Posted: February 27, 2011, 5 a.m. EST
Q: I purchased two female gerbils from the pet store. When I got home I set up their habitat, then I put them in it and watched them for about 10 to 15 minutes. They seemed to be happy in their new home, so I left to buy some groceries; I was gone for less than an hour. When I got home they both were fighting. Babydoll was the "victim" and Feisty was the "attacker" in the fight. I calmed Feisty down and tried to reintroduced the two, which was done in vain. I ended up going back to the pet store to exchange Feisty for a different gerbil. The new gerbil and Babydoll get along great, but Feisty did her damage to Babydoll’s right hind leg, on her tail about a half of a centimeter to a centimeter from the base of her tail, then above her right eye; also her right side (if she was a horse it would be on her barrel/flank area more on the upper barrel). The pet store said I could take Babydoll in to their vet but I can’t reach where the vet is located due to the bus schedule. Is there any advice you can give me on signs of infection and ways to treat Babydoll's injuries or at least what not to use or do? The bite wounds are small.
A: I suggest that you take the pet store up on the offer to visit their veterinarian with your gerbil. If you cannot go there, perhaps you can leave your gerbil at the store if the veterinarian visits the store. Or if the store takes any of their animals to the veterinarian, maybe they can take your gerbil.
The reason I emphasize trying to find a way to visit the veterinarian is that treating fight wounds can sometimes require more than a simple, topical, antibacterial ointment. A veterinarian will look at the wound and remove any dead or foreign material in the wound. He or she will also flush the wounds in an attempt to remove material that can’t be seen.
In a small patient like a gerbil, veterinarians sometimes use magnifying loupes to look for very small changes, such as damaged blood vessels and nerves that could have big implications for delayed healing.
Another consideration is that these wounds might need much stronger topical antibiotics than you can find over-the-counter, such as a prescription antibiotic. And if the wound is even more severe, oral antibiotics may be needed.
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