- Gerbil teeth grow continuously, so it's important to give them things to gnaw, such as gerbil toys found at pet stores, or apple or cherry branches that have been in the freezer for 72 hours to kill bugs. Elderly gerbils don't chew as much and can have overgrown or missing teeth--both conditions require trimming by a veterinarian. After receiving instruction, some gerbil owners can perform future trims at home. A vet should be consulted about whether a softer diet now is needed.
- Gerbils--usually elderly males--may develop a tumor of the scent gland, located beneath the bald patch on the abdomen. If the area has a small, hard lump or becomes red and enlarged, a vet can determine whether surgery is right for your pet. External tumors can create problems because gerbils scratch a lot, but those growths often can be removed.
- Too many greens and vegetables in your gerbil's diet can cause diarrhea. Removing them from the diet can correct the condition quickly. However, diarrhea also can be a symptom of a highly contagious, deadly disease. If diet isn't a suspect or a gerbil isn't eating and drinking, a trip to the vet is necessary and antibiotics may be needed to treat other gerbils in the home.
- Young pups, elderly gerbils or gerbils under stress are susceptible to respiratory infections, which can be caused by viruses, bacteris or allergic reactions to bedding. The sick gerbil may stay hunched in a corner, make clicking noises and have a rumpled coat. If the situation doesn't resolve in a few days, or if the gerbil seems seriously ill, with diarrhea and a reluctance to eat or drink, a trip to the veterinarian is needed.
- A gerbil may suffer a nasty wound if picked up by its tail or if the tail is caught in a cage or exercise wheel. In a few weeks, the injured tail may dry up and fall off. A trip to the vet probably isn't needed unless the wound becomes infected. Young gerbils may experience seizures when overexcited but usually recover when left alone. Older or weak gerbils that suffer strokes--usually characterized by paralysis on one side--may make a full recovery, if kept comfortable, with access to good food and fresh water. Gerbils also can become infested with mites, which can be treated with a mite-and-flea spray sold in pet stores.