Gerbil Care Guide
All advice and information contained in these guides maybe
superseded by any contract or agreement you have with The Puppy Place, the breeder
of your new Gerbil, or recommendations from your vet.
Note: it is illegal to own a gerbil in California or Hawaii, because if they escape they can establish wild colonies and damage the ecosystem
Caring for Your Gerbil
- Supplies Needed:
Gerbil Care Sheet (pdf)
Tip: Let your child know that gerbils may only live for a few years so that they aren’t overly shocked when their pet dies.
Is My Gerbil Sick?
|My Gerbil...||It might be...|
unless you have recently given him or her a lot of unusual foods or veggies, diarrhea is a serious symptom which could affect your own health (more...). See the vet. If you cannot see the vet immediately, start emergency ornicycline treatment. You might want to provide a warm corner with a heat lamp or reptile heater for comfort. Heat only one part of the tank so s/he can choose a comfy spot.
Wash hands thoroughly after handling the gerbil, its bedding or anything in/around the tank, including the lid. If you have more than one tank, isolate the tank with the sick gerbil from the other tanks, but do not remove his/her cagemates until after you talk with the vet. (They may need treatment too.)
|seems to be tilting its head to one side|
if you observe this behavior when your gerbil is standing on its hind legs, and if your gerbil is pink-eyed and sways slightly when s/he does this, it is probably okay. Pink-eyed gerbils sometimes display this head-tilt & sway behavior: some say it is a way of them focusing their poorer eyesight.
If however this behavior comes on suddenly, is true at all times (not just when standing up prarie-dog style), or seems to also affect the gerbil’s behavior or energy level, or is accompanied by kicking or scratching at an ear, your gerbil could have an ear infection or a middle-ear tumor. See the vet.
|is digging madly in the corner||normal. Gerbils do this all the time. Give him or her a tube if the noise bothers you.|
|is lethargic, sleeps more, isn’t running on the wheel||if your gerbil is getting older (2 years or so), and the change has been gradual, it might just be normal aging. However, a sudden change in behavior is suspect. Watch your gerbil closely for 24 hours and observe what you see. If you keep weight records, weigh your gerbil again. If something has definitely changed, behaviorally, in his/her appearance, or you observe a significant weight gain or loss, see the vet.|
|has bugs crawling on him!||mites. Bummer. You can choose one of two treatments: do-it-yourself, or get help from the vet. (1) To do it yourself, you'll need to get small animal mite spray from the pet store. Then follow the instructions on the AGS Care Page for Mites. Or, (2) your vet can prescribe Ivermectin, which you will dose orally; it will destroy the mites.|
has lost part of his tail! There's blood and bone showing!
your gerbil has “degloved” his tail. Try to judge if your gerbil is in pain. If she is squeaking, hiding, nips you, or has her ears plastered back, she probably is in pain, and you should see the vet for an amputation. It can be expensive, but it will solve the problem right away, and your vet will give her antibiotics.
If your gerbil seems completely normal, the wound will eventually heal. The exposed bone will fall off. However, you must keep the wound clean. Wash it and apply antibiotic ointment twice a day. Find a bedding that won't stick to the wound but will be soft. Torn up tissue paper might be best, or shredded brown paper “Eco-Bedding”. Or you can shred paper yourself with a home shredder. Change it frequently to minimize infection, and put your gerbil on a course of emergency ornacycline treatment.
|seems to be paralyzed on one side; is dragging around, or can't fully open one eye||
a stroke. Gerbils do seem to be prone to this.
The key now is quality of life. As long as your gerbil can continue to enjoy normal, gerbilly things, like digging, grooming, eating and chewing, then just enjoy your time together. However, over time you may see his or her abilities deteriorate. Don’t wait until your gerbil is curled up unmoving and you are trying to hand-feed it seeds while it bites you. Once your gerbil cannot enjoy life, see the vet for humane euthanasia.
|looks thin; her head looks more pointy, and I can feel her backbone||if sudden, if accompanied by diarrhea, or the gerbil’s sides have sunken in suddenly, treat as above under diarrhea (namely, see the vet).|
If the weight loss has been more gradual, first check your gerbil’s teeth. Gerbils should have two nice, fairly long top teeth and two very short lower teeth. The mouth should be able to close fully. If your gerbil is not chewing cardboard voraciously and not eating well, teeth could be the problem. Try a soft diet for a couple of weeks, then check the teeth again. If they still don't look right... you know, see the vet..
Keep in mind that gerbils, as prey animals, are hardwired by nature to hide their illness from you until they are so sick they cannot mask their symptoms. Therefore, once your gerbil’s behavior or appearance is noticeably different, he or she is quite sick. In these circumstances, time is of the essence. Do not wait to see what happens. Take your gerbil to the vet.
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