Q: I have a gerbil that has a growth or tumor. He seems perfectly fine — runs, eats and is active — but when he rubs his belly on the bedding, the wood and stuff gets stuck in it and then the growth starts to bleed and it keeps getting bigger. What should I do?
A: This sounds like a problem that will not go away on its own. Your gerbil may have a tumor (that is the same thing as a “growth”) but it also may have an infection or a cut from some sort of trauma.
If this is an infection or a cut that will not heal, your veterinarian can easily take care of this problem for you and your gerbil. Your veterinarian will use a strong antiseptic cleanser to disinfect the area on the belly and then determine what other course of action may be necessary. Although unlikely for a superficial wound or infection, surgery could be needed on your gerbil to remove infected or dead tissue. In most cases, though, once the area is cleaned, anti-bacterial treatments are dispensed, and go-home instructions are given, these superficial cuts and infections heal very nicely.
Go-home instructions may direct you to clean the area daily and place an antibacterial cream or ointment on the area. In severe cases, you may need to give antibiotics by mouth.
It’s possible this growth on your gerbil is something other than an infection or cut; it could be a tumor that is growing and involves tissue that leads to bleeding. In this case, your veterinarian will clean the area and likely suggest that a sample of the tissue be removed for biopsy to determine the exact nature of the tumor.
Some tumors are benign — once they are removed, there is no longer a threat to the health of your gerbil. But other tumors are malignant — the sooner those are removed and diagnosed, the better the chance that your gerbil will have a longer, acceptable quality of life. You may not be able to cure this problem if it is malignant tumor, but you can give your gerbil a longer, pain-free time period with proper treatment.