Q: My gerbils sometimes lose some of their fur near their nose, but it grows back after awhile. Recently, though, both of them had some missing fur around their ears. What could cause this? I want my gerbils to get better.
A: There are many reasons why gerbils, and other rodents, lose their fur. Some of these are natural reasons, sometimes it is trauma, sometimes it is infection or sometimes internal disease can cause this.
It is difficult for you to determine the cause without the help of a veterinarian. There are a few things you can do before you visit the veterinarian to make sure this is not a medical problem.
First, look at your gerbils’ skin. Is the skin normal or is the skin red, raised, bumpy, scratched or bleeding? If any of these things are present, then a disease of the skin could be causing fur loss and your veterinarian will need to examine your gerbils to determine what is causing this fur loss.
With more than one gerbil, it is possible, although less likely in gerbils than in other rodents (or rabbits) that the gerbils maybe “barbering” each other and causing the fur loss. This is easily diagnosed by separating the gerbils and watching to see if the fur continues to fall out, even when they are separated.
The next step is to determine if there is something in the cage that your gerbils are rubbing against that is causing the fur to fall out. Look for fur in the cage. Is it located in one area? If so, re-arrange the cage and see if this stops the fur loss in your gerbils.
Are there other signs? An upper respiratory infection can cause fur loss due to discharge around the nose and eyes. An ectoparasite infection can cause fur loss. This is difficult to diagnose at home but easy for your veterinarian to diagnose and usually safe to treat and cure.
I recommend that you start with the easy things at home. If your gerbils are not better, a visit to your veterinarian should prove very useful for your gerbils.