A respiratory infection is one of the worst illnesses that can affect gerbils, so prompt treatment is essential. You can’t cure this medical condition on your own, so you’ll need assistance from a vet.
A vet will prescribe the right type of antibiotics for your gerbil’s respiratory infection. Hold your gerbil and squeeze the antibiotic fluid into its mouth with a syringe. Treatment can last for a week or more. Clean your pet’s cage to prevent the symptoms from reoccurring.
If you notice your gerbil has a respiratory infection, see a vet as soon as possible. Only a vet can prescribe the antibiotics that are needed, and advise you on how to administer them correctly.
Gerbil Respiratory Infection Symptoms
Gerbil respiratory infections are like those that humans can get. The symptoms are similar to those that you’ll observe in people. We’ll now look at the signs.
Clicking Noise when Breathing
When an animal gets a respiratory infection, it produces lots of mucus. According to the Archives of Pharmaceutical Research, mucus is useful, in that it catches and traps bacteria so that your body can get rid of it. This protects the nose, throat, and lungs from infection.
However, it can also get in the way. Mucus is a physical obstruction that prevents easy breathing. One way in which it affects gerbils is that your pet’s breathing will make a ‘clicking’ sound.
The inflammation exacerbates this issue. The bacteria or viruses which cause respiratory infection to affect the tissue lining the nose and throat. This makes these tissues expand (inflammation). This leaves even less room for air to get through.
Gerbil breathing problems don’t stop there. Because your gerbil’s nose and throat are obstructed, it will take big, heavy breaths. This will cause a wheezing sound as the air whistles through your gerbil’s narrowed airways.
If the infection is particularly severe, you will notice other associated breathing problems. Your gerbil may begin breathing through its mouth rather than its nose. Gerbils will normally breathe through their nostrils. But if their noses are entirely obstructed, they can’t.
As well as taking bigger breaths, your gerbil may also take more frequent breaths. Gerbils already breathe much quicker than people do, so it may be difficult to spot this symptom.
Coughing and Sneezing
Because your gerbil’s airways are blocked, it will try and clear them by coughing and sneezing. Sneezing is an involuntary action that happens when your nose is full of mucus.
The brain forces the muscles of the lungs and throat to shoot air out quickly. Ideally, the mucus blocking your pet’s nose will shoot out. This is good in that it clears your gerbil’s airways, but it also allows the infection to spread.
Coughing can either be voluntary or involuntary. The idea behind it is the same, as it clears the airways of mucus. Both coughing and sneezing are useful during a respiratory infection.
Runny Nose and Eyes
Think back to when you had a cold or the flu. If you’re like most people, then your eyes and nose would have been running. Your nose will drip, and your eyes will water when you sneeze and cough.
The same happens to gerbils that have a ‘cold.’ Your pet’s nose will run because it’s full of mucus. Your gerbil’s eyes will also run because it’s sneezing and coughing all the time.
There’s nothing you can do to fix this problem, like you would by wiping your eyes or blowing your nose. All you can do is get rid of your pet’s respiratory infection and the symptoms will disappear.
Changes in Behavior
A sick gerbil behaves differently to normal. These changes are caused by a lack of energy, as well as an instinctual desire to prevent the illness from spreading. According to PLoS One, this happens in gerbils with respiratory infections.
The first thing that you’ll see is a decrease in activity. Your gerbil will sleep for longer than usual because it feels less energetic. Your gerbil may also sleep in unusual positions, e.g. with its nose pointed at an upward angle.
When your gerbil is awake, it won’t move around as much. It won’t get excited and scurry about like it used to. It will spend less time eating, too, because its appetite is gone.
Your gerbil will also isolate itself from the other gerbils in its enclosure. It will sit in the corner rather than interacting with the others. It may also sleep separately, e.g. in the corner of the cage.
If you spot all of these signs together, then a respiratory infection is likely the cause. Even if you only spot one or two, it may still be the issue.
Gerbil Respiratory Infection Treatment
If your gerbil has a respiratory infection, you should waste no time in treating it. Gerbils only live short lives and can experience many health issues. This means that a respiratory infection usually gets worse rather than better.
The most effective way to treat a respiratory infection is with antibiotics. There are also several things you can do to make your gerbil more comfortable and likely to recover. You must also think about preventing your other pets from catching the same infection.
1) Identify the Condition
Before starting on any treatment regimen, you must make a complete diagnosis. Look for the symptoms above. The clicking noise is of main concern, as the other symptoms may come from other conditions.
But even if you’re fairly sure of your diagnosis, don’t rely on it. You should take your gerbil to the vet for a professional’s opinion. They can tell for sure whether the problem is a respiratory infection, or something else.
2) Is Gerbil Respiratory Infection Contagious?
Respiratory infections are highly contagious. A gerbil with a ‘cold’ will cough and sneeze regularly, which spreads the illness. It will also use the same water bottle as the other gerbils in the cage.
You need to isolate the gerbil that you think is sick. Put it in its own small enclosure for the time being. This enclosure should be lined with bedding, and have everything your pet needs. You must keep your sick gerbil separated from the others until it has taken all the antibiotics.
3) Antibiotics for Gerbil Respiratory Infection
Most respiratory infections are serious enough that they require antibiotics. You will only get the right kind from your vet, which is another reason you need to see them. The specific antibiotic which your vet will prescribe depends on the kind of bacteria affecting your gerbil’s respiratory system.
