Health & Illness

Gerbils are usually very healthy with few health problems. A safe and secure cage, proper diet, and careful handling help ensure a pet’s safety and well being.

Unfortunately, even with a wonderful home and excellent diet a gerbil may become ill or injured. Signs that your gerbil may be ill include lethargy, loss of appetite, rapid weight loss or gain, and aggression.

If illness or injury does occur, contacting your veterinarian is always recommended. Some of the more common health concerns are listed below.

The gerbils mucus is red and can be confused with blood. A red, runny nose without any other symptoms is most likely an allergy.

Broken Limbs
A clean break in a limb will usually heal on its own. A bad break may need veterinary attention.

Broken Teeth
Symptoms may be loss of appetite and weight loss. Soft foods may be needed until teeth grow back. With overgrown teeth a veterinarian might need to trim the teeth.

Degloving is when the tip of the tail is skinned leaving muscle exposed. Let the tail dry out and in a few days it will fall off. If the tail doesn’t fall off or becomes infected call your veterinarian.

Symptoms may not be noticeable in the early stages. Your gerbil may become irritable, lethargic, have puffy eyes, rough fur, and half closed or dull eyes. Supplying water to your pet with an eyedropper or small syringe may be required.

Detached Tail
The gerbils tail is detachable in the middle so never grab a gerbil by the tail. If the tail comes off put antibiotic cream on it and watch for signs of infection. Unfortunately, the tail will not grow back.

Diarrhea is often caused by watery vegetables, too many greens, or fresh fruit.

Ear Infection
Symptoms may be loss of balance, head tilt or walking in circles. Medical attention is needed to treat the infection.

Head Injury
Head injuries are often caused from dropping the gerbil and can cause the gerbil to roll uncontrollably. Keep him warm and contact a veterinarian. It may be necessary to euthanize the gerbil.

Heat Stroke
Signs of heatstroke are lethargy, panting, unconsciousness and wetness around the mouth. Remove your pet from the heat and place him in a cool, not cold, location and supply water.

This occurs when your gerbil has been exposed to low temperatures or being wet for a long time. Symptoms include huddling, feeling cold to the touch, lethargy and being unresponsive. Slowly warming a gerbil with your body heat or heat pad may help.

Kinked Tail or Wrist
These are bends in the tail or wrist of a gerbil. They are genetic defects and usually have no effect on your pet’s quality of life.

Mites are parasites that can cause you or your pet to have an allergic reaction. Treating your gerbil and cage with mite spray over many weeks and replacing all bedding, food, and some toys is required.

Overgrown Teeth
Loss of appetite and weight loss may be noticeable. A veterinarian may need to trim the overgrown teeth.

Symptoms of poisoning are shivering or shaking. Gerbils can be easily poisoned by household cleaners, flea powder, plants, and pesticides. Poisoning can often be fatal to a gerbil.

Respiratory Infections
Heavy breathing, half closed and dull eyes, as well as feeling cold to the touch are signs of infection. Most will require antibiotic treatment.

Seizures may occur when a gerbil becomes scared or frightened. Gerbils can be sensitive to bright lights, loud noises, people, or animals. Seizures are not life threatening or dangerous.

Weakness, paralysis on one side, or difficulty walking can be signs of a stroke. A gerbil may recover from a stroke, but there is no treatment.

Male gerbils can develop a tumor on the scent gland and females may get a tumor in the ovaries. Tumors are often not life threatening and some can be surgically removed.

It is caused by a bacteria that is highly contagious among gerbils and causes lethargy, diarrhea, and eventual death. There is no cure, but antibiotics can prolong the life of your pet.

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