Gerbils – Common Problems

Meriones Unguiculatus, The Mongolian Jird Or Mongolian Gerbil

Gerbils are Healthy Animals

Gerbils are normally very healthy animals and are very resistant to diseases and infections. The first thing to take into consideration is prevention: a safe place for them to live in, water and good quality food must never be absent. Some symptoms that may be a warning are an increase in the time he spends sleeping, loss of weight, more aggressiveness, loss of appetite, bad posture, dirty fur, wheezing or rapid breathing.

The following is a list of the most frequent problems:

  • Falls do not often create problems for gerbils, but if it falls from a  considerable it may suffer from shock. In this case it is recommended that you put the animal in its cage, keep it under observation and call the veterinarian to check it for broken bones.
  • Heat stroke may be fatal. The symptoms are trembling and lethargy. In this case it is recommended that you put the gerbil in a well ventilated quiet place and call the veterinarian.
  • In the event of wounds disinfect the affected area and call the veterinarian. The wounds may be caused by fights but also by the conditions that can be found in the cage. Gerbils will continually gnaw anything it finds in their cages, the repeated rubbing of the muzzle against hard objects such as bars or dividers etc. while they are doing this, may cause annoying lacerations.
  • You may find your gerbil with a damaged tail. There are various causes (including an attempt to pick up the animal by its tail) and, when this happens, there are no remedies. The detached part is formed of skin, which will leave the muscular and boney part of the tail exposed. When this part dries it will fall off. In case of infection call the veterinarian.
  • Stress, fear or surprise may cause convulsions. In this case, immediately place the animal in its den.
  • Teeth that are too long may create serious problems for chewing and their length must be monitored regularly.

Small rodents may also fall victim to the following diseases:

  • Diseases of the respiratory system such as common colds and allergies to the litter material (never use pine or Cedar). Runny noses and sneezing, are signs that something is wrong and a visit to the veterinarian is recommended.
  • Diarrhea may be caused by too many fresh vegetables in their diet and, in this case, the quantity must be drastically reduced. Other causes may be viruses or bacteria and, obviously, you should consult your veterinarian.
  • Mycosis, fleas and mites may infest gerbils. The loss of hair in spots, reddened skin, itching, white dots on in the fur (the eggs of parasites) are the clearest evidence. A vet should be contacted and after handling the animal you must immediately wash your hands.
  • Cysts and cancer may appear in older gerbils. They may appear anywhere, but often afflict the abdominal gland. A swelling may suggest the presence. The solution is surgery.
  • Tyzzer’s Disease is caused by clostridio piliforme, a bacterium that enters the body through the contact between infected feces and mouth, or the presence of its spore in litter. Inside the animal, the bacterium attacks first the intestine, followed by the liver and finally the rest of the body, including the heart. The symptoms are ruffled hair, apathy, depression, very runny diarrhea, residues of feces in the perineal area and loss of appetite. It is deadly when it affects infants or stressed animals.

About the Author

Paul
I'm a (fairly) old Welsh guy who writes about keeping small pets as hobby. I live in the beautiful Italian Alps with my long suffering partner and two very spoiled cats.

31 Comments on "Gerbils – Common Problems"

  1. Teresa McBroom | June 8, 2010 at 8:28 pm |

    What happens when their tail comes off? What do we need to do?

  2. i have a gerbil like that

  3. Samellina Ballerina | July 2, 2010 at 12:43 pm |

    How old is it?

  4. Do you know that gerbils can have diarrhea.

  5. I’m going to buy one so i read this place.

  6. My gerbil died because its tail fell of.

  7. soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cccccccccccccccccuuuuuuuuuuuuttttttttttttteeeee

  8. I love a good Gerbil.

  9. I love gerbils too.

  10. i’m getting 2 baby girl gerbils i’m nameing them Hazel and Basil i’m getting them this weekend so this really helped thanks!

  11. im gettin a baby gerbal from my sister cause her gerbal had babies and im naming it tweak cause i like how they make that sound wen there sleepin

  12. I”m getting two female gerbils named Uncle Salty and Melody. How often should you clean the cage?

  13. Ummm… Jordan, why are you naming a FEMALE gerbil Uncle Salty? I won’t take “She’s white” for an answer! Maybe Aunt Salty, or Momma Salty, maybe even Grandma Salty, but Uncle Salty? Girl, that’s just wrong!

  14. ive got two girls how do i pic them up without them eskaping

  15. my two girl gerbils are called jasmin and jamimea can i pu coconut shels in the cage

  16. im acherly lucy

  17. ggggggggggggeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbiiiiiiiiiiiiiiillllllllllllllllsssssssssssssss rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrooooooooooooooooccccccccccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!im lucy tooo

  19. i am bob and luquincy

  20. best website ever for gerbils

  21. since they have a need to chew, can they chew on Maple Branches from local trees? or maple wood I can get from a lumber yard?

    What is best for them to chew on?

    what about mineral blocks for mice, rabbits, etc.?

  22. hi i am new here, i am getting gerbils, and yes, they are soo cute! I love them!

  23. I’m getting a gerbil soon , I need to know , can you keep them in hamster cages?????

  24. gerbil lover | June 8, 2014 at 7:36 am |

    i am still on my first ever gerbils and they are/were so cute! they are called Cheeseballs and Chips. Chips is a grey agouti and Cheeseballs is a golden agouti. They love/loved me soooooooo much and i loved them too. Sadly, a few days ago Chips die of a lung problem:(

  25. gerbil lover | June 8, 2014 at 7:38 am |

    but, im getting two more soon and im going to call them honey and waffles:)

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  28. I am new to gerbils, I have handled small rodents for about 5-6 years now but it has been limited to mice, rats, hamsters, and degus. I have noticed fairly similar care instructions for most of these pets with slight variations due to species. For firmer gerbil owners, is there any important advice I should take on before taking on a new type of rodent? And would it be hazardous to keep a gerbil in the same room as reptiles ( they would most certainly not be in contact). I plan on purchasing a new corn snake and maybe a few scorpions along with a few additions to my fish tank.

  29. Awesome sauce | April 18, 2015 at 9:03 pm |

    I want a gerbil so bad but my dad says no
    I even wrote a long report on gerbils to show my dad which took forever to write and when he saw it in my hand he Said if its about animals your never getting a pet. So I just walked away. I showed it to my mom she liked it but didn’t say I could have one or can’t have one

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