One of the most obvious parts of the gerbil owner’s responsibility for their pet health care is housing their pet correctly. Gerbils are better kept in a terrarium than a cage because their burrowing habits would send bedding flying from a wire cage. For two gerbils, a terrarium measuring 40cm by 75cm with a depth of 40cm is sufficient. Keep the gerbils out of sunlight and draughts and provide plenty of bedding: wood shavings are best.
To avoid potential health problems such as illness or infection, owners must thoroughly scrub out the terrarium weekly or more frequently if the bedding appears very contaminated at any point.
As well as housing our pets appropriately, our responsibility for our gerbils health includes providing the correct diet. Gerbils are omnivores and need to get some animal protein in their diet. Failing to provide for the dietary needs of any animal can lead to severe problems, so it’s best to use a pet shop-bought complete food made specifically for gerbils, so that you can be assured that all nutritional needs are met. Don’t forget that gerbils need constant access to fresh drinking water too.
Amongst the most common health issues faced by gerbils are dental problems. Gerbils’ teeth constantly grow and must be worn down by eating fibre. If owners do not provide the necessary fibre, drooling and lack of appetite might become a problem, leading to potentially damaging conditions.
As with many animals, vets encourage neutering to avoid potential future health problems such as unwanted pregnancy and to eliminate aggressive behaviour. However, vets do not generally neuter gerbils due to their small size. It is accepted that neutering a gerbil would be too risky to justify the health benefits that the procedure may include. Owners are therefore encouraged to be very careful to make sure that the gerbils in their group are all the same sex to avoid reproduction.
General Gerbil Health Care
Of course, there is no substitute for the knowledge and experience of a vet, but you know your gerbil and should carry out regular health checks at home. Any change in eating, drinking or toilet behaviour could indicate a problem, as could weight loss or gain. Get used to the behaviour patterns that are normal for your pet because changes in habits and behaviours can be the first indicator that something is wrong.