Like many rodents individuals take on as pets, gerbils are fairly durable little animals that, with the right amount of attention and care, are unlikely to ever become sick or ill in their lifetimes. However, as with all animals, there are some diseases and illnesses gerbils can be prone to, and they are ones gerbil owners should remain aware of if they choose to take on the responsibility of owning these small rodents. If a pet gerbil becomes seriously ill, as well as stops drinking or eating anything, their owners must bring them to the vet immediately. To be sure owners know what to look for, here is a quick healthcare guide for gerbils.
Older gerbils, young pups, and overly stressed gerbils are the most prone to bacterial, viral, or environmental respiratory infections, with common irritants including the use of pine or cedar bedding. Weaning pups who are having these types of issues can be treated using ornacycline mixed in their water for ten days minimum—ornacycline can be found in pet stores in the bird section (use a dose for canary-sized birds). As well, supplemental feedings with kitten replacement milk could help maintain weaning pups’ strength during respiratory infections. Symptoms include clicking noises, rumpled coats, and the animal hunching in a corner, all of which would warrant a vet visit.
This easily avoidable problem can have several causes – the tail getting grabbed or being snagged in a wheel or the cage. This results in a skinless, ugly-looking tail that usually only needs the veterinarian’s attention in the event of infection. Exposed bone usually dries up and falls off within several weeks. Note: Never pick gerbils up by the tail, even at the tail’s base.
Characterized by a one-sided paralysis, stroke is common in older gerbils and younger gerbils with ongoing health problems. Some stroke cases result in gerbils experiencing multiple strokes and dying soon afterward while others can result in a full recovery. Provide the animal with water and food and keep it comfortable.
Found more in younger gerbils, these fits/seizures are often triggered by becoming overexcited or by unfamiliar stimuli, such as new environments, but most gerbils grow out of this. In mild cases, gerbils go limp upon being startled or placed within a new cage while severe cases see gerbils freezing or twitching at the slightest opportunity. When this happens, place the animal back into its cage, leaving it be for several minutes. You should probably avoid gerbil breeds that are prone to seizure disorders.
While many gerbil owners see blood around one of their gerbils’ noses as a sign of fighting among the gerbils, rump or tail wounds usually indicate fighting. Blood around the nose is often just mucus, but it could indicate the animal has allergies. If using cedar or pine bedding, switch to corncob or aspen bedding or something similar. Also, if a gerbil’s nose seems infected, schedule a vet appointment for treatment.
Like other rodents, a gerbil’s teeth are constantly growing, which is why they must have something for gnawing on like a cherry or apple branch. Freeze such branches for three days to kill any present bugs. Overgrown teeth usually occur in older gerbils who no longer chew frequently, so remember to check their teeth once per month minimum. If their teeth do grow too long, the vet can start trimming them on a regular basis. Also, if your gerbil bites itself or another gerbil with its overgrown teeth, have some antibiotic ointment and Manuka honey ready.
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