Gerbils’ Noses Are Bleeding

Why would gerbils have what appears to be blood on their nose?

What looks like blood may well just be porphyrin-tinged tears. Via Jeroen/Flickr
What looks like blood may well just be porphyrin-tinged tears. Via Jeroen/Flickr

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS


Both of my gerbils’ noses are bleeding. They are 2 years old, and they both have a cataract in one of their eyes. Is there any reason their noses would be bleeding? The blood is not very thick; there is just a little bit on the nose, just a tiny little bit.


Although what you see on your gerbils’ noses may be blood, it is more likely that what you have observed are porphyrin-tinged tears. These tears is common in gerbils and some other mammals.

Porphyrins are important compounds and have various functions. Porphyrins have a reddish color and these compounds are found normally in tears. They are produced by a structure called the Hardarian gland that is next to the eye. If too much porphyrin-tinged tears are produced, the tears can stain the skin and hair around the eyes and nose; this condition is called chromodacryorrhea.

Due to the red color of the porphyrins, it is easy to mistake this for blood. If you were able to look at this discharge under a microscope, you would see a red-stained liquid; no red blood cells or any cells are in the discharge.

Infection, stress or diet change may cause an excess amount of porphyrins to be released into the tears causing this red-appearing discharge. The only way for you to know if this is just a slightly abnormal amount of porphyrin discharge into the tears versus chromodacryorrhea caused by a disease process is to take both your gerbils to your veterinarian for an exam.

See all of Dr. Rosenthal’s Critter Q&A articles

Article Categories:
Critters · Gerbils

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