how to treat an injured gerbil
Gerbil Health

What To Do If Your Gerbil Is Bleeding

If your gerbil is bleeding, this is always a negative symptom that requires treatment. The causes vary, but it could be a severe open wound after fighting, which could cause your gerbil to die.

Identify the source of the blood, e.g. the eye, nose, scent gland, base of the tail, etc. Through doing so, you should learn why your gerbil is bleeding. Talk to a vet about treatment/actions such as separating gerbils after fighting, administering antibiotics, and cleaning the wound.

You must prevent your gerbil’s wound from becoming infected. To do this, clean it with antiseptic. You may also require antibiotics from a vet.

Why Is My Gerbil Bleeding?

The exact reason why your gerbil is bleeding depends on where it’s bleeding. If your gerbil is bleeding at the base of its tail, this has a different cause to if your gerbil has a bloody eye.

There is no one answer to this question. Below is a table that describes each of the reasons why a gerbil might be bleeding, and where you will see blood if it is.

Location of BloodCauseWhat to Do
Base of tailFighting/chasingSeparate the rejected gerbil from the clan
Nose or eyesPorphyrin, not actual bleeding, but still a sign of allergyChange your pet’s bedding
StomachOpen wound or tumor on scent glandSurgery and antibiotics
Around an abscessInfection of a woundAntibiotics

Whatever the cause, blood is never a good sign. You must investigate the cause immediately.

Gerbils Are Fighting and Drawing Blood

If you notice your gerbils drawing blood when they fight, the cause is declanning. Declanning is where the gerbil’s social group falls apart.

This could be because one of the dominant gerbils is old or sick, so another is challenging it. It could also be that one of the subordinate gerbils is rejected from the group.

Whatever the case, declanning causes vicious fights. In the wild, the rejected gerbil would go to live somewhere else, but in captivity, it can’t. The dominant gerbil takes this as a threat, and will repeatedly attack the other to try and get it to leave. But because it can’t, it won’t.

These fights progressively get worse over time. At first, the pair will wrestle and box. But eventually, they will use their teeth to attack each other. This is when the worst wounds happen.

Wounds commonly appear around the base of the tail in these fights. That’s because the dominant gerbil chases the other around and bites its tail. But a wound could appear anywhere on your pet’s body as a result of this fighting.

Separate the Injured Gerbil

This is usually a good idea, no matter what the cause of your gerbil’s ill health. Separating the sick gerbil from the others will either stop the fighting that’s occurring, or prevent the spread of disease. It could even do both things if your gerbil is both sick and rejected.

Declanning is the cause of frequent fighting. In the wild, the rejected gerbil would run off to live in its own burrow. But in captivity, it can’t do this. You must do it before your gerbils kill each other (which they eventually will).

And if your pet is sick, then quarantine may be necessary. Some conditions can be fatal, whereas if your pet passes on something trivial like a slight cold, that’s no issue.

That being said, isolating a sick gerbil can have unintended consequences. The gerbil may not be accepted back to the clan when you try to reintroduce it. You should think long and hard about whether this is the right course of action for your pet.

gerbil wound care

Gerbil Has a Bloody Nose

Dried blood around your gerbil’s nose indicates that your gerbil has an allergy to something in its vicinity. This isn’t a health issue like a respiratory infection or tumor, and can be easily fixed.

You will notice that your gerbil rubs its nose frequently. This irritates the area, which then produces a sticky red fluid. This isn’t blood, but something similar called porphyrin. Your pet continually rubs its nose which stimulates the production of this fluid.

According to Comprehensive Physiology, porphyrins are a kind of chemical compound produced when the body makes hemoglobin, i.e. red blood cells. That explains their color. You may also notice that your gerbil has a bloody eye. This is caused by the same issue.

Change Your Pet’s Bedding

The easy fix is to change your gerbil’s bedding. Bedding made from anything dusty is bad for gerbils. The dust gets in their eyes and causes this allergic reaction.

The reaction is significantly worse if your gerbil has pine-based bedding. Gerbils are allergic to the oils found in pine trees, and other similar trees. This oil can get in your pet’s eyes, stinging and causing irritation like an aerosol would in your eyes.

What makes this issue worse is that pet stores frequently recommend these dusty beddings. While they are fine for other animals, even other small rodents, they aren’t for gerbils

Blood on the Stomach

If your gerbil’s stomach looks bloody, your gerbil has an issue with its scent gland.

According to Behavior Research Methods & Instrumentation, the gerbil’s scent gland is a hairless oval patch on its stomach. It’s a shade darker than the rest of your pet’s skin. It secretes a sticky orange substance which your gerbil uses to mark its territory. This is unlike other rodents, which use urine instead. Gerbils do this to conserve water in the wild.

Either way, your gerbil may use its scent gland frequently. If it’s the dominant gerbil, it will reinforce its position by continually doing so.

The problem with this is that your gerbil can irritate its scent gland if it uses it too much. Do you ever scratch an open patch of skin too much? It turns red and becomes even itchier. This is like what your gerbil is doing, but all the time.

This can cause severe damage if your pet won’t stop. It can open up a wound, which can become infected. If this occurs frequently over your pet’s life, it can develop a tumor on its scent gland.

Visit a Vet

If the issue is a tumor, there’s nothing that you can do about it at home.

The first thing a vet will do is identify the location of the tumor and its severity. They will do so manually, by touching and visually inspecting the area. Some tumors are benign, which means they won’t grow bigger. Others are malignant and will spread.

