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Gen B.
Gen B., Retired Veterinary Technician
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 2227
Experience:  Dog, Guinea Pig, Hamster, Gerbil breeder / Reptile Keeper / Bunny-Ferret-Exotic Specialist
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I have a gerbil who is usually bright and alert, though somewhat

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I have a gerbil who is usually bright and alert, though somewhat overweight. He's less than a year old. Last night I noticed that he was extremely reluctant to move, hunched up in his house with his eyes half closed and seemed in distress. I believe he might be constipated. I have read some of the answers given to others with gerbils who seem to be constipated. I've tried giving him some lettuce, and he nibbled a bit, but I don't think it was enough to help. In lieu of vegetable oil (I don't have any) can I try some olive oil? If it is constipation, how long can it go on before it becomes a danger to the gerbil?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Gen B. replied 7 years ago.
Why do you feel he is constipated?

Are there stool pellets in his cage?

What is his usual diet?

What kinds of bedding do you use?

Any fiber "nest" materials?

Is he underweight?
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

I have a 20 gallon long tank with a cage topper on it. The cage portion has some boards for their comfort. I actually have two gerbils, they're brothers. The one that is sick has sat on the boards for several hours and not produced any pellets. I also haven't seen any evidence of urine from him.


I am leaning toward him being constipated because he still took a sunflower seed from me when I offered it to him, and he was at the water bottle earlier. He is not underweight, he is actually a bit overweight.


I use carefresh bedding and do not use any fiber nest materials as I had already been warned that they could cause problems with blockage as well as wrapping around their limbs and causing harm.


His usual diet consists of the commercial gerbil mix you can get at Walmart, Petsmart or Petco with the mix of seeds and what look to be cereal pieces. He also gets seeds - sunflower, pumpkin, watermelon, etc (it is a bag also purchased at Petsmart called Extreme select seeds by Browns). I also have a mix of raisins, papaya and rose hips. Fresh hay at least once a week, a pressed hay cube is in there, and pressed cubes of mouse/gerbil/hamster food. I gave him a piece of broccoli two days ago and he ate some of it.


If anything, I am guilty of giving too many treats, I think. I occasionally give them mealworms, which they enjoy, but haven't done so in several weeks.

Expert:  Gen B. replied 7 years ago.
Hello and thanks for researching this very important question!

First off, I have to mention the possibility of pregnancy in an animal that may have been misidentified as male. Gerbils are the most subtle of the rodent species in this regard, so you might want to examine his underside for the presence of nipples. What does he do if you put in some lengths of toilet paper?
Gender assignment diagrams here.

It is unusual for animals that eat fibrous plants and oily seeds to become constipated without some other health condition at play. Oils are very hard on the digestive organs, so natural plant matter such as cooked oatmeal or baby food squash are best and safest.

Some animals come home from pet stores incubating viral illnesses that do not show up for some time. Or they might be carrying bacterial or fungal agents that can cause problems.

If you suspect he is dehydrated, then a consultation with a veterinarian who knows what to do and how to do it safely is best:
Exotic Mammal Veterinarian directory here.

Fluids can be given under the skin to improve hydration, preserve the kidneys and get some water into his bowels. An antibiotic may be prescribed if the vet suspects an infective illness.

There is now a well-established association between raisins, grapes and kidney failure in dogs. For this reason, I do not give any of my pets grapes or raisin. I use dried cranberries as a Vitamin C source for my rodent colonies.

Animals living in the wild can well run off the excess calories in large oily seeds and fruit, so I would suggest the following diet recipe:

1) 1 3-pound bag of traditional Hamster/Gerbil seed mix.
2) 1 box original style Grape Nuts cereal (by Post).
3) 1 pouch of dried cranberries
4) 2 cups mixed seeds (Brown's)

The pressed hay blocks are full of sugar, and may even be rancid, so stick with loose Timothy Hay.

If mealworms gross you out, or are inconvenient to get, boil an egg, cool to room temperature, put it whole (with shell on) in a plastic bag and smash it with a rolling pin. Feed a pinch for each animal daily.

If you need additional support at this time, please "REPLY" again.

Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Oddly enough, it was because of a mix up in gender when my girlfriend bought her gerbils that I even have any. Her pair gave birth to a relatively small litter (3 total) and they were all males. Her husband checked multiple times to make absolutely sure that the two I got were both males.


The other reason I don't think this is a case of pregnancy is that he's not moving very much. He's hunched up and moves reluctantly even when I touch him (they're not used to being picked up). Also, if this were a case of pregnancy, I would expect to see nesting behavior, in which case the gerbil would either be in the house on the second level, or down in the tank where the bulk of the bedding is, creating a nest area for the babies.


Both gerbils will be a year old at the end of May. They've never been exposed to pet store conditions - I got them from my girlfriend when they were 8 weeks old and weaned.


Since there is an absence of pellets, and he's hunched up as if his tummy hurts, I'm thinking it's either constipation or some sort of blockage, though I don't know what may have caused a blockage.


What remedies can I try for constipation?

Expert:  Gen B. replied 7 years ago.

As I mentioned above, you should try things that will draw water into his bowels: cooked oatmeal (room temperature) or baby food squash from a jar. Plain raw oil will be too harsh, and will actually dehydrate him more.

It is uncommon for a Gerbil to become constipated in the absence of some other serious health condition that has caused dehydration. That is, the dehydration causes the bowels to stop working properly, and the constipation is actually a complication of whatever made him sick in the first place.

Since you are not seeing much urine, this is likely, but would require medical assistance in person.
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