Mongolian Gerbil

Mongolian Gerbils

Meriones unguiculatus

Health & Illness in Mongolian Gerbils

Signs of illness include:

  • Poor coat condition, posture
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Squeaky, laboured or otherwise noisy breathing.
  • Lethargic and cool to the touch
  • Lack of interest in food or water
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Excessive scratching

Take an ill gerbil to the vet as soon as possible but do not separate from tank mates as gerbils separated too long would need a split-cage to reintroduce them.

Signs of gerbil in pain include squeaking, hiding, nipping, and carrying the ears back against the head.

Gerbil mucus is red so a redness around the eyes or nose is not blood but rather caused by an organic compound known as porphyrin. It is natural for gerbils to produce this although when it happens excessively then it can be a problem. Excessive porphyrin could indicate an allergy, stress or other illness. One common cause is the use of sawdust, pine or cedar based beddings; these can cause serious breathing difficulties in rodents and should always be avoided.


Although most gerbils can live out their lives together quite happily, sometimes serious fights can break out. This is known as declanning and females are more susceptible to this than males.

If declanning occurs in a pair then you may be able to reunite using the split-cage method, but you cannot introduce a single gerbil to an existing pair or clan.

If blood hasn't been drawn then one of the most common problems may be odour, say if you handled one gerbil without handling the other or if there is as strong smell in the room such as if you have recently painted. A dust bath is a good start to try and neutralise this.


Degloving is where the fur, skin, and muscle have been torn off a gerbil's tail, leaving muscle and bone exposed. This is an extremely painful injury and will need vet treatment including pain relief. The missing part of the tail may never grow back but could potentially be amputated.


Gerbils are sadly prone to epileptic fits. Other than the fits themselves, it does not affect their quality of life. They will usually recover within ten minutes of a fit. Fits can occur if you startle your gerbil, and if one occurs then they may remain stiffly upright or maybe fall to their sides - sometimes with involuntary movements or twitchings. Stay calm and do not touch your gerbil whilst this occurs. If you are holding your gerbil when one happens then try placing them back in their nest or bedding.

Scent gland tumours

Male gerbils in particular are prone to scent gland tumours. Keep an eye out for any unusual lumps and at the first sign of trouble visit your local vets. These tumours can often be operated on, which depending on the health and age of your gerbil can extend their life. One of our male gerbils developed a tumour at 2.5 and lived a further two years after the successful operation to remove it.