How to Select a Happy and Healthy New Gerbil
When the time finally comes to select your new pet, it’s a bigger decision than looks.
While looks are part of the decision, things like health and behaviour are a little more important to ensure that the gerbil you’re picking is happy and healthy.
If you think you’ve selected a gerbil that you like, there are a few things that you need to consider…
Is the gerbil’s tail wet?
This can indicate that a gerbil has “wet-tail”. This is a treatable, but contagious and life threatening disease common in gerbils. Gerbils with the disease will experience dirrohrea, and cold body temperatures. Treatment consists of medication from your local pet store or vet that is usually placed in the water. If the gerbil that you have selected does not have signs of the disease, but other gerbils in the cage do, it may be best to avoid buying from that location to ensure that the gerbil you do buy is safe and healthy.
What is the behaviour of the gerbil?
Maybe it’s running around, playing, eating? This is a good sign. Or is it tucked in a corner, looking like it wants nothing to do with anything? This probably isn’t the type of gerbil you’d like. Gerbils are naturally very curious animals who thrive on exploration and discovery. A healthy gerbil will most likely be running around, exploring, or playing with it’s cage-mates. Unless you believe the gerbil is sleeping or tired, any gerbil that does not seem to want to run around should be avoided as it could end up with health problems down the road.
Is the gerbil eating?
If you’re at a pet store, you probably won’t be there long enough to see him eat or drink. However, if you’re buying a gerbil from a breeder, this is an important question to ask. Gerbils who are not feeling well will commonly not eat or drink. If you don’t see your gerbil(s) eat in front of you before purchase, don’t be too alarmed. As long as you don’t answer yes to all of the above and below questions, your gerbil is most likely fine.
Is the gerbils eyes glossy and is his nose clear?
Both of these indicate a healthy gerbil. Glossy eyes are a sure sign of health. Sometimes a gerbil’s nose will run a little. It looks like blood red, but it isn’t blood. If it’s just a drop, keep an eye on it. If it’s excessive, you’ve selected a gerbil which most likely has a cold or some other problem.
How are the other gerbils in the cage, do they all look healthy?
If any other gerbils in the cage seem unhealthy, they may have something contagious. Meaning, if your selected gerbil isn’t showing signs, it could in the future. Depending on what the unhealthy gerbil has, it may be perfectly treatable and it could avoid your gerbil. However, take note of what the other gerbil has and be very aware in the next coming weeks of your new gerbil.
Is the gerbils coat shiny?
This is easy to notice. A shiny coat usually means a healthy gerbil. Those with dull coats are probably unhealthy. Most of those with dull coats will probably also fall under another unhealthy sign.
If it’s a male, what shape and colour are his tesitcles in?
This is something commonly overlooked. If you’re selecting from a litter of young gerbils, their testicles shouldn’t be very large or developed. In fact, some males will seem like females until a few weeks after you purchase them.
If they have abnormally large testicles compared to their body, be aware that they may have testicular cancer. This may put the length of his life in jeopardy.
Lastly, how do you feel about the gerbil(s) you’re selecting?
Use your gut feeling to help you determine if your gerbil is healthy or not. If you believe that there’s a chance the gerbil may be sick and it falls under any of the categories above, you’re probably right. If you think you’ve picked a great gerbil, and it doesn’t fall under any of the categories above, you’re probably safe.
A few extra important points:
- Where are you buying from? If you’re buying from a pet store, inquire whether the gerbils have been examined by a vet. And what kind of warranty the gerbil has. If the pet has a warranty, the store is confident that the gerbil is healthy.
- When buying from a breeder, ask to visit the parents and check their health. Take note of housing conditions as well as gerbil siblings.