Posted: August 28, 2014, 12:55 a.m. EDT
© Courtesy Elaine Schmid
If a gerbil develops head tilt, the two most common causes are a problem in the brain or a problem in the ear.
Q: One of our gerbils has his head tilted to one side and he’s kind of losing balance when moving. What should we do?
A: Head tilt in gerbils, like in our other small mammal patients, can be caused by a variety of different diseases. What are some of the causes that your veterinarian will be concerned about? To better understand head tilt, it is best to think of two general causes: it is either due to a problem in the brain or a problem in the middle and inner ear.
If there is disease in the brain, this can cause a gerbil to lose his ability to perceive up and down or left and right and the result could be a head tilt. This could happen in the part of the brain called the cerebellum. Diseases in the brain could be due to infection, toxin, degeneration, trauma or even cancer.
If the disease is not in the brain, then it may be confined to the ear. Some diseases can affect the very delicate structures of the middle or inner ear. The diseases of the delicate structures of the ear can be caused by some of the same disorders that affect the cerebellum — infection, trauma and toxins.
There are antibiotics that can be used if infection is the cause of the head tilt. Finally, there are some other medications that can help ease the inflammation that could be present and help correct the head tilt. In cases like this, the best choice is to visit your veterinarian to have him or her examine your gerbil.
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