Gerbils are normally very hardy animals, but like other pets they can fall victim to various illnesses. Very often, when a problem is detected we will recommend that you take your gerbil to a vet.
We freely admit that the need to visit a vet can be an anxious time. What will the vet say? Will your gerbil be okay? How much will it cost? These questions reflect the natural concerns and practical considerations that will be going through your mind.
In this hub I have put together some important points of guidance, which will hopefully help you when the time comes to make that dreaded trip to the veterinary practice.
Young & Older Gerbils
Younger gerbils are usually fairly healthy, but do not take surface impressions for granted, especially among female gerbils involved with regular breeding activity.
Older gerbils, especially, will fall victim to health problems and need more than the usual attention. Watching their health condition in particular should definitely be a high priority in your gerbil care.
Learn All You Can
It is often said that a little knowledge is very dangerous, so spending time learning about your gerbils is one of the best investments you can make.
Learn about the health of your gerbils and the ailments that they may suffer from so that you can spot the telltale signs early on and thus stand a stronger chance of treating the condition before it is too late.
There are some very good books available on gerbil care and the best ones will have comprehensive sections devoted to the ailments that can afflict gerbils.
Gerbil Health: In Your Hands
In the end, the health of your gerbils is largely in your own hands. You are able to take action to prevent illness by good husbandry and you are the one that is in a position to see problems developing early on.
If the time comes when your gerbils need to visit a vet, your prompt action will help matters. Many conditions that are treated early on may be reversible, whereas procrastination can very often produce tragic results.
When To Locate A Vet For A Gerbil
The time to make enquiries about a suitable vet is when you first adopt your gerbils. Regardless of the cost, make arrangements to ensure that your gerbils get the highest possible veterinary care.
Finding an effective veterinary practice in advance is doubly important for gerbil carers. Some vets are not experienced with treating small animals and others have no interest in such animals.
High quality veterinary practices will have vets who are especially knowledgeable with semi exotic animals and pocket pets such as gerbils. Getting to know these highly trained professionals in advance pays dividends in the long run.
We have found that the best way to locate an effective vet is to ask other pet carers about their experiences. In a very short time you will be able to weigh up each practice and dismiss the ones that are clearly a waste of time. Draw up a shortlist of possible vets in your area and then go and visit them, to determine for yourself their suitability.
Organisations like The National Gerbil Society in the United Kingdom have a list of recommended vets. Again, such information will possibly help you make a decision.
A good veterinary practice should be willing to talk to you about your gerbils in advance and should understand your desire to find a vet that is effective.
We like to work with one vet in one practice, because this enables continuity to take place. Each time we see this vet we know that they will remember us from previous visits, which can prove important in many instances.
Once you have decided upon a suitable veterinary practice, write down the important information about them. Such details can include the name of your chosen veterinary practice, the individual vets name, the practice telephone number, address, and their normal hours of business.
Always remember that good vets love animals. They have every desire to help your gerbils to recover from the ailment they are facing. Try to be helpful and friendly when visiting your veterinary practice. This will not only foster a co-operative spirit, but will show the vet that you appreciate their efforts, on your gerbils behalf.
Transportation Of Gerbils
Moving your gerbils around can prove to be very unsettling for them. They wonder what is happening and stress could result. For these reasons transportation to and from the veterinary practice should be considered carefully before you set off.
You may find that it is practical to take your normal gerbil enclosure along to the vet. This has the advantage of keeping your gerbils in a known environment. But, if your enclosure is too big this may not be practical.
One very practical method of transportation is to use small plastic "Pet Pens" as supplied by Hagen. Your gerbils will not need loads of furnishings for these trips. Putting a shallow layer of shavings and maybe a wooden block into the pen will make your gerbils feel a little more at home during the journey.
If you take your gerbils to a vet by motor car it is always a good idea to take somebody along to hold onto their enclosure while you are travelling. Your assistant will be able to comfort the gerbils with a few soothing words as you travel and this will help make the journey a little less daunting for them.
