Diarrhea is a common problem in hamsters. It can have many different causes and treatments depending on the cause of diarrhea. The most important thing to remember when treating a hamster with diarrhea is that you must rule out or treat any underlying disease before giving your pet anything for diarrhea.
What is Diarrhea?
Diarrhea in hamsters is usually caused by irritation of the intestinal lining, infection with a pathogen such as protozoa or bacteria, worms, dietary indiscretion (eating things they shouldn’t), or something irritating the lining of their rectum.
Diarrhea is an increase in fluid stools more than three times normal. It can be a yellowish, greenish, brownish fluid. It can also be a more solid consistency but still abnormal.
Why does your hamster have diarrhea?
This depends on the cause of diarrhea. There are many things that can cause diarrhea so it is important to find out what is causing it in your hamster and whether or not it can be treated.
Coccidia is a common protozoan infection in hamsters that causes diarrhea, along with some other symptoms such as decreased appetite and lethargy. Coccidia is easily tested by finding oocysts in the feces of an animal. Treatment consists of Flagyl or Albon orally.
It is a single-celled organism that causes diarrhea, along with other symptoms including lethargy and decreased appetite. Giardia is also easily tested by finding the organisms in the feces of an animal. Treatment consists of Panacur.
There are many different types of worms that hamsters can get. They can be roundworms, flatworms, or pinworms. Some are easily seen in the feces of an animal while others require a fecal float to see them. They can also be treated with either medication orally or fenbendazole topically.
Hamsters are by nature curious creatures and will eat pretty much anything. They love to explore and even taste new things. If they get into something such as a bag of birdseed, their stools can be the consistency of the seed itself which may not be abnormal but it is something that would lead you to think about dietary indiscretion or possible poisoning if your hamster does not improve.
While bacteria are not a normal cause of diarrhea in hamsters, they can be the underlying cause if there is an infestation of worms. In giardia infection, it is believed that the parasite secretes a toxin that causes irritation to the lining of the intestine and this predisposes them to bacterial infections. Also, if there is an underlying bacterial infection, diarrhea may worsen if treatment of the worms fails.
Treatment of Diarrhea in Hamsters
As mentioned before, it is important to rule out or treat any underlying disease before beginning treatment for diarrhea. If there are no other symptoms or findings on a fecal test, treatment can be as simple as fluid therapy or switching to a diet easier to digest if the diarrhea is due to dietary indiscretion.
If there are other symptoms or findings on a fecal test, it is best to get advice from your vet before proceeding with treatment.
Diarrhea due to parasites can be difficult to treat but must be done because parasites are life-threatening. For coccidia, treatment usually consists of either Flagyl or Albon orally. Fenbendazole can also be used topically but it is more difficult to get into the hamster, especially if they are wiggly.
For giardia, Panacur is usually used for 5 days if the animal is young or 3 days if the animal is older. The dose for an adult Syrian hamster would be 1/8 of a tab per day or 1/4 for a dwarf hamster. If you have more than one in a cage, it is best to treat all of them in case they are carrying the disease even if only one has symptoms.
For diarrhea due to worms, treatment is with medication orally. There are many different medications available depending on the type of worm.
For diarrhea due to dietary indiscretion, fluid therapy is the main form of treatment for this symptom alone. A bland diet can be fed by mashing up regular food and adding enough water to make it mushy (like cereal). This diet should be used for a few days until all the stools look normal and then regular food can be reintroduced.
For diarrhea due to bacterial infection, it is best to treat it with your vet because this condition can become life-threatening very quickly if not treated immediately. The medication would most likely also include an antibiotic of some sort orally or given by injection if the hamster is dehydrated or very sick.
For diarrhea due to another underlying disease such as cancer, ileitis, ileocolitis, demodicosis, or infected anal glands; treatment will depend on what disease is causing it and your vet can help you with this.
Diarrhea in hamsters can be easily diagnosed by looking at stools. Hamsters may have diarrhea for many different reasons, some of which are treatable and some of which are not. Diarrhea is one of the reasons why hamsters are seen by exotic pet vets. It is recommended to take hamsters with diarrhea to the vet immediately.