Fractured Bones in Gerbils
Fractured or broken bones are commonly encountered in gerbils, occurring mainly as the result of accidental falls from a high location. Fractures may also occur due to some types of nutritional disorders such as calcium phosphorus imbalances, wherein the bone becomes brittle and easily prone to breakage. Fortunately, fractures heal fairly easily in gerbils; they only require proper restraint and adequate rest.
Symptoms and Types
In addition to exhibiting severe pain and refusing to move -- on account of the pressure and pain when attempting to manipulate the bone -- the gerbil may display the following symptoms:
- Swelling in or around the fractured area
- Crackling or popping sound from the fractured area (due to rubbing between the broken ends of the bone)
- An open wound through which the broken end of the bone has pierced out (very rare)
Typically, bone fractures in gerbils occur due to accidents such as improper handling and trapped legs, often in the cage's wire mesh or exercise wheel. However, some nutritional disorders like calcium and phosphorus imbalances may also make the bone more brittle and prone to fractures.
The clinical signs observed will help your veterinarian in making a diagnosis. Occasionally, the veterinarian will take an X-ray of the affected area to confirm his or her suspicions.
It is best to take your gerbil to see a veterinarian immediately if you suspect it has fractured a bone, as the injury could worsen or the bone could mend improperly, affecting your gerbil's mobility. Your veterinarian will apply a restraining bandage to the affected area to restrain movement and assist the bone in mending properly. If an open wound is present, it will need to be cleaned and suitably dressed, with topical antiseptics or antibiotics applied.
If your gerbil is in obvious pain, painkillers may be administered to help reduce the pain temporarily. Your veterinarian may also prescribe some vitamin and mineral supplements for your gerbil to help in the recovery and to strengthen the bones.
Living and Management
Fractures generally heal quickly in gerbils. With appropriate care, a lot of progress can be made within 7-10 days of initial treatment. You will need to place your gerbil in a small cage or enclosure to limit its movement so that healing can progress quickly. Make sure to give any oral supplements your veterinarian has prescribed.
To prevent potential limb injuries, your gerbil's caging should have solid floors, or if you do use mesh floorings, make sure that the openings are too small for your gerbil's feet to fit through them. The openings of a cage's mesh flooring are one of the most likely sources of foot and leg injuries in small animals, so this is one of the first lines of defense.
In addition, it is important to ensure that your gerbil's diet is nutritionally well balanced so that the likelihood of fractures occurring due to weakness in the bone structure -- which is closely correlated with nutritional disorders -- are reduced.