Upon noticing that a tumor is present, your vet will recommend surgery. This is the only way to get rid of the tumor.

This routine operation shouldn’t be a problem for your pet. Your pet is put under anesthetic, which will prevent it from feeling any pain. The surgeon will then remove the tumor with a scalpel. They will sew your pet back up again before leaving your pet to rest and recover.

Blood Around an Abscess

An abscess is a wound that is in the process of healing. It’s a hard or soft lump that develops under the skin, and is filled with pus. These wounds can be painful and difficult to treat, especially in pets.

The presence of pus indicates that the wound is or was infected. The pus is composed of white blood cells, which attack and destroy bacteria.

Abscesses stay closed until they are pressured into the opening. A person may squeeze an abscess, for example, which causes it to open. A pet may bite it with its teeth. This will cause the pus to flow out, and may cause a small amount of blood too.

Clean the Wound

This is a serious issue. An open abscess can spread the infection further. It can also cause an existing infection to flare up. You must clean the wound as soon as possible to prevent this from occurring.

If possible, you should also get a cone from a vet. This will prevent your gerbil from biting and opening its wounds in the future.

How to Treat an Injured Gerbil

If your gerbil is sick, you must treat it. But the exact treatment methods depend on the reason why your pet is bleeding. So, what you have to do is identify the problem and then treat it afterwards.

You need to manage your pet’s wound and prevent it from getting worse. This requires the same actions no matter what the reason for your pet’s condition.

gerbils drawing blood

Identify Where the Blood Is Coming From

Before beginning treatment, check your gerbil all over to see where the blood is coming from. The most likely places are the nose and eyes, the scent gland on the stomach, and the base of the tail.

However, a wound could be anywhere on your pet’s body. It could be hidden underneath your pet’s fur. The only clue for its location will be dried and matted blood around the wound.

If possible, take a look at the area to see what stage the wound is at. Is it fresh, with the fur around it red from fresh blood? Is it closed up and healing, with lots of dried darker blood around it? Is it almost entirely healed?

For a wound that’s mostly healed, you may not need to progress with treatment at all. But if the wound is red, swollen and seeping, then it is infected.

Talk to a Vet

If the wound is bad, you should treat it. The vet will diagnose the issue. This is necessary because you could try to treat a condition that isn’t there, ignoring one that is.

There are even vets who specialize in small pets like rodents. Their advice can be invaluable, for both the recovery period and your overall care.

The vet will also prescribe medication where necessary. A gerbil with an infected wound will need to have that infection treated. Antibiotics are used. You must get these from a vet, because the antibiotics used depends on the bacteria present. Only a vet can tell you what bacteria are there.

Gerbil First Aid/Gerbil Wound Care

The first step in caring for any wound is to disinfect it. Disinfecting a wound stops bacteria from entering it. When they do, the wound becomes worse and can’t heal easily.

Using disinfectant is easy. You may already have some at home. Take a Q-Tip and dip it in disinfectant before gently cleaning the area around the wound. Don’t poke the wound as this can make it worse. Rub around it, and wash it over with some disinfectant instead.

You must then ensure that nothing around your pet can infect the wound. Dirty bedding is a significant factor in infections, especially if it contains feces and urine. The bacteria in waste, or rotting food, will proliferate throughout bedding, especially when wet.

If you haven’t put your gerbil in a separate cage, change the bedding in its current one. Follow bedding changing guidelines so that the gerbils don’t reject each other.

Aside from that, try to stop the gerbil from biting its wound. Consult with your pet’s vet. They may offer cones, like they do for other animals, but for gerbils. This will allow the wound to heal with a minimum of complications.

Administering Antibiotics to a Gerbil

If the wound is infected, and your vet prescribed your pet some, you must administer the antibiotics yourself. This is easy if your gerbil is well behaved, but it may not be.

The antibiotics are a liquid that you must squirt into your pet gerbil’s mouth. To do so, you’ll need a fluid medicine syringe. These aren’t the kind that has a needle. They have a short plastic spout that you squeeze the medicine through. To administer the antibiotics, follow this step-by-step guide:

  1. Take your gerbil from its cage. Do so by scooping your hands underneath it. Be careful not to hurt your pet any more than it already is.
  2. Hold the gerbil in your left hand if you’re right-handed, or vice versa. Hold the syringe in your dominant hand.
  3. Push the tip of the syringe gently into your gerbil’s mouth. Do so from the side at first, as this will encourage your pet to open its mouth.
  4. Squirt the antibiotics slowly. Allow your pet more than enough time to swallow so that it doesn’t choke.
  5. Finish the full dose each time you feed it to your pet. Place your pet back into its enclosure.

You must give your pet the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor. Don’t stop halfway through if your pet starts looking better than it did. There’s a chance the infection could come back. According to BBC News, it could also become resistant to the antibiotic.

Observe Your Pet

As your pet recovers, you must observe it to see how well it’s doing. This is a vital part of the process, because a gerbil’s health can change in an instant. An infection can spread from a wound to your pet’s bloodstream. This can cause sepsis and death within days.

So, observe your pet from the outside of its cage frequently. Each day, if possible, take it from its cage to give it a once over. Check its wound and whether its symptoms are improving.

Whether they are or they aren’t, continue with treatment. If they get worse, you may need to take your pet to the vet again. At this point, putting your pet to sleep may be the best option.