Alopecia in Gerbils
Alopecia is the complete or partial loss of hair in areas where it is normally present. This is a common disorder in gerbils and depending on the underlying cause, it can be treated.
Symptoms and Types
Alopecia is extremely noticeable, characterized as a varied or symmetrical loss of hair. Other signs include:
- Weight loss
- Scaling of the skin
- Skin inflammation
- Severe itching and reddening of the skin (especially in the case of ectoparasite infestations)
Gerbils may lose patches of hair on many parts of their body. For example, if the gerbil has lost hair on its face, it may be due to the constant rubbing on the metal cage feeders constantly or its excessive burrowing. Meanwhile, hair loss in the tail and hindquarter areas can result from cage overcrowding, fighting wounds, and hair chewing by cage mates. Hair loss may also be due to nutritional reasons like vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Finally, the presence of ectoparasites on gerbils, such as ticks and mites, can lead to itching, rubbing, and subsequent hair loss.
Other than conducting a thorough medical history on the gerbil, your veterinarian may run blood tests on the animal (in the case of nutritional deficiencies) or microscopically examine skin scrapings (in the case of ectoparasitic infestations) to diagnosis the alopecia.
If your gerbil is suffering from parasites such as ticks or mites, your veterinarian might advocate the use of paraciticidal agents to eradicate the infestation. If the hair loss is due to a nutritional cause, on the other hand, the veterinarian might prescribe some vitamin and mineral supplements to help overcome the deficiency. Oral corticosteroids and anti-histaminic agents or topical corticosteroid-based ointments may also be applied to help control itch-related alopecia.
Living and Management
If vitamin and mineral supplements have been prescribed for the gerbil, make sure you follow your veterinarian's dosage regimen. Otherwise, clean and disinfect the gerbil's cage, especially in cases of ectoparasitic infestations.
Because of the various factors which can lead to hair loss, it may be hard to prevent alopecia in all cases, however, ensuring your gerbil is kept parasite-free and is fed a nutritional and well-balanced diet may help prevent hair loss.