Gerbils have a lifespan of only a few years, depending on the species and genus.
For you as an owner comes as sooner or later the responsibility to care for a decrepit gerbil properly and species-appropriate.
This leads to many questions:
Which diet is best for older gerbils?
Which special features should I pay attention to?
How do I recognize health problems
And many more
The answer to all your questions can be found in this article.
How can you recognize senility in gerbils?
There are a few signs that can tell you that your gerbil is now an older animal and has left youth far behind.
For example, you will notice that your older gerbil sleeps more than before and will take breaks more often than a few months ago.
Furthermore, typical illnesses may also creep in as the immune system is not quite as fit in old age as it was in younger years.
Increased fatigue – a cause for concern?
Gerbils are considered “old” when they are about 2.5 or 3 years old.
The first sign you will notice is the increased fatigue and decreased resilience of the animal.
If you notice that your gerbil is more and more withdrawn and not as active as it used to be, this can be a normal sign of aging and there is nothing to worry about.
Nevertheless, you should bring a veterinarian on board to clarify whether the fatigue is not due to illness. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the better the chances for a speedy recovery!
In any case, give your gerbil the rest it needs to avoid unnecessary stress. Especially with older animals, whose immune system is already not so strong, it can have fatal consequences if it is further weakened by constant stress.
Infections and other diseases can creep into your gerbil’s organism more easily and cause it a lot of trouble.
But are there actually specific ailments and infirmities that occur quite frequently in gerbils in old age? We will come to that in the following section.
Common ailments and diseases that (can) come with age
Just as with us humans, the risk of tumor formation increases with age in your gerbils.
In order to be able to recognize and treat tumors at an early stage, it is recommended that you take your gerbil in your hand about once a week, take a closer look at it and carefully palpate the abdomen.
Tumors are especially likely to form on the scent gland of your gerbil. Since these growths cannot be recognized at first sight in many cases in the initial stage, you should look here particularly thoroughly!
- digestive problems
As your gerbil gets older, digestion often doesn’t work as well as it should.
Diarrhea is therefore not uncommon.
In itself, diarrhea is not dangerous for your pet, but it can make it easier for infections to occur, which in turn could be threatening to your Gerbil.
It is best to change the food and consult your vet if your pet’s diarrhea does not improve.
- visual impairment and blindness
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for your gerbil to lose more and more vision as it ages.
In some cases it can even happen that your gerbil goes blind.
You can recognize this condition by the fact that your pet moves more cautiously and slowly through the enclosure and is irritated when you rearrange the setup.
In many cases, blindness can be delayed if treatment for the eye disease is started early enough, but in some cases, blindness cannot be prevented despite timely treatment.
- dental problems
Since your gerbil is not as active as it used to be and consequently gnaws less, dental problems may occur.
Gerbil teeth grow for a lifetime and need to be continuously ground down by gnawing on wood and the like.
If your animal does not take care of its teeth sufficiently, the teeth will become too long and it will hurt when eating.
In advanced stages, your gerbil may not be able to open its mouth at all.
Therefore, check your pet’s teeth regularly and have the teeth filed down by a veterinarian if necessary.
The advancing age makes gerbils more susceptible to mite infestation.
First signs are increased scratching and sometimes also an increased irritability of the animal. In addition, infested gerbils often appear “as if stung by a tarantula” due to the itching and can no longer find peace to sleep, although they would very much like to do so.
Since mites are very small, these parasites can often only be seen and reliably diagnosed by a veterinarian under a microscope. Once the diagnosis is made, treatment can also be started directly!
- urine scalding and hair loss
Possibly the kidneys and the bladder of your gerbil are not working properly.
This means that your gerbil has to urinate more often and cannot control the bladder anymore.
Due to the decreasing mobility your gerbil cannot groom itself as intensively as it used to, which can lead to urine scalding in the fur, which in turn leads to hair loss.
In any case, provide your pet with an easily accessible sand bath with fine chinchilla sand. If this is not enough, you should remove the urine stains at regular intervals – carefully – with a damp cloth.
In no case should you bathe your gerbil completely with water!
Are there actually things you can consider to make your gerbil’s life as comfortable as possible even in old age?
Yes, there are!
And which things these are exactly, we deal with it now.
5 tips for keeping and caring for your gerbil for a long and healthy life
What is there to consider regarding the cage?
As your gerbil’s eyesight will most likely decrease as he gets older, you should refrain from changing the furnishings.
Of course you can place new toys in the terrarium, but elementary things like food, water and also the sand bath should always be placed in the same place.
Also the way to the safe shelter should always be easy to find.
Food and drinking on one floor
In order not to make it difficult for your gerbil to get to the food and water, it is highly recommended that you place everything important on the lowest floor of the enclosure so that your gerbil has easy and direct access.
Decrease in vision comes with a lot of stress for your gerbils. After all, these are flight animals that rely on their vision.
Without their vision, your animals will feel helpless and at the mercy of others.
To provide more security, it may be helpful if you clean the enclosure less frequently (the sand bath should always be kept clean, of course).
This way your gerbil can orientate itself by the scent marks it has set and thus find its way around easily.
A quiet location
Also make sure that your gerbils are in a quiet place and can sleep undisturbed at any time of the day or night.
It is especially important for old animals to get enough sleep to avoid putting unnecessary stress on their immune systems.
What do I have to keep in mind when feeding?
The older your gerbil gets, the more you have to adapt the food to its needs.
For example, the protein requirement decreases to 13%.
If you used to feed your gerbils mealworms and other insects, you should now drastically reduce the amounts and feed animal protein only once or twice a week.
Also, make sure that you feed primarily easily digestible fresh food, so as not to overload the intestines.
Vegetables containing water, such as cucumber, are especially recommended.
Older gerbils have a higher need for fluids, but usually drink very little by themselves. By providing tasty food with a high water content, you can actively ensure that your gerbil’s water balance is correct.
My gerbil is behaving strangely – what to do?
If your gerbil suddenly shows changes in behavior or appearance, you should not hesitate and go directly to the vet.
Especially with old animals it is better to go to the vet once too often than once too little!
Only if potential diseases are detected in the early stages and treatment is started immediately, your gerbil can recover as stress-free as possible.
Especially diseases that become chronic without timely treatment pose an increased risk to the well-being of your gerbil.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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