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Gerbils & Hamsters/Gerbil Dislocated Arm?


QUESTION: Hi Sheila,
   So my gerbil Cookie doesn't use her front right arm AT ALL anymore. It has lasted 3 days and it is starting to effect her eating. She doesn't seem to be in pain, frankly it's like it's paralyzed. I don't have any vets in my area that can do anything about this. What do I or can I do?

ANSWER: Hi DeLaney

I'm sorry to hear about your gerbil. It is difficult to know what has happened.  It could be paralysis or a fracture.

The important thing is to make sure her cage is easy for her to get around and that food and drink is close by. I would remove any platforms and wheel if possible so that everything is on the same level and she doesn't have to struggle to get anywhere.  Gerbils tend to sit on their back legs and hold food in their front legs to eat, therefore I can understand that she is struggling.

If this is a fracture then it should heal on its own over the next few weeks.  If it is paralysed then it won't get any better.

If you touch the limb does she respond at all?  Is the limb lifeless or does she have some movement in it if you try to move it?

I would suggest you make sure her food is easy for her to eat - put in seeds and other small pieces of food (if necessary break them up for her) so that she can support it in one hand so that she can eat.  

Do you have any pet charities who would look at her, or even a local pet shop or breeder might be able to help if you don't have a nearby vet?  It would be good for someone to look her as I can't say for sure what has happened.

Sorry I can offer much advice on this occasion.

I hope you get on OK.


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

QUESTION: She responds by squeaking but she doesn't like to move it at all. Thank-you for the advice on the food I had noticed she was having trouble. I felt her arm, it was swollen and she reacted. It is probably a fracture. Thanks I was so worried. I found someone who offered to look at her on Friday so wish us luck!


In many ways I'm pleased she reacted when you touched her arm so at least that means she's not paralysed it.

If this is a straightforward fracture then it should heal fine in a few weeks - the only complications are when the circulation is affected or the bone sticks out.

Regarding food - you might want to try her on a little baby food.  Either the type you buy in powder form and mix it with water, or the type you buy in a jar - put a little on a teaspoon and see if she will lick it off there.  I know that gerbils need to keep chewing to keep their teeth short so it is important to make sure she has plenty of hard food too, but as she is struggling to hold food you might want to try this.  You could also try a little scrambled egg, just to keep her strength up.

I'm glad you are getting her looked at - good luck on Friday.


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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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