Obstructive Ear Disease in Gerbils


PetMD Editorial

Published Sep. 23, 2008

Aural Cholesteatoma

About half of gerbils two years or older develop masses in the inner ear. This condition is referred to as aural cholesteatoma and it occurs when an abnormal accumulation of keratin (a fibrous protein) produces epithelial cells in the middle ear, thus replacing the normal epithelium in the ear and even absorbing the bone beneath it. Although not tumorous, these masses, called aural cholesteatomas, push the gerbil's eardrum deep into the ear canal, causing permanent damage to the inner ear. Infections and heredity are both factors which can lead to the ear condition but through surgery, it can usually be corrected.


  • Hearing loss
  • Ear pain
  • Foul-smelling discharge from the ear
  • Obstruction in the nasal passage
  • Head tilting


Aural cholesteatoma occurs when an abnormal accumulation of keratin produces epithelial cells in the middle ear, and is generally due to do infections, especially inner ear infections. Another common factor for this condition is heredity.


Your veterinarian will typically diagnose aural cholesteatoma through the symptoms and signs the gerbil displays. They may also conduct an X-ray or ear examination on the animal to confirm the diagnosis.



Surgical removal of the aural cholesteatoma mass is advocated in pet gerbils suffering from this condition, however, due to their small size it is not always practical. Temporary relief can be provided to the gerbil by applying medicated ear drops or ointments. In addition to the ear drops, antiseptic or antibiotic washes of the ear can help remove discharge that has accumulated.

Living and Management

If the gerbil undergoes surgery to remove the aural cholesteatoma mass, your veterinarian will give you instructions and medication for a speedy recovery. Otherwise, the gerbil needs plenty of rest.


Prevention is not a viable option for aural cholesteatoma. However, taking steps to make sure that any ear infection is immediately diagnosed and promptly treated can reduce the chances of cholesteatomas developing in the ear.


Featured Image: iStock.com/Kerrick


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