The antibiotics will be liquid. To administer antibiotics, you’ll need a small syringe. Administering the antibiotics isn’t simple, unless your gerbil is well behaved. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Fill the syringe with antibiotics. If the syringe is pre-filled by your vet, skip this step.
- Take your pet in your hand. Hold it securely, but not by squeezing or hurting it.
- Take the syringe and hold it against the corner of your gerbil’s mouth.
- Gently move the syringe side to side until your gerbil accepts it into its mouth.
- Empty the antibiotics slowly into your pet’s mouth. Allow it time to swallow both during and after the procedure.
Your gerbil likely won’t enjoy this while it’s happening. It may try to get away from you, or avoid the syringe. If this is the case, try putting your gerbil on a flat surface. Cover it with your hand and try these steps again.
4) Allow the Antibiotics to Work
Antibiotics don’t cure conditions immediately. They usually take a little time, perhaps a week or two, to work fully. The length of the prescription depends on how bad the issue is.
You must feed your gerbil the full course of antibiotics. Even if your gerbil seems to have gotten better after a day or two, you must continue feeding the antibiotics for as long as your vet advised.
The reason for this is that some of the bacteria may have survived. According to the BMJ, bacteria naturally develops a slight resistance to antibiotics over time. Completing the full course of antibiotics prevents this from happening.
5) Fresh Air and Exercise
A respiratory infection is made much worse by humidity and stale air. Humidity allows bacteria to flourish, while fresh air is invigorating. That’s why people used to travel to seaside towns to recover from the flu and similar ailments.
So, to help your gerbil, encourage it to exercise and get out of its cage. In your gerbil’s makeshift cage, ensure that it has an exercise wheel. This will allow your pet to exercise when it feels ready.
You should also take your gerbil from its cage on occasion and allow it to run around. The novelty of being allowed to run around should perk your pet’s spirits. As you usually would, create a run for your gerbil to run through and block off any exits and entrances beforehand.
Time this right, because your gerbil needs to rest before this will be of benefit. So, only start allowing your gerbil out when it becomes more active.
Can You Put Gerbil Antibiotics in Water Bottle?
Feeding your pet its antibiotics can be tough. To overcome the problem, you may want to put the antibiotics in a water bottle for your pets to drink.
However, this doesn’t work. You should only give your gerbil antibiotics in the way described above. This method doesn’t work because:
- Gerbils only drink occasionally. In the wild, gerbils hardly drink at all, instead of getting their water from food. In captivity, this means gerbils only drink infrequently, so they wouldn’t get enough antibiotics.
- Antibiotics break down when exposed to light. This happens quickly, so the antibiotics in the water would stop having an effect quickly.
- Dosage would be off. With antibiotics, you have to take precisely the right amount otherwise they may not work.
Even if it’s stressful for your gerbil, holding it still is the only way. You can make your gerbil feel better afterwards by playing with it, or leaving it alone if that’s what it wants.
Preventing Respiratory Infection in Gerbils
As well as treating a respiratory infection, you must also prevent it. If you don’t, you’ll have to go back to the vet. And, of course, your gerbils will be unhappy and unhealthy.
How Do Gerbils Get Respiratory Infections?
Gerbils catch respiratory infections because they’re contagious. Bacteria and viruses are the cause. You can prevent respiratory infections by keeping your gerbil’s cage clean. Regularly spot cleaning the cage is the best way to do this. Semi-regular deep cleans help too.
You can also pass on a respiratory infection to your pet. So, if you ever have a cold, it’s possible that you could give it to your gerbil. To avoid this, don’t handle your gerbil when you’re sick.
And once one gerbil has a respiratory infection, it will pass it on to the others in the cage. So, the moment you see that one gerbil is sick, isolate it from the rest.
Check for Symptoms Regularly
Many owners get a pet, and are initially excited at caring for it. But over time, they lose interest, and their pet is neglected. This is harmful in more ways than one:
- Your pet won’t get enough food
- Your gerbil will become bored and unhappy
- Your pet will become sick
Neglect causes sickness because you won’t notice symptoms before they become severe. The early stages of most conditions are easy to miss if you don’t spend time with your pet. So, one of the best ways to prevent severe respiratory infection in gerbils is regular playtime.
Every time you take your pet from its cage, give it a once-over. Take your pet in your hand and check its nose and eyes. It should be alert and responsive. Check your pet’s underside and look at its scent gland for tumors.
Lower the Humidity
One major issue which exacerbates respiratory infections is humidity. The higher the humidity, the more likely an infection becomes, and the worse an infection will get. That’s because bacteria need moisture to thrive. Humidity in gerbil cages is caused by:
- Spilled water
- The natural process of breathing
- Humidity in the air around the home
Humidity can be a problem with glass gerbil cages. Glass doesn’t allow any moisture to escape. Over time, all of the moisture builds up, especially if you never open the cage. This helps bacteria grow, which in turn can cause infections.
To correct this issue, clean your gerbil’s habitat regularly. Replacing soiled bedding stops it from releasing humidity over time. Check that your pet’s water bottle isn’t leaking. And if you don’t already have one, buy a mesh topper for your gerbil’s cage.