You may know that the life expectancy of the common Mongolian pet gerbil is not very high. Elderly gerbils are so-called usually from the age of three. With that their needs may change.
When gerbils age
Once having reached their golden years, elderly gerbils tend to sleep more than usual. It's important they get their rest and are left undisturbed during these times. It can sometimes be necessary to reduce the amount of time spent outside of their cage.
Make sure to always keep them away from draughty areas or sudden/significant changes in temperature. Ideally you should keep them in a room at 20°C.
With age, your gerbil may be more likely to suffer from diarrhoea or develop certain illnesses such as a tumour. Stomach-related tumours, for example, tend to occur more often in male gerbils. Tumours can be benign or malignant, however it's always recommended to take your gerbil to a vet to have a proper medical examination. Ulcers should also be checked out by a vet.
Don't forget to check your gerbil's teeth regularly in case of a misaligned jaw. Younger gerbils tend to gnaw on anything not moving, so teeth can be damaged in the earlier years. This can cause problems later, as well as at the time. As elderly gerbils spend more time sleeping and less on gnawing and eating, their teeth may become longer and problematic.
Elderly gerbils also have different nutritional needs. For example, their protein intake shouldn't exceed 13%. You should therefore reduce the quantity of insects to two per month (younger, healthy gerbils can have one insect per week).
Consumption of water may increase in elderly males but this is normal and is nothing to be concerned about.
Consider the agility and manoeuvrability of your ageing gerbil - they may need their environment readjusted to suit their needs. Don't hesitate to place toys and climbing accessories lower down, but keep the same number of hiding places (a few different beds, nooks and crannies will go down a treat!).
If your gerbil suffers from arthritis or paralysis, you can reduce the thickness of their litter slightly if it is bulkier or they like to burrow into. This way, the mounds that they can make will be smaller and therefore be easier to climb when they have difficulty moving.
It's important to keep your gerbil's environment clean and comfortable, but try to return everything back to its original place after cleaning. Moving items around their regularly can increase stress for your tiny fur friend.
Taking care of your gerbil will become even more important as they grow older. However, don't stress - just because they are old doesn't mean that they will become ill. But as the saying goes, prevention is always better than a cure!
What did you notice change with your elderly gerbil?