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Gerbil’s Injured Tail Turns Strange Colors

What could be causing a gerbil’s tail to turn different colors and get spotty?

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: August 26, 2012, 4 a.m. EDT

Q: My gerbil Pickles has a growth on his tail caused by other gerbils that attacked him before I got him. His tail was fine for a while. It still doesn’t seem to be giving him any pain, but he doesn’t have any hair where he was attacked. The skin was light pink, then it turned black, and now it’s a sort of light brownish color. I figured out a few days ago that it’s on both sides where he doesn’t have any hair. The light brown side looks OK, but the other side has something that looks like blood spots. These keep getting a little bigger each day. I don’t know what to do. Will my gerbil die? Is he in any pain? I got Pickles when my cousin’s gerbils had babies. The pet store didn’t tell them that there was a boy and a girl; they thought they had two boys. The gerbils had two litters. Pickles’ littermates attacked him and his brother who he lives with now. Peanut’s tail healed. He wasn’t bitten as much, so his tail is straight. Pickles got bit more and it never really healed, and now he seems to be getting worse. I want him to be better. What can I or a vet do to help him?
 
A: There are a few things here to consider and, of course, taking your gerbil for a visit to your veterinarian will give you the best way to answer your question.

First, the attack on your gerbil’s tail may have damaged the blood and/or nerve supply to the end of the tail, including the skin. This can result in an abnormal-looking skin color and even the loss of movement in the tail. This loss of movement and feeling in the tail can cause further damage to the tail.

Another explanation is that the trauma has nothing to do with what you are seeing now on the tail and it is just a coincidence that the damage happened at the same area that another disease process is occurring. There can be infection (possibly from the attack) or a mass growing in that area. It should be obvious to your veterinarian what the cause of the condition is that you are seeing on your gerbil’s tail.

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

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