Tumors and Cancers in Gerbils

By PetMD Editorial on Sep. 23, 2008

An abnormal growth of cells in a tissue or organ is referred to as a tumor or cancer. And much like in humans, a gerbil is just as likely to suffer from cancers or tumors. There are basically two types of tumors: benign tumors, which do not spread, and malignant tumors, which spread and are usually referred to as cancers.

Tumors can be found in or on various parts of the body, including skin tumors on the gerbil's ears or feet. However, regardless of the type of tumor or cancer, prompt veterinary care is recommended and improves the chances of successful treatment.

Symptoms and Types

The signs and symptoms exhibited by the gerbil will depend on the tissue or organ affected by the tumor. For example, tumors found in the gerbil's ventral marking glands are common (especially in older gerbils) and appear as sores, but they rarely spread. Skin tumors are also visible and appear as masses on many parts of the body, including the gerbil's ears and feet. Meanwhile, tumors located in the gerbil's internal organs are harder to identify because external signs are rarely shown, however, some good indicators of these tumors are depression, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, occasionally with blood.


There is no known reason for most tumors or cancers, except that certain types have genetic dispositions and they are due to the abnormal growth of cells in a tissue or organ.


Benign and malignant tumors are diagnosed through physical examination, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, blood tests and biopsies.



Your veterinarian will likely recommend surgical removal of the tumor because as it grows, it may become cancerous and spread to other locations in the body. Early removal of tumors or cancers allows for the best outcome with the least chance of complications and recurrence. If the tumor or cancer cannot be surgically excised, your veterinarian will attempt to treat the symptoms and make the gerbil comfortable.

Living and Management

A gerbil that is recovering from surgery needs plenty of rest and care. Consult your veterinarian for the specific postoperative care needed in your gerbil's case.


There are no known prevention methods for tumors and cancers.


Featured Image: iStock.com/CamiloTorres


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