Gerbils can suffer from a number of different parasites and infections - have a look at the information below if you suspect your gerbil has a problem.
Mites - gerbils can get mites that live in their fur. These will probably be too small to see with the naked eye, and although tiny, some can be extraordinarily uncomfortable for your pet. They can burrow under your pet’s skin which is very painful. If, during your checkup, you notice that your pet’s skin is scabby and crusted, your pet could have mites. You can purchase treatments from your local pet shop, but it’s good to ask a professional if you’ve made the right diagnosis first.
Mites can be really painful for your pets so it's important you deal with the problem as quickly as possible
Lice - gerbils can contract parasites known as blood lice. These are usually from birds or certain types of unsterilised bedding. Thankfully, most pet shops will carry a treatment for this condition - just make sure that it’s specifically for gerbils, as some others may have ingredients that are harmful to your pets.
Fleas - fleas are small insects that will scurry around in your pet’s fur, sucking their blood and causing a lot of irritation. Fleas are visible to the naked eye, but they can also be identified by their droppings. If there’s a lot of very dark brown material in your gerbil’s fur, take a piece and put it on some white kitchen paper. Add a drop of water to it - if it goes red, it’s likely to be flea droppings. This is because fleas eat blood, so it’s essentially what their droppings are made of too.
Fleas can be spread from animal to animal, so if you notice fleas then it’s best to act very fast. Just be sure to use flea powders that specifically say that they are safe for gerbils. Flea powders for other animals such as dogs can contain ingredients which are extremely harmful to some small mammals, so it’s important to read the labels carefully before use.
Ticks - ticks are little bloodsucking parasites that can affect humans as well pets like gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, cats and dogs. If you notice your gerbil has a small insect attached to its skin, take it to the vet to be removed. The affected area will need to be treated to remove the pest and to minimise the risk of infection. The mouthparts of the parasite are really hard to remove and can often get stuck in the skin, causing nasty infections. Ticks can cause Lyme’s disease, which is a very dangerous condition in any animal. Thoroughly check yourself and your family if you find a tick on a pet.
Ringworm - ringworm is a fungal infection that can affects gerbils. It can be passed on to you and members of your family, so when treating your pets it’s best to wear gloves and to treat it promptly with a gerbil-specific product.