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Picking a Healthy Gerbil

For many families, gerbils make great pets. They’re friendly, curious, and amusing little creatures, and can be good pets for children old enough to understand their handling requirements. Before you purchase your gerbil, though, you should know how to select a healthy one. Here, your 4S Ranch veterinarian tells you what to look for.

Body Condition

Gerbils that appear too skinny or too fat might have health problems. Choose one that looks to be maintaining a healthy weight. Look up pictures of healthy gerbils online, or consult your veterinarian for a better idea. Also watch the animal walk—an uneven gait could indicate skeletal or muscular issues.

Coat

Examine the gerbil’s fur. It should be smooth and clean. Note any bare patches, scratches, sores, crusts, or soiling on the body, as these could indicate infection, disease, or other concerns that may be costly to treat. Again, it would be helpful to look at pictures of healthy gerbils to see what the coat should look like.

Head

Look into your prospective gerbil’s face. Are the eyes, nose, and ears clean and free of crust or discharge? Try to get a closer look at the rodent’s mouth as well. The teeth should be straightly aligned, and not overgrown. If you see wetness or matted fur around the chin, there’s a good bet the animal’s teeth are too long.

Temperament

While gerbils are skittish, especially if they haven’t had much contact with humans, they should generally be inquisitive and curious. If a gerbil is hiding out, being anti-social, or appears weak and lethargic, something could be wrong.

Environment

Don’t forget to look at the gerbil’s general environment as well. If the living conditions are less than desirable, there’s a greater chance of infection, parasites, or other health issues. Make sure the cage the gerbil is kept in is clean, stocked regularly with food, water, and bedding, and isn’t overcrowded with cagemates.

Ask your 4S Ranch veterinarian for more signs of a healthy gerbil. Knowing what to look for ahead of time will allow you to confidently pick the best pet for you and your family!

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