so you must take the hamster to a vet as soon as you notice wet, sticky poop.

The severity of the hamster’s diarrhea also depends on the cause. For example, if a hamster’s diarrhea turns out to be wet tail, it’ll likely succumb within 24-72 hours.

Other sicknesses, such as salmonella and Tyzzer’s disease, can result in death within days.

How Long Does Diarrhea Last in Hamsters?

Diarrhea caused by an unbalanced diet should clear up within a few days if you provide a healthy diet with dry, formulated pellets.

However, most cases of diarrhea will only clear up with a 7-day course of antibiotics.

Why Does Your Hamster Have Diarrhea? 

There are various causes of diarrhea, and the symptoms are similar, so the cause is difficult to diagnose without veterinary support. Here are the most common causes of diarrhea:

Wet Tail

As the MSD Veterinary Manual describes, Proliferative ileitis is the inflammation of the small intestines and is the most common cause of diarrhea in hamster pups.

This infectious disease is more commonly known as wet tail and, as Science Direct describes, has a mortality rate of 90%.

Wet tail occurs when intestinal bacteria, such as Lawsonia intracellularis and Campylobacter, grow quickly. This is caused by the following:

  • Stress from transportation
  • Overcrowding
  • GI tract inflammations
  • Poor living conditions
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Enclosure changes
  • Over-handling

Dietary Changes

Feeding your hamster too many fresh fruits and vegetables causes diarrhea due to the amount of moisture. Lettuce, in particular, causes diarrhea more than other foods.

There’s little nutritional value in a small piece of lettuce, and because lettuce is mostly water, it causes watery diarrhea. Similarly, fiber-rich foods have a laxative effect, like:

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Prunes
  • Kiwis
  • String beans
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Cooked peas
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains

Holding back on fruit and vegetables and introducing more solid foods to a hamster’s diet should return its feces to a healthy consistency.

While it may seem counterproductive, ensure the hamster has clean water. Diarrhea causes dehydration, so you’ll need to replenish the hamster’s fluid levels.

Tyzzer’s Disease

Tyzzer’s disease is caused by the bacterium Clostridium piliforme, which most hamsters contract through eating contaminated feces. Young and stressed hamsters are most at risk of the disease.

Tyzzer’s disease causes watery diarrhea, as well as:

  • Dehydration
  • Appetite loss
  • Sudden death

Veterinarians can diagnose the disease through an examination and blood tests.

The hamster will likely need antibiotics and fluids to recover. As the disease spreads through contaminated feces, quarantine the sick hamster and clean its cage and accessories.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics used to treat diseases and sickness can inflate a hamster’s intestines. Gram-positive antibiotics kill the bacteria that reside within the digestive tract, like penicillin, lincomycin, and ampicillin.

This causes harmful bacteria to grow, resulting in death within 2-10 days. The main symptom is diarrhea, which can be bloody as the hamster bleeds from the outside. Other signs include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Dehydration
  • Drop in body temperature

You must only use antibiotics that a vet has prescribed and if your hamster develops diarrhea while on antibiotics, you must switch to a different treatment.

Salmonellosis

Salmonellosis is caused by the Salmonella bacteria and is an inflammation of the intestines. It occurs when live insects or wild rodents contaminate bedding or food.

While rare, it’s not unheard of for a wild mouse to enter a hamster’s enclosure and eat its food, passing on the harmful bacteria. The signs of infection include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • A rough or unkempt coat
  • Swollen or bloated abdomen

Salmonellosis can be passed onto humans through feces and contaminated bedding.

Protozoa

Hamsters are at risk of developing diarrhea through protozoal infections. Protozoa are single-celled organisms that many hamsters carry in their digestive tracts without developing symptoms.

Young and stressed hamsters and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk of diarrhea.

Vets can identify protozoa by testing the affected hamster’s feces. Protozoal infections are relatively easy to treat with a course of prescribed drugs.

Tapeworms

Tapeworms affect hamsters more often than other rodents. They’re passed onto hamsters through contact with contaminated water and food.

While tapeworms don’t always cause symptoms, they can result in intestinal blockages, lymph node infections, and inflammation. Diarrhea is the most common side effect of tapeworms.

Tapeworms can affect humans, so wash your hands after handling a hamster and cleaning its enclosure.  

Pinworms

Pinworms aren’t commonly seen in hamsters but can cause diarrhea in rare circumstances.

They reside in the large intestines and are transmitted through pinworm eggs. They pass from the anus of an infected animal, contaminated food, water, and bedding that the affected hamster later ingests. 

Stress

Diarrhea is precipitated by stress. Hamsters are prey animals, so they often feel threatened by several environmental factors, including:

  • Noisy pets, such as barking dogs
  • Bright lights
  • Frequent exposure to noise
  • Unsanitary conditions
  • Lack of enrichment
  • Poor quality diet

Stress causes harmful bacteria to grow too rapidly, triggering diarrhea-causing health conditions.

can hamsters die from diarrhea?

How To Treat Diarrhea in Hamsters

It’s difficult to treat diarrhea without veterinary help. That said, there are steps you can take to make your hamster feel more comfortable while speeding up the healing process. Here’s how:

Vet-Prescribed Antibiotics

If your hamster seems okay other than its bout of diarrhea, you may be tempted to see whether it clears up without treatment. However, this will likely result in your hamster’s death.

It’s difficult to tell what’s causing your hamster’s diarrhea without running tests, which a veterinarian will perform. That way, they can find the right treatment.

Your vet will likely prescribe antibiotics to clear the bacterial infection and kill any harmful bacteria in the gut or intestines. The vet will recommend an alternative treatment if diarrhea results from antibiotic use.

Your hamster may need emergency fluids to rehydrate your hamster.

Less Fruit and Vegetables

Restrict feeding hamsters fruit and veg until diarrhea clears up. Fruits and vegetables will be essential in rehydrating your hamster following treatment.

Syringe Feed Water

If your hamster becomes dehydrated during diarrhea, you can rehydrate it by filling a syringe with water and putting a few drops into its mouth.

Get a firm grip on your hamster to prevent falls. Only provide a few drops at a time, as too much water too quickly could exacerbate diarrhea.

Minimize Stress

Stress is harmful at all life stages, but your hamster must feel safe while battling diarrhea.

Remove all environmental stressors, such as noise and light exposure, and maintain a clean environment. Don’t let other pets into your hamster’s room, avoiding contact when possible.

The chances are that your hamster will tuck itself away. If so, allow it to sleep until you need to administer treatment. Wait until your hamster comes out for some food or water.

Clean Conditions

Because exposure to harmful bacteria and parasites causes diarrhea, you must perform routine spot cleans of the hamster’s enclosure.

This involves removing any soiled food and bedding every few days. This minimizes the chances of contact with diarrhea-causing pathogens.

You’ll also want to perform a deep clean every 4-6 weeks, depending on where your hamster pees and poops. During a clean, sanitize all items and throw away old bedding.

Leave any clean substrate in the cage to maintain your hamster’s smell and minimize stress.

Diarrhea is dangerous for hamsters, so seek immediate treatment from a vet.