Healthy gerbils thrive on a diet of commercial gerbil food paired with occasional treats of fresh fruits and vegetables. If your gerbil appears bloated, has a distended abdomen, is moving slowly, or is not regularly passing healthy moist stools, he may be constipated and in need of treatment. While you're taking care of that, ensure you're feeding him right.
Normal Causes of Constipation
Gerbils become constipated for a variety of reasons. Dehydration from a lack of water can cause a rodent to eliminate small, hard, dry stools and to suffer from constipation, as can a diet of fatty foods such as nuts. Gerbils who gets no variety in their diets or who don't exercise regularly can become prone to constipation. Beware when you cage a female gerbil with a male: Some pregnancy symptoms mimic the symptoms of constipation. If babies are on the way you might rue it wasn't constipation.
Medical Causes of Constipation
Some signs of constipation are related to underlying medical causes -- an enlarged liver, a tumor or a bowel obstruction, for instance. Other causes of constipation can include internal parasites or an intestinal condition in which a portion of the intestines protrude through the anus, either of which requires immediate medical attention. Gerbils with underlying health problems may be listless and have a limited appetite. A qualified vet can determine whether your gerbil has a medical problem or simply needs more fibrous foods in its diet.
Make sure your gerbil has a constant supply of clean water and that his feeding bottle is in good working condition. Add high-fiber treats to his diet, like green vegetables. Celery, in particular, has a high water and fiber content. Don’t give your gerbil more than he can eat in one setting; remove uneaten fresh foods after one day so they don't spoil in the enclosure.
Gerbil illnesses can progress quickly; if your gerbil is behaving unusually and is more inactive than usual, consult a vet. Never give your gerbil laxatives or fiber supplements designed for humans, which can create significant problems in the gerbil’s small intestinal tract. Instead, follow your doctor’s suggestions for treating your pet. In some instances, constipation is associated with normal aging and physical decline, in which the best course of treatment is palliative or comfort-giving care.
Nibbler image by Pushpangadan from Fotolia.com
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.