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What Causes Diarrhea In Gerbils?

An existing pet gerbil develops diarrhea soon after a new gerbil joins the household.

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, DABVP
Posted: May 27, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT

Q: I have had a male agouti gerbil named Mink for almost four years, and just last week he got introduced to his first and new gerbil friend. His name is Bling Bling, and he is a spotted Siamese male pup. They shared a cage and at first they fought, but eventually they got along great. They slept huddled together and everything.

Unfortunately, one day when Mink was running around I smelled something, and I found out that Mink had horrible diarrhea! I felt so bad for him. As soon as I noticed this problem I separated them as fast as I could.

I feel awful that they are alone now, as well as I have no idea if Mink is truly sick or if he is slowly passing? He has had the diarrhea for almost a week, and his nose is terribly cold. He doesn't run around nearly as much as he did recently. I'm tempted to take him to the vet, but if it's just caused by stress then maybe it'll run its course and be over? I have no idea, please help!
 
A: Diarrhea is a very dangerous condition if it lasts more than a couple of days. Important nutrients are lost through the unformed stool. These are vitamins, minerals, and calories that are not getting absorbed. Your gerbil needs these to be healthy.

Gerbils, like all small mammals, have a high metabolic rate and cannot afford to lose nutrients, and especially calories, or they quickly become debilitated and will die from the diarrhea.

The other very important result of diarrhea is the loss of fluids. Even more than calories, if fluids are not replaced, the gerbil quickly becomes dehydrated and will die within days if fluid is not replaced.

It is unlikely that your gerbil’s illness is stress-induced, because the new gerbil has been in the home for at least a week. It is more likely that the new gerbil exposed your older gerbil to an infection that has caused diarrhea.

Take your gerbil to your veterinarian as soon as possible so nutrients and fluids can be replaced and the cause of the diarrhea can be investigated.

See all of Dr. Rosenthal's Critter Q&A articles>>

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