Proliferative Enteritis in Hamsters
Proliferative enteritis is a medical condition that causes inflammation of the small intestine and subsequent diarrhea. More commonly found in hamsters with compromised immune systems, it is due to an infection with the bacteria Lawsonia intracellularis. Stress, overcrowded conditions, and changes in diet have all been found to compromise a hamster’s immune system, especially in young hamsters, which can be ravaged by proliferative enteritis quickly.
To prevent infection with the causative bacteria, you are advised to separate sick hamsters from those that appear healthy. In addition, maintain the hamster cage(s) clean and sanitized.
Unfortunately, many hamsters with proliferative enteritis become sick and die quickly. Some early signs to look out for include:
- Abdominal pain
- Wet, matted fur around the tail and belly (due to diarrhea)
- Loss of appetite (anorexia)
- Depressed and dull appearance
An infection with the bacteria Lasonia intracellularis, which is transmitted via the ingestion of contaminated food and water, is the underlying cause of proliferative enteritis. The infection can also be transmitted through the air.
Proliferative enteritis most often occurs in young hamsters and in hamsters that are stressed due to recent transportation, overcrowded conditions, surgery or illness, and/or changes in diet.
Your veterinarian will likely make a diagnosis according to the observable signs and medical history, in addition to the hamster’s positive response to treatment. The diagnosis, however, may be confirmed using blood and urine tests, which allow the doctor to identify the infectious bacteria.
Oral or parenteral antibiotics are typically given to the hamster to control the bacterial infection. Your veterinarian may also provide fluids and electrolytes if the hamster is dehydrated.
Proliferative enteritis can be prevented to a great extent by maintaining good sanitary cage conditions. Dispose of used bedding material and routinely clean the cage using recommended disinfecting solutions. In addition, because of the contagious nature of the bacteria, separate hamsters that appear infected from those that are healthy.
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