Tyzzer’s Disease in Gerbils

PetMD Editorial
Jul 19, 2010
3 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Clostridium piliforme Bacterial Infection in Gerbils

Among the infectious bacterial diseases that affect gerbils, Tyzzer’s disease is the one of the most frequently occurring. The bacteria that causes this infection, Clostridium piliforme, is spread when gerbils ingest contaminated food or water supplies, resulting in severe abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Young or stressed gerbils are at an increased risk of infection due to a compromised immune system, and gerbils that are suffering from other previous illnesses or infections are at an increased risk of a fatal outcome.

Symptoms and Types

  • Hunched posture
  • Rough hair coat
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain from intestinal infection
  • Dehydration

Causes

The Clostridium piliforme bacteria which causes Tyzzer's disease is mainly transmitted through ingestion of contaminated feces, food or water, and/or contact with contaminated bedding material.

Diagnosis

This infection is difficult to diagnose with current diagnostic procedures. A blood test can be performed, but the results are often not conclusive. Observing the clinical symptoms exhibited, through a process called differential diagnosis, may be the preferred method for your veterinarian in diagnosing this infection. This process is guided by deeper inspection of the apparent outward symptoms, ruling out each of the more common causes until the correct disorder is settled upon and can be treated appropriately.

Your veterinarian will also collect fecal and blood samples from your gerbil for culturing and possible identification of the bacterial species that is responsible for the infection.

Treatment

The veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to treat the Tyzzer’s disease. If it is suffering from dehydration due to diarrhea, fluid, electrolyte, and other forms of supportive therapy may be necessary. Your veterinarian may also prescribe vitamin and mineral supplements to help improve your gerbil's health status and immune system.

Living and Management

You will need to segregate any gerbil that has been infected with Tyzzer’s disease from other gerbils. A pet gerbil that is recovering from Tyzzer’s disease will be very weak and will need attentive care, as this infection can quickly take a turn for the worse, even with appropriate care. Consult your veterinarian regarding the diet that should be fed to your gerbil during the recovery period.

You can help minimize the chance of this infection spreading to other gerbils by practicing strict hygienic procedures, and by practicing personal cleanliness by washing your hands thoroughly in-between attending to your gerbils.

Your gerbil's cages will need to be thoroughly cleaned, and you will also need to discard all of the bedding materials, replacing them with new, freshly laundered bedding materials. Food dishes will also need to be thoroughly cleaned, or discarded if they cannot be sanitized sufficiently.

Prevention

Tyzzer’s disease is contagious and is mainly transmitted through the ingestion of food and water that has been contaminated with infected feces, and bedding material that has been contaminated with feces or urine from an infected gerbil. Hygiene is one of the most essential preventatives you can employ in the health of your gerbil. Tyzzer’s disease is contagious and is mainly transmitted through the ingestion of food and water that has been contaminated with infected feces, and bedding material that has been contaminated with feces or urine from an infected gerbil.

Properly cleaning your gerbil's living cages regularly, removing any feces and urine from the cage, and changing soiled bedding material routinely are essential for the prevention of this and other types of infection. As much as possible, try to avoid housing gerbils of different age groups together, and at least quarantining new gerbils from the older ones until a period of contamination has passed. Your veterinarian can advise you on the appropriate length of time for quarantining both new gerbils into a group, and gerbils that have been found to carry the C. piliforme bacterium. Following these simple steps will go a long way in helping to prevent the spread of this infection in gerbils.

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