Your gerbils' health: what to look out for

Gerbils are generally quite healthy animals – most of their illnesses come with age. Make sure you find a vet who has chosen to specialise in small mammals to get the best possible care for your gerbils.

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Your gerbils’ life expectancy

Gerbils generally live for between three and five years.

Parasites and fur loss

Parasites such as fur mites can be fairly common in gerbils who are housed on wood shavings or sawdust. If your gerbils are showing any of these symptoms of a parasite infestation, contact your vet:

  • Hair loss
  • Red, irritated skin
  • Severe dandruff
  • Small scratches all over the body
  • Visible lice or mites, which will look like orange or black dots in their fur

Fight wounds

When gerbils start to mature they can sometimes fight with each other. This can result in potentially serious and even fatal injuries.

Health check your gerbils regularly, paying attention to their legs and face – these  are common areas for fight wounds. If you suspect your gerbil has a wound, change the bedding to towels to prevent infection.

Arrange to take your gerbil to the vet as soon as possible for antibiotics. If you are not able to get to your vet within 24 hours, clean the wound with salt water or diluted Hibiscrub to reduce the risk of infection.

Tumours

Gerbils can occasionally develop tumours as they age, usually around three to five years of age. Tumors can grow very quickly because gerbils have a fast metabolic rate. Mammary tumours are the most common and are the most likely to be cancerous.

When you handle your gerbils, check for unusual lumps and bumps on their body. You may notice they have a gland under their belly, you don’t normally need to worry about this. If you’re at all concerned about lumps on your gerbils, take them to the vet.

Dental health

Your gerbils’ teeth will continually grow, so make sure you provide them with a varied diet and plenty of things they can gnaw on, including safe fruit tree twigs.

Occasionally, gerbils can suffer with overgrown incisors (the front teeth). This is more common in gerbils that have been bred poorly or have been involved in an accident where they may have fallen with an impact.

Regularly check your hamster’s teeth to make sure they remain a good length. They should be a light yellow colour, although they can be white when they’re very young.