Lead Poisoning in Gerbils

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Plumbism in Gerbils

The physical and neurological symptoms exhibited by an animal as the result of chronic lead poisoning are collectively classified as plumbism, a toxic state that occurs as the result of inhaling, ingesting, or absorbing through the skin toxic amounts of lead.

Gerbils can potentially develop lead poisoning by gnawing on objects that contain lead such as metal pipes, wood painted with lead-based paint, or food dishes that are painted with lead based paint. There are also less obvious sources such as lead-based insecticides, linoleum, fishing weights, batteries, and plumbing materials.

Symptoms and Types

  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of coordination (ataxia), confusion
  • Death


There are numerous household materials that may expose your gerbil to toxic levels of lead, including:


  • Linoleum
  • Lead-based house paint residues or paint chips
  • Plumbing materials and supplies
  • Batteries
  • Insecticides
  • Cages lined with solder or lead paint (not frequently reported)
  • Improperly glazed ceramic food or water dishes


A differential diagnosis may be the best method for making the initial diagnosis. This process is guided by an inspection of the apparent outward symptoms as your veterinarian rules out each of the more common causes until the correct disorder is settled upon and can be treated appropriately. As part of a thorough examination, you will need to provide a history of your gerbil's health leading up to the onset of symptoms. It is therefore essential to make sure that you give an accurate account of your gerbil's history and living conditions to your veterinarian.

A confirmatory diagnosis can be made by taking samples of blood and urine for laboratory testing. The level of lead that is found in the blood and urine will indicate your pet gerbil's level of toxicity.

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