Rough Hair Coat in Gerbils

By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 19, 2010

Skin Problems and Rough Hair in Gerbils

Rough hair coat is not a diseased condition in and of itself, but is a common external symptom that accompanies many diseases and disorders in gerbils. A rough hair coat is seen in association with various infectious diseases, parasitic worms, and nutritional disorders. However, the primary cause for rough hair coat in gerbils is the physical environmental condition in which the gerbil is being housed. This is especially relevant when humidity levels are too high, which will cause the hair coat to become rough and matted. Rough hair coat is also often manifested in gerbils that are kept in tanks without adequate ventilation.

Symptoms and Types

  • Skin and fur appear dull
  • Rough and matted hair
  • Scaling, flaking skin (due to excessive dryness)
  • Skin irritation and redness (on occasion)


Rough hair coat is seen mainly as a result of various infectious diseases, parasitic worm load, and nutritional disorders. However, it can also be related to the gerbil's living area and environment. If, for example, the humidity levels are too high or the tanks do not have adequate ventilation, the gerbil may develop rough hair coat.


You will need to provide a thorough history of your gerbil's health leading up to the onset of symptoms to give your veterinarian a starting point toward making an initial diagnosis. Because there are so many possible causes for this condition, your veterinarian will most likely use differential diagnosis, a process that is guided by a deeper inspection of the apparent outward symptoms, ruling out each of the more common causes until the correct disorder is settled upon and can be treated appropriately.

However, to truly identify the underlying cause laboratory work such as a complete blood profile, urinalysis, skin scrapings, and microscopic examinations of hair samples may be necessary.


If there is itching and swelling present, antihistaminic and corticosteroid agents can be administered to help relieve the discomfort for your gerbil. Further treatment will ultimately depend on the underlying cause of the condition. If it is attributed to parasites or worm infestation, for example, your veterinarian will prescribe anthelmintic medication.

Conditions that are related to an infection, meanwhile, will require antibiotics, which must always be administered with special care, as antibiotics can be lethal to small animals even when administered appropriately. Additional therapy may include prescribed vitamin and mineral supplements to strengthen your gerbil's immune system and hair coat.

Living and Management

Make sure that you follow all of your veterinarian's advice and recommendations, and pay close attention to instructions that are given regarding antibiotic administration, contacting your veterinarian immediately if your gerbil appears to take a turn for the worse.

If the gerbil is found to be suffering from an infection or parasitic affection, you will also need to discard all of the bedding materials, replacing them with new, freshly laundered bedding materials. In addition, your gerbil's cage, food dishes and any other climbing or exercise equipment will need to be thoroughly cleaned, and toys will need to be discarded if they cannot be sanitized sufficiently.

In some cases, the sole cause of the rough hair coat can be traced back to ambient temperature and humidity levels in the gerbil's living environment. This can be easily rectified. Keeping the cage well-ventilated, at a stable temperature, and at optimum humidity levels below 50 percent can eliminate the rough hair coat and prevent it from developing again.


Maintaining optimum environmental conditions for your pet gerbil, as well as treating any disease and disorder that may be affecting your pet gerbil can help to reduce the chances of developing a rough hair coat.

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