AllergiesConstipation and DiarrheaInjuriesTail BreakageParasites

Gerbils are hardy little animals that are not very likely to catch illnesses. To keep a gerbils health at its best, there must be good management and husbandry of the gerbils. It is important that any illnesses are caught straight away and recognizing that a gerbil has an illness is also very important. Prevention is better than cure.


At first, your gerbil may seem to have a cold. The symptoms of an allergy may look similar to a cold but gerbil cannot catch colds from humans. The cold virus is species specific, therefore, colds cannot be passed on from a human to a gerbil.

Allergies usually come from the environment/living conditions. Gerbils with sawdust are likely to have allergies due to the dust. Some types of wood shavings also may make a gerbil prone to allergies. Cedar wood shavings are not recommended as the dust is likely to cause allergies. This has also been reported with pine wood shavings, but this is uncommon. The safest type of wood shaving to use is aspen. When a gerbil suffers from an allergy, there is no need to separate the gerbils as allergies are not infectious. The symptoms of an allergy are a runny nose and eyes. Scratching of these areas are not uncommon. The best thing to do if your gerbil suffers an allergy is to change the type of bedding to something more suitable.

Constipation and Diarrhea

Diarrhea stops the intestines absorbing any vitamins or minerals. This may make the gerbil more lethargic.

Diarrhea is more common that constipation and is usually due to the type of food given to the gerbil. A high level of green food in the gerbils diet is likely to cause diarrhea due to the high level of water in green food. Green food should be given at maximum, two times a week. If diarrhea is present, reduce the amount of green food. If green food is not the case, it could be due to contaminated or stale food. Check for any rotting food in the cage.

If one or more gerbil develops diarrhea, isolate the animal(s) to prevent the condition from spreading.  Make sure the water bottle and food bowl in the isolation cage are cleaned thoroughly with disinfectant and have been rinsed properly afterwards before placing sick gerbils in isolation.


The most common injuries gerbils suffer are cuts and scratches. These can be caused by fights which are not uncommon. The best way to treat these injuries is to dab them with an antiseptic which can be purchased from your vet.

It is quite rare for gerbils to break bones. If a gerbil has broken a bone, it is unlikely to be detected by the owner. Most breaks seem to heal without bandages or any other supports. However, on rare occasions, some breakages can be fatal. Pinning gerbil bones together can be virtually impossible due to the thickness of the bone. Applying a cast would also be impractical as a gerbil would be able to gnaw though it very quickly.
Considering the gerbils quality of life if other injuries, including infection, occur.  It may be a wiser and kinder choice to have the animal put to sleep.

Tail Breakage

It is sometimes possible for a gerbil's tail to obtain an injury. This is usually due to mishandling of the gerbil. Gerbils have gained this adaptation as an escape route if prey may have hold of its tail. This is why it is strongly recommended not to pick up a gerbil by the tip of its tail. If this procedure is carried out, the base of the gerbil's tail should be used. Injuries range from the skin on the end of the tail pulling away to part of the tail actually breaking off. If the skin on the end of the tail comes off, it is best to leave it alone. If the blood circulation to the tip of the tail ceases, the bare part of the tail may fall off.

Once the gerbil's tail has fallen off, the gerbil is likely to be a bit "wobbly" at first. The gerbil will then adapt to using a smaller tail.


These include mites, fleas and lice.

Mange is caused by mites laying eggs underneath the gerbils skin, which may be itchy for the gerbil. This scratching will result in the loss of fur. Wet mange is the mange that cause blisters that burst, releasing their contents. The blisters then turn to sores. Dry mange causes baldness and itching.

Fleas and lice are also responsible for scratching. They are uncommon among gerbils but if a case of fleas or lice is present, they can be hard to remove. It may be tempting to use flea powders that are intended for dogs, but these should NEVER be used on gerbils. The powders and sprays that are intended for dogs are too strong and can do a gerbil a lot more harm than good. Special flea and lice powders for gerbils should be bought from your local pet shop or vet.