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Common Gerbil Illnesses

Watch for these common gerbil illnesses.

By Jessica Cordia
Posted: March 31, 2008, 5 a.m. EDT

Gerbil conditions can sometimes be fatal, so it is important to recognize the signs of illness
Photo Courtesy of Eric Phiefer
Know how to observe and identify signs of illness in pet gerbil.

Pet gerbils are fun-loving animals that are strong and resilient. But like humans, they can get ill. Jeff Werwa, DVM, Cincinnati Medical Center, helps identify some common ailments gerbils can experience.

Overgrown Teeth
A gerbil’s front teeth, the canines and incisors, continuously grow throughout its life. In the wild, gerbils wear down their teeth on foods they eat. As pets, gerbils need chew toys and blocks to help wear teeth down. Sometimes malocclusion (misalignment of teeth) occurs and the gerbil will suffer pain. The teeth can curl into the gerbil’s gums causing extreme discomfort. This is easily fixed with a trip to the vet to shave the teeth down. Always check your pet gerbil’s teeth and provide it with chew sticks and toys.

Diarrhea in a pet gerbil is serious. It can cause dehydration leading to death. Check your gerbil’s anal area for paste and wetness. Diarrhea can be caused by you pet gerbils diet or Tyzzer’s, a fatal gerbil illness. When your pet gerbil has diarrhea, call you veterinarian immediately.

Respiratory Infection
Gerbils are prone to respiratory infection, so you must maintain a clean cage with low humidity levels. Respiratory infection can be fatal and needs to be treated immediately. Your gerbil will exhibit cold-like symptoms, like a runny nose and eyes, sneezing and coughing.

Because pet gerbils won’t show signs until the later stages of illness, call your veterinarian as soon as you notice any abnormal behavior. With veterinary assistance, your gerbil will have a better chance of surviving.

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Common Gerbil Illnesses

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Reader Comments
My gerbil shows signs of a urinary tract infection, I.e yellow belly. I have a cat that has this, also. The cat is on penicillin. How can I treat my gerbil?
Julie, Russell springs, KY
Posted: 11/3/2014 12:04:53 AM
My gerbil hasnt been eating his food barely drinks he has scabs behind his ears from what i can see he usually stays under his bedding and doesnt come out.. i cant hold him anymore because he bites or squirms. Since hes stopped eating hes been getting really agressive. I dont know whats wrong with him
sierra, Watertown, WI
Posted: 10/4/2014 5:15:08 PM
Camille, I'm very sorry that Chippy is sick. A veterinarian is really the person to tell you what's going on with Chippy, as he or she will need to examine him. Euthanasia is your decision for your pet and would only be recommended if Chippy's ailment won't respond to treatment. If you need to locate a veterinarian in your area who knows how to treat gerbils, check the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians website,, or the list of veterinarians on SmallAnimalChannel at LINK Good luck!
Marylou, Irvine, CA
Posted: 2/8/2013 10:52:46 AM
Someone Any one plz help me I have two gerbils Sherman and Chippy. Chippy has been experiencing something with his eye it is swollen and really puffy and has dried blood or red puss around it I really don't want to take him to the vet tho because I really don't want him put to sleep when the swelling first started it was in his cheek then moved up to his eye I'm really sad about this plz get back to me ??
Camille, Malverne, NY
Posted: 2/7/2013 2:12:04 PM
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