Gerbil With Red Nose

What would cause a gerbil to have a red nose and act mean?

Q: My gerbil has something wrong with its nose. It’s red and breaking out. It’s gross. I can’t hold it because it’s mean and always bites everyone. What’s wrong?

A: It is impossible to know exactly what is wrong without seeing your gerbil, but what you describe is a classic problem in gerbils. I would also suggest that possibly your gerbil is not mean, but it is potentially in pain, and that is why the gerbil appears mean. Also, your gerbil will need to be treated, which is the only way to remove the red around the nose and calm the irritation that is causing the “redness” you are observing.

Again, without seeing your gerbil, I can’t be certain of what is wrong but likely this is something called “sore nose” or nasal dermatitis. This is caused by an infection or irritation in the Harderian gland, which leads to increased porphyrin secretions and subsequently causes the red appearance around the nose. The cause of this problem is either a bacterial organism or a poor environment, or a combination of both. Stress may also play a part in this problem.

As the infection or inflammation persists, there can be hair loss, secondary infections and dermatitis. As long as this is treated promptly, your gerbil will recover from this problem. Treatment includes improving the environment (usually adjusting the humidity and temperature), using medication for the dermatitis and removing any stress.

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