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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 28934
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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My male gerbil has something wrong, it started out with loss

Customer Question

My male gerbil has something wrong, it started out with loss of hair around his nose and what looked like crusted blood. I have removed all the plastic tubes he was chewing thinking he was scratching himself. Now his left eye is constantly swollen and crusted closed. I have been using baby wipes to clean it but it never goes away and he is losing hi hair by his eye and the skin is red. The closet exotic pet vet is 3hrs away. What should I do? His cage mate is fine.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

Facial eczema, sore nose, and nasal dermatitis all describe a common skin condition seen in gerbils. Clinical lesions adjacent to the external nares (nostrils) appear erythematous (reddened) initially; these lesions progress to localized alopecia and then to an extensive moist dermatitis. The cause is believed to be an increase in the secretion of porphyrins by the harderian gland which acts as a primary skin irritant. Various staphylococcal species (S. aureus and S. xylosus) may act synergistically to produce the dermatitis and conjunctivitis you're currently seeing. Stress may cause excessive harderian gland secretion. Two examples of stress are overcrowding and exposure to an environmental humidity of greater than 50% which causes the fur coat to stand out and appear matted.

Gerbils require sand baths to keep their coats from becoming oily. Keeping Daryl is a dry environment, cleaning his face with over the counter chlorhexidine (Hebiclens in your local pharmacy), and providing soft clay or sand bedding instead of abrasive wood chip bedding will usually alleviate the problem. You can also use both topical (Terramycin opthalmic ointment* can be used on both his skin and on his eye) or parenteral antibiotics prescribed by a pocket-pet vet in gerbils with severe dermatitis. Over the counter Neosporin or Polysporin (or generic triple antibiotic ointments) are good choices for his skin but not for his eye.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.