how do gerbils get mites

How Gerbils Get Mites

Have you ever experienced your gerbil suddenly becoming restless, constantly scratching, biting itself, and exhibiting symptoms like redness, inflammation, hair loss, and scabbing on its skin? If your answer is yes, then your gerbil is likely infected with mites. Mites are tiny parasites that live on a pet’s skin, feeding on the host’s blood, causing severe discomfort and health issues. In this article, I will guide you through the reasons, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of gerbil mite infections, as well as effective measures for preventing mite infestations. Hopefully, this information will help you and your gerbil enjoy a happy and healthy time together.

What Are Mites

Mites are microscopic arthropods belonging to the arachnid class, with a body length typically ranging from 0.1 to 0.5 millimeters, making them hard to see with the naked eye. There are various types of mites, and some can parasitize pets, such as ear mites, fur mites, and burrowing mites. These parasites burrow into the pet’s skin or ear canal, feed on the host’s blood or skin flakes, and may secrete toxic substances, leading to inflammation, itching, hair loss, and scab formation on the host’s skin. The lifespan of mites usually ranges from weeks to months, and they reproduce on the host, exacerbating the infection. Mite infestations not only affect the pet’s appearance and comfort but also compromise their immune system, increasing the risk of other diseases.

Causes of Gerbil Mite Infections

Gerbils, being adorable and intelligent pets, engage in activities such as digging, playing, and nibbling within their enclosures. However, these activities may expose them to sources of mites, leading to infections. Here are common reasons gerbils may contract mites:

Poor hygiene in the living environment: If the bedding, food, water, toys, and other items in the enclosure are not regularly replaced and cleaned, it can foster bacteria and parasites, including mites. These mites can climb onto the gerbil’s body from the bedding or toys, or enter their digestive system through contaminated food or water, causing an infection.

Contact with infected pets: If your gerbil shares an enclosure with other pets already infected with mites, or if it interacts with other animals outside, it can easily get infected. Mites can spread through direct body contact or indirect contact with items.

Use of contaminated bedding or toys: Purchasing bedding or toys from a store where these items were previously used for mite-infected pets can introduce mite eggs or larvae. Placing such items in your gerbil’s enclosure exposes it to the threat of mites.

Weakened immune system: Gerbils under stress, malnutrition, illness, or aging may experience a weakened immune system, making them susceptible to mite infestations. Even without direct contact with mites, they may activate dormant mites within their skin or ear canals, leading to an infection.

Symptoms of Gerbil Mite Infections

Scratching and self-biting: The most common and easily noticeable symptoms include intense itching, causing gerbils to scratch or bite themselves in an attempt to alleviate the discomfort caused by mites. This behavior can result in injuries, bleeding, anxiety, and nervousness.

Redness and inflammation: When mites invade or injure the gerbil’s skin, it can lead to redness, inflammation, oozing, and scab formation. These conditions make the gerbil’s skin more sensitive and painful, increasing the risk of bacterial or fungal infections. Ear mites, in particular, can affect the ear canal, impacting the gerbil’s hearing and balance.

Hair loss and scabbing: The stimulation or injury caused by mites can make the gerbil’s fur dry, brittle, and prone to breakage, leading to hair loss and the development of bald patches. Black or brown scabs may also appear on the gerbil’s skin, formed by the secretion or coagulation of mite fluids or blood. These scabs make the gerbil’s skin rough and unattractive.

Behavioral changes: Gerbils infected with mites may exhibit alterations in their personalities and behavior. They may become more solitary, timid, irritable, and less willing to interact with other gerbils or humans. Loss of appetite, lethargy, and a decrease in curiosity may also occur, making gerbils appear lazy and dispirited. These behavioral changes affect both the psychological and physiological health of gerbils, impacting their relationships with owners.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis: Veterinarians can perform a skin or ear scraping examination to observe whether the collected sample contains mites or their eggs. This method is a relatively simple and quick way to determine whether a gerbil is infected with mites, as well as the type and severity of the infection.

