Dri-Tail and it’s effectiveness in curing and prevention of Wet Tail

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Dri-Tail is a product the most pet stores like to push on hamster owners for the prevention or cure of the disease commonly called Wet Tail. Most hamster owners have heard of this but may not be fully aware of what it is and the proper treatment of the bacterial infection.

There is some controversy of the effectiveness of this product and products like it when it comes to the illness of Wet Tail.

Most hamster owners have heard the term Wet Tail and these two words have more often then not stricken sudden anxiety in many hamster owners. If you are one of the few that have not yet heard of this illness its best that you take your time to read through this thoroughly.

Wet Tail is almost exclusively a disease of the Syrian hamster and is more common in long-haired varieties. Wet Tail also known as “Proliferative Ileitis” a life-threatening intestinal bacterial infection. The disease is spread by a fecal-oral route between hamsters, and is associated with stresses such as weaning and changes in environment or diet, so is usually seen in young hamsters, very often soon after the move from pet shop to home.

It is found that Wet Tail is misdiagnosed often by owners and veterinarians. In some instances the term “Wet Tail” is incorrectly used to refer to all Diarrhea/enteritis in hamsters. It is important to remember diarrhea is a symptom of Wet Tail, not the disease itself. Wet Tail is a bacterial infection.

Please see the following link for a comprehensive article on wet tail Wet Tail - Proliferative Ileitis

Symptoms of Wet Tail may include:

  • Symptoms usually take up to 7 days to appear from initial infection
  • Watery Diarrhea
  • Soiling of the perianal region
  • Hunched position
  • Loss of appetite, not drinking
  • Sometimes squeak in pain
  • Ungroomed coat
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia

Death from dehydration may occur in 2-3 days, and more chronic cases may lead to rectal prolapse.

Now addressing the use of Dri-Tail and similar products, I am in no means trying to degrade the makers of the product or the people behind the medical science of its development. What I am addressing here is its effectiveness for the Wet Tail disease alone. The message really is Dri-tail can be used at the first signs of illness while you are waiting for your emergency appointment at the vet, and if you are not willing to pay for an out of hours appointment, it is imperative you get the next available day appointment as time is of the essence.

I’m sure many of you have been in a situation where a pet store will not sell you a hamster without also buying a small bottle of Dri-Tail. Or perhaps directing you to a similar product when you ask about your sick hamster and are looking for some help.

Dri-Tail and similar products are a broad spectrum antibiotic used in treating diarrhea symptoms in small pets. It is a specifically formulated antibiotic developed specifically for treatment of diarrhea and diarrhea-related problems in hamsters. Remember diarrhea is a symptom of Wet Tail, not the disease itself.

Often times a hamster that has diarrhea is because the owner fed his hamster too many vegetables. Other causes may be Dietary changes, Antibiotic Associated caused by overgrowth of normal gut flora following administration of certain antibiotics. Tyzzers Disease Caused by the bacterium Clostridium piliforme, this affects the heart and liver as well as the intestines.

Usually by the time an owner notices symptoms of Wet Tail it has progressed enough that there is little time for a culture or fecal sample to determine its cause. In this case Dri-Tail most likely isn’t going to help. Unless you are very experienced with hamsters and can tell early on the signs of wet tail your best bet is to take the animal to a vet.

Please do not use Dri-Tail as an excuse to save money from avoiding a vet’s visit. To effectively treat Wet Tail in its advanced stages veterinarians often prescribe Baytril. Baytril is most commonly used among veterinarians because it is designed to knock out practically everything with hamsters.

Dri-Tail like products can actually worsen diarrhea symptoms by killing off the hamster's "friendly" or resident bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. This in turn, lowers the ability of the hamster to fight against the disease. Resident bacteria are usually kept in high numbers in healthy individuals, which compete against lower numbers of "intruder" bacteria. Dri-Tail is not effective at clearing out the intruding bacteria, thus allowing the pathogens a chance to gain resistance to the drug. Dri-Tail may temporarily relieve symptoms, but the pathogens still remain.

The antibiotic dosage in Dri-Tail is often not adequate to cure the disease. This I why veterinary treatment should be sought were a more powerful and effective drug can be administered as well as other helpful things such as intraperitoneal fluids (this would be done by a vet) or multivitamin injections or probiotic supplements, which may aid recovery.

Interesting facts about Wet Tail

  • Mortality Rate is near 90%
  • Some survivors become runts, are thinner and generally weaker.
  • Hamsters have different tolerances of stress. Not all hamsters subjected to the same levels of stress necessarily get infecte.


"Referenced and adapted from Hamsters galore msn group, Petwebsite, Our own Hamster Central Ailments page"

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