Through experience we have found that gerbils start off by dashing about here, there and everywhere: mainly because of the strange environment. Such increased activity may also be the result of the vehicle moving as you travel and the noise of the engine.
When you get to your vet make sure you support your chosen form of transportation enclosure adequately. It is not unknown for the lower section of an enclosure to fall off while it is being carried. As you can imagine this could result in your gerbils escaping.
After seeing the vet apply the same principles to the return trip as you applied on the way there. You should find though that your gerbils will settle considerably on the way back home.
As we said at the beginning of this hub, these trips can cause stress. Such stress naturally follows from being placed in unfamiliar surroundings, so make sure that your gerbils are allowed plenty of time to recover afterwards.
Costs Of Taking A Gerbil To The Vet
One of the fears that people have when it comes to visiting the vet is the costs involved. It has to be said that these can be fairly high in many cases, though you should take this into consideration when deciding to adopt any pet, not when an illness strikes.
Some gerbil carers have faced very high veterinary bills and have been unable to pay these costs. Others have refused to take a obviously sick gerbil to a vet, simply because the cost of veterinary care far outstrips the initial cost of adopting their gerbil.
As we pointed out at the beginning, these situations could be avoided by careful planning in advance. Also, many countries have schemes to help people who cannot afford to meet the cost of veterinary bills.
In your country there may be similar schemes running that could benefit you and your gerbils. If you are facing financial hardships, why not contact your local or national animal welfare organisation and ask for details of such charitable organisations.
One way of spreading the costs of veterinary treatment is to join a club that may be run by your vet, where you pay a set amount each month. As another option you could have a bank account where you deposit an amount regularly, which will not only build up funds, but will earn interest all the time. In both these ways when an emergency strikes you will hopefully have the funds to meet the costs.
Others may turn to pet insurance schemes. These are becoming more and more popular all the time. In the early days these were restricted to larger pets like cats and dogs, but now you will find that they cater for smaller animals too.
We have negotiated a reasonable fee with our local veterinary practice, where they check a group of about ten gerbils together. If problems are detected with one or more gerbils a further charge would be made, but apart from this no further charge is made.
In the end though it is important that you plan in advance to meet those veterinary bills. Meeting these costs without planning is simply asking for difficulties. Caring for gerbils, in a responsible way, involves being prepared to meet all the costs of their care.
Euthanasia Of A Gerbil
We can all think of those painful memories when an animal that we have dearly loved has died, leaving a void in our lives, which at the time may seem impossible to fill. This sense of loss can be keenly felt by pet lovers of all age groups.
Euthanasia is the name given to putting an animal to sleep, in a humane way. Naturally, this produces strong emotions from pet carers, who see the procedure as resulting in one of their family members passing away.
Your vet will understand your attachment to your gerbil and will show compassion towards your feelings. But at the same time, your vet will act in the best interests of your gerbil and will recommend the best course of action, to relieve your gerbil of unnecessary suffering.
Usually you will have time, following a recommendation from your vet for euthanasia, to make a decision and discuss the situation with your family and friends.
This period of time is very important, because the decision will probably be the most difficult one you will ever have to make about your pet. Discussing the situation with others will help you to face matters and their support will provide an invaluable source of strength.
Equally important is the need to explain things clearly to younger members of the family. They will certainly find the loss of their cherished pet heartbreaking. Talking things over will help them to understand the situation and pave the way to possibly talking about death in a wider sense.
In the end, facing up to this very difficult decision, will prove heartbreaking. But, if your vet recommends this course of action, it is vital that you think about things from your gerbil's perspective.
If it becomes apparent that your pet gerbil is suffering, you need to steel yourself and show the necessary courage to enable your gerbil to have a painless end.
Following the death of your gerbil you will be able to reflect upon all the fine memories you have enjoyed together. These precious memories can remain with you for the rest of your life and nothing will take these away ...