Treatment: Depending on the type and severity of mites affecting the gerbil, veterinarians will prescribe suitable treatments. Common methods include topical and oral acaricides, such as ivermectin, sulfur ointment, and sulfur baths. These medications effectively kill mites, alleviate gerbil symptoms, and promote skin healing. During treatment, it is crucial to follow the veterinarian’s instructions, administering medication to the gerbil in the prescribed amount and timeframe to avoid overdosing or adverse reactions. Additionally, natural remedies like coconut oil, tea tree oil, and lavender oil can be applied to the gerbil’s skin to offer antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and soothing effects, enhancing the gerbil’s immune system. However, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian before using these natural remedies to prevent adverse reactions.

Clean and Disinfect: Simultaneously with treating the gerbil, it is vital to thoroughly clean and disinfect its living environment to prevent reinfestation. Clean the gerbil’s enclosure, bedding, food, water, and toys by washing them with hot water or using disinfectants. If necessary, replace some bedding or toys. Additionally, clean and disinfect items that the gerbil has come into contact with, such as towels, brushes, and clothing, to prevent the presence of mite eggs or larvae.

Preventing Gerbil Mite Infections

Regularly clean and disinfect the enclosure: Since the enclosure is the primary living space for gerbils, maintaining its cleanliness and hygiene is crucial. It is recommended to clean and disinfect the enclosure at least once a week, replacing or cleaning all of the gerbil’s bedding, food, water, toys, etc., by soaking them in hot water or disinfectant and then allowing them to dry. This reduces the likelihood of gerbils coming into contact with mites and enhances their comfort.

Choose uncontaminated bedding and toys: Bedding and toys are essential for gerbils’ entertainment and relaxation, so opting for uncontaminated options is key. Choose natural materials like wood shavings, cotton, tissues, wooden sticks, wooden balls, etc., which provide a comfortable and safe environment for gerbils. Before purchasing bedding and toys, check for any odors, colors, or foreign substances. If present, avoid using them. Before use, soak the bedding and toys in hot water or disinfectant, then allow them to dry to increase safety.

Isolate and observe new gerbils: If you plan to introduce a new companion to your gerbil, isolate and observe the new gerbil first to prevent potential mite or other disease transmission. Place the new gerbil in a separate enclosure, observe its behavior, appetite, spirit, excrement, and check its skin, ears, eyes, nose, etc., for any signs of redness, inflammation, hair loss, or scabbing. If any issues arise, promptly take the new gerbil to the veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. Generally, new gerbils should undergo isolation and observation for two to four weeks. If no problems arise, they can safely interact with other gerbils.

Regularly groom and check gerbil fur: The gerbil’s fur is an essential protective layer and a sign of its beauty, so regular grooming is necessary to remove impurities and dead hair, maintaining the fur’s gloss and health. Simultaneously, use this opportunity to check the gerbil’s skin for any abnormalities such as redness, inflammation, hair loss, or scabbing. If such symptoms are discovered, promptly take the gerbil to the veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. It is recommended to groom gerbils at least once a week using soft and clean brushes or combs, gently combing from head to tail to avoid skin damage.

Improve hygiene and gerbil resistance: In addition to cleaning and disinfecting the enclosure, attention should be given to improving the hygiene and comfort of the gerbil’s environment. Provide appropriate temperature, humidity, lighting, and ventilation conditions, avoiding exposure to cold, dampness, darkness, or heat. Also, enhance the gerbil’s resistance by offering a balanced, fresh, and clean diet and water. Avoid feeding gerbils expired, spoiled, or food containing preservatives or additives to prevent damage to their digestion and immune systems. Additionally, provide gerbils with opportunities for adequate exercise and play, maintaining a happy and lively mindset to strengthen their physical and mental well-being.


Mite infestations pose a severe threat to the health of gerbils, causing discomfort and various symptoms that may lead to their demise. Thus, it is crucial to take effective measures to prevent and treat gerbil mite infections. Maintaining proper care and hygiene is key, providing gerbils with a clean, hygienic, and comfortable living environment, offering uncontaminated bedding and toys, regularly grooming and checking their fur, and improving their hygiene and resistance. If symptoms of mite infection are observed, timely consult a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment, using appropriate medications or natural remedies to eliminate mites, alleviate gerbil suffering, and promote recovery. Only through these measures can we enjoy a happy and healthy time with our gerbils.

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