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Gerbils & Hamsters/Gerbil getting old?


QUESTION: Hi there,

I have had my gerbil Sammy for nearly 2 years (although we're not sure how old she was when we got her), and over the last few weeks we've noticed that she's been sleeping a lot more and is losing weight.  She seems to still be eating and drinking, and I've been giving her extra treats like little bits of cheese, boiled egg, and mealworms, but I weigh her every few days and she is still losing weight.  She isn't as active as she used to be but she does still run in her wheel and seems ok in herself.

She doesn't seem to have any other symptoms, so I'm wondering if she is just getting old or if we should take her to the vet in case there is some other reason? (It's not that easy for me to get to the vet and I'd prefer to avoid stressing her out if there's nothing they'd be able to do).

Also, can you advise any other foods we can try giving her to keep her weight up?  Mealworms are her favourite but I'm wary of giving her too much of one thing.

Thanks a lot.


Thanks for your question.

Sammy's weight loss could be due to a few reasons - firstly she is elderly. Secondly perhaps she has dental issues - have you checked her teeth? One of my gerbils lost his teeth suddenly so it is worth checking them. Thirdly she could be developing a tumor - has there been any change in her water consumption?

I tend to give my elderly hamsters/gerbils baby food - the powdered variety is good that you add water to - they especially love creamy porridge oats. This gives nutrients and is easy to digest. Scrambled egg is also a favourite but also include the usual dry food so she has some way of wearing her teeth down.

Hopefully this will help you but if you are worried or if any other symptoms appear then it would be worth getting her checked out.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Sheila,

Thanks a lot for your advice.  I've bought some baby food to give her, and I'll try the scrambed egg, as I've only given her boiled egg before.

I did take Sammy to the vet, and they said that her back teeth looked a little overgrown.  The vet suggested she could be put under anesthetic and have her teeth filed down, but I've not really heard of this being done for gerbils before.  Do you have any experience of this?  Is it a risky procedure, particularly given her age?

Thanks again,

Hi Alix

I'm sorry for the delay in responding but for some reason I've only just seen your followup question.

How is Sammy?

I've never had a gerbil who has needed their teeth to be filed down.  I've had plenty with issues with front teeth - more often they break them with all the chewing, and these are easy to clip if you have the right equipment.

The fact that Sammy is 2 years old is a concern as the older an animal is, the more risk there is with an anaesthetic.  Did you go ahead with this procedure??


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Sheila Adby


Syrian hamsters are my specialty, however, I have kept Campbells,Winter Whites and gerbils in the past. I can advise on most subjects associated with hamsters, including housing, bedding, feeding, handling, new borns and catching escapees. I have had some experience of various health problems with hamsters and can offer my opinion and advice on basic health issues, however I am not a qualified vet and therefore cannot recommend drugs etc. My website is


I have been keeping hamsters and other small animals for more than 12 years. My favourites are Syrian hamsters and I foster litters and 'difficult' hamsters for a rescue centre. My job is to tame hamsters ready for re-homing, which is extremely rewarding. I also enjoy looking after new litters and raising the pups. I have co-written a book on hamsters with my local vet and have a website:

Hamsters in Sickness and in Health - Sheila Adby and Dan O'Neill ISBN186163218-5 (Capall Bann Publishing)

Educated to A Level standard in the UK.

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