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Owning... gerbils

At the vet


Fits:- If under a lot of stress (from handling or changes in the environment) gerbils may have fits. If this happens, there will be no long term damage. The gerbil should be returned to its cage to recover.

Scent gland disease:- Gerbils have a scent gland in the mid-abdominal region, which looks like a bald patch. If this galnd gets infected an abcess may form. If it does, clean the area with saline solution. If the abcess doesn't go, consult your vet.

Dental disease:- Gerbils' incisors continue to grow throughout their lives and are worn down by chewing and gnawing. If the teeth do not get worn down and overgrowth occurs, the gerbil won't be able to eat. They will continue to grow and eventually penetrate the nose, causing bleeding. Teeth should be clipped periodically by a vet to prevent this.

Ringworm:- This is actually a fungal disease, nothing to do with worms at all. Symptoms include hair loss and a scurfy coat. The disease can be transmitted to humans via contact with the infected animal. Treatment is difficult and the gerbil may have to be put to sleep.

Diarrhoea:- Symptoms are a wet tail and a dirty bottom, with sloppy, messy droppings. See your vet immediately as gerbils will become dehydrated very quickly.

Constipation:- Very rare. Symptoms include a swollen stomach and no fresh droppings. Plenty of green food should be fed to try to loosen the bowels. If this doesn't work, ask your vet's advice.

Heat exhaustion:- Gerbils should be kept at a temperature of 20 - 25 Celcius (68 - 77 Farenheit) and away from direct sunlight. If gerbils get too hot they should be left to recover in a darkened room with the windows open. Make sure they have fresh water.

Colds:- Continuous sneezing, runny eyes, a wet nose, loss of appetite and sleepiness are symptoms of a cold. Colds are contagious, so separate the gerbils immediately and leave the infected animal to recover on its own. Always seek veterinary advice. To prevent colds, keep the cage warm and away from draughts.

Mange:- This causes fur loss and subsequently many bald patches over the whole body. You will see small pimples around the ears and hindquarters. The skin will become flaky and sore. It is extremely contagious and infected animals should be immediately isolated. Medication is available in shops, but always seek veterinary advice. The gerbil will be low in Vitamin C so add some orange to its diet.

Eye infections:- Clear or opaque liquid will ooze from the eye. The eyelids may become glued together. Use cotton wool soaked in saline solution to gently wash the eye and open the lids. If the liquid is thick, there may be a foreign body irritating the surface of the eye. Seek veterinary advice.

Wounds:- If fighting occurs, minor wounds will be inflicted. Bathe them in saline solution. If significant wounds are inflicted, go to the vet.

Tail injuries:- Gerbils may lose the tip of their tails in accidents. The tail will heal by itself but must be kept clean. It will not regrow. If damage is severe, seek veterinary advice.

Gerbil Main