Gerbils are generally very healthy and hardy animals. They suffer from very few health issues as long as they are kept in the right environment and are fed the correct diet. Choosing the right bedding is important in order to avoid skin issues and skin complaints, particularly parasites.
It's important to conduct a thorough hands-on healthy check every week. Look out for lumps and bumps including small tumours, particularly as your gerbil gets older. His eyes should be bright and clean, his nose clear without any sign of a cold, and his ears should be clear without any sign of wax build-up. Also check that the coat is clean and glossy and that both his teeth and nails are the right length, they may need trimming if necessary.
Illnesses seen in gerbils
Parasites and coat conditions
These issues are particularly common when your gerbil is housed in an inappropriate environment with unsuitable bedding, such as wood shavings. Signs of a skin condition include:
- Red, sore and irritated skin
- Hair loss
- Self-inflicted wounds on the body
- Erratic behaviour
- Greasy or dull-looking coats.
These are caused by a build up of keratin (cholesteatoma) or an inner ear infection. These are easily identifiable as your gerbil will develop a head tilt. This will need treating by your vet.
Limb and tail fractures
Given their size, active nature, amazing speed and the fact that they can jump quite high, gerbils can be prone to fractures and breaks. Monitor how your gerbil moves every day and if you suspect an injury consult your vet. Your gerbil's tail can break clean off or may shed the skin if caught or picked up by the tail. If either of these issues occur, consult your vet immediately. Never pick your gerbil up by his tail.
Gerbils' teeth grow continually so they should be given fruit tree wood and willow toys to chew on to keep their teeth in good condition. Signs of a tooth problem include:
- Sudden weight loss
- Visibly overgrown incisors
- Abscesses and infections around the head.