We are all familiar with the phrase “A healthy pet is a happy pet” – but there is probably also something to be said for keeping your gerbil happy in order to maintain its health. If you know your pet you will probably quickly recognise the signs that suggest it is not well.
A healthy gerbil will have bright eyes, clean ears, eyes and nose and be interested in what is going on around it.
If your gerbil’s weight remains constant then they are eating the right amount of food. You should be concerned if their appetite or water consumption suddenly changes or they suddenly start to gain or lose weight. When in good condition the coat should be shiny, soft and free of parasites.
Your gerbil must be fed a healthy diet and allowed regular exercise.
The closer your gerbil’s diet and environment is compared to how it would eat and live in the wild, the healthier and happier it will be. Giving them plenty of enrichment in also hugely important for their mental wellbeing.
A healthy diet is a balanced diet containing all the nutrients your pet requires.
Gerbils are omnivores, which means that, like us, they naturally eat mainly vegetable matter, but to keep in good health require some food of animal origin as well, e.g. cheese, insects, meat, egg, etc.
There are a number of measures that can help prevent your pet developing diseases. You should discuss the special needs of your pet with your vet.
Gerbils do not require vaccinations.
All rodents have front teeth that grow continuously, so a high fibre diet is essential to allow the teeth to wear down naturally. You could provide something for your pet to gnaw on, for example a wood or hide chew toy. This will help to keep your pet’s teeth in good condition and prevent dental problems.
If you notice any signs of overlong teeth then your vet will be able to burr the teeth down and advise you further.
If your gerbil has a poor coat condition, dull eyes, dirty ears, eyes or nose it may indicate that they are unwell. Changes in behaviour (a normally happy and affectionate animal may become grumpy and avoid human contact, preferring to hide away by itself), altered appetite or water consumption should also alert you to the possibility that there may be a problem.
Most animals recover from illness in 24-48 hours – if your pet does not seem to be improving in this time or is getting worse then you should contact your vet.