and Cathy Bickel
Like all rodents, gerbils' teeth grow throughout their lives. Their teeth grow continuously, just like a human's fingernails and toenails.
A young gerbil with plenty of cardboard and wood to gnaw on will probably have few tooth problems.
As a gerbil ages, his teeth may start having problems. Weight loss is a common indicator of tooth problems. Failure to shred his cardboard is another indicator.
Checking your gerbil's teeth regularly will get him used to having you look in his mouth. A few things to look for are:
- Small, white upper teeth, which are a sign of weak teeth and a foreshadowing of tooth problems to come. Gerbils' teeth are normally yellow-orange in color.
- Missing upper teeth
- Lower teeth in a V-shape
- Long lower teeth and small upper teeth
- Long lower teeth piercing the roof of the mouth and causing bleeding
- An overgrown upper tooth curling backwards into the mouth as it grows
- The teeth in any way look like it would be difficult for him to close his mouth
Take your gerbil to the vet. He may need a tooth clipping. Some vets allow technicians to perform this procedure at a lower cost. If your gerbil is experiencing weight loss due to tooth problems, feed him a soft diet until the vet can make repairs or nature solves the problem. Missing upper teeth may regrow as normal teeth if he's lost them accidentally. If there's a chronic tooth problem, missing teeth may grow back as tiny teeth and then go missing again. Be prepared to have his teeth clipped every few weeks.
When your gerbil can't eat his regular food because of his tooth problems, these are some things to try:
- Put some of his regular food into a ziploc bag and pound it into smaller pieces. He may be able to eat it by grinding it with just his molars.
- Peas or blueberries, split in half so he can eat the inside
- Shredded carrot
- Peanut butter
- Oatmeal flakes
- Baby food applesauce with no added sugar
- Bits of banana