Is your gerbil shaking abnormally? Are you worried it’s a painful health condition? Here are some possible causes and emergency first aid.
The most common reason why a gerbil wobbles, is old age (2 years and above). Other causes include missing toenails leading to instability, stress, an ear infection, a stroke or seizures. The first few causes are not as alarming as the last 3. Remember to try and stay calm and take your gerbil to the vet if you think it’s an emergency.
How do I know if my gerbil is in pain?
Gerbils are prey animals which means they are biologically wired to not exhibit any signs of illness. Therefore, it can be challenging to identify if they’re in pain. However, if you are a vigilant pet parent a little careful observation will help you ensure your gerbil’s pain does not go unnoticed.
Here are some tips to help you:
- Remember that these signs are very subtle. You may want to get a second opinion from a friend or family member when investigating.
- Observe when they’re most active: gerbils are most active in the morning and evening as they are diurnal. If you’re noticing mild changes like increased hiding behaviour, reluctant to interact as much as usual and being withdrawn in general, it may be a cause for concern.
- Talk to a fellow gerbil owner: Reaching out to other experienced gerbil owners can help ease your mind. Nevertheless, the best option is always phoning your vet as they are trained medical professionals.
- Spend significant amount of time from the start: If you spend a few hours with your pet every day, you are bound to know their quirks and little bits of their personality. This will help you notice even the slightest changes right away. If this is another family member’s gerbil like your child, ask them and see if they notice anything different in their little friend.
Now let’s move on to the signs your little critter will exhibit when in pain:
- Body language:
- hunched posture
- Lame gait
- Neck extension
- Lying posture where abdomen touches ground
- head tilt
- Overreacts to being touched
- Behavioural changes:
- Hiding, unwilling to move
- Excessive thirst
- Teeth grinding
- Reluctant to jump around
- Changes in her sleeping pattern
- Changes in frequency of urination and defecation
- Changes in quality of urine and/or poop
- Physiological changes:
- rapid, shallow breathing
- breathing through mouth
- breathing with increased abdominal effort
- High heart rate
- Grubby coat, furless patches
How to stop a gerbil wobbling
If wobbling is a consequence of old age, they will learn to live with it. If it’s caused by stress or the reason is unknown, try creating a safe environment.
Make sure you’ve provided them with food and water. Put them back in their cage if they were outside and keep them warm. Try not to handle them too much. Avoid doing anything that may stress them out further.
Wobbling is not usually observed in gerbils other than in old age so take them to the vet to find the underlying cause and eliminate it.
What does a sick gerbil look like?
Their body language can change from bright and active to huddled in a corner looking desolate. Lots of physiological signs may be present, the most common of them being shabby fur and changed consistency of poop.
An important and interesting fact, did you know that gerbils could catch colds from human beings? They develop the same signs as us with runny noses and sneezes!
Gerbils are usually very sturdy, happy little creatures. Nine out of ten gerbils will never need to see a vet in their lifetime. But just as any other living being they are prone to certain ailments. Outlined below is a comprehensive list of signs to look out for if you think your gerbil is sick.
- Body language: backed up in a corner, not accepting food.
- Teeth: they may lose their front teeth/tooth. This makes them unable to chew and these gerbils will rapidly lose weight if a soft diet is not fed.
- Fur Coat: scabs can indicate fighting between gerbils for those tasty treats. If fighting is suspected the situation needs to be monitored well. It could also indicate ringworm (a red, round, bald patch) which is highly contagious. A vet would need to be consulted.
- Scent Gland: This is the little lump right in the middle of a gerbil’s belly. They use it to mark their territory. There is a high chance of males developing scent gland tumours if they’re kept with other males (excessive territory marking)
- Nose: Since gerbils love to dig and burrow, their noses can become sore due to allergies. This could pave the way for a bacterial infection If not detected and treated early.
- Head Tilt: A gerbil’s head constantly tilted to one side is an indication of something amiss in the inner ear. This could be accompanied by a tendency to move around in circles. It’s usually caused by ear infections and will require antibiotic treatment.
- Lameness: You may notice it limping or dragging its limbs as it walks. Limping can be an indication of a fracture whereas dragging a limb can be a sign that your gerbil had a stroke. In both these cases, your gerbil should heal naturally within a week.
- Genitals: females who have delivered a significant number of litters are prone to uterine prolapse and males may get swollen penises. Both these conditions can be treated by a vet.
- Diarrhoea: Diarrhoea is quite rare in gerbils. It can be caused by an upset tummy, but it is also a sign of a bacterial infection called Tyzzer’s disease. It can be fatal for a gerbil so the faster it gets medical help, the better the prognosis.
- Temperature: Gerbils are quite tiny beings. Temperature changes can have a profound effect on them and so always be mindful when thinking about where to place the cage. (Not too close to a heater or AC vent)