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Gerbil Panting: What Does It Mean?

Panting is not a behavior gerbil owners expect to see their gerbil doing. When it happens, it leads to concerns that something may be wrong.

Keep reading to find out what could cause your furry friend to start panting and what you should do.

Why is My Gerbil Panting?

If your gerbil is panting or open-mouthed breathing, that is a sign of a severe problem. Gerbil panting means a gerbil has heat stroke or is struggling to breathe due to an upper respiratory problem. Both conditions are life-threatening to a gerbil if immediate care is not provided.

What does Gerbil Panting Look and Sound Like?

Panting in gerbils looks similar to how a dog pants but it’s not as common. When a gerbil is panting, they will have their mouth open with their tongue partially out while they take small shallow breaths.

In most cases, this happens when a gerbil is laying down and inactive.

What Causes Gerbils To Pant?

Heat Stroke

If your gerbil is panting, overly lethargic, or unconscious, lying down flat, and has wetness around its mouth, it may have heat stroke.

The most telling symptom of heatstroke in gerbils is panting which they do to help lower their body temperature by releasing heat and bringing in cooler air.

A hot environment causes heatstroke in gerbils. The most common cause is placing a gerbil tank in direct sunlight or in a room that is too warm.

Gerbils are very sensitive to temperature changes and temperatures over 77° F(25°C) is too hot for them. 

A gerbil in this environment is at risk of heatstroke which causes severe internal organ failure and death if immediate care is not provided.

Upper Respiratory Infection

A gerbil with an upper respiratory infection will have trouble breathing and produce a clicking noise as well as wheezing as they breathe.

The clicking noise when breathing is a significant symptom of gerbil respiratory infection.

The noise is produced because of the increase of mucus production due to the infection, which obstructs the airways and a clicking sound is produced when a gerbil breaths.

Gerbils usually breathe through their nose however if their nose is obstructed due to excessive mucus production, they will have a difficulty in breathing and will breathe through their mouth, hence the panting.

Other symptoms of a gerbil with a respiratory infection include a runny nose and eyes, decreased inactivity, coughing, sneezing, and isolation from the rest of the group.

Unfortunately, a gerbil does not show symptoms of infection early on and they only show up when the infection is severe. 

Learning how to recognize the symptoms of respiratory infection is important so that you can help your gerbil. Respiratory infections in gerbils are very serious and require immediate medical attention. 

What To Do If Your Gerbil is Panting

Panting in gerbils indicates that there is a serious underlying health concern that needs to be addressed.

First, assess the situation for possible reasons why your gerbil is panting, that is whether it is due to heat stress caused by the room’s temperature or due to illness leading to change of behavior and presentation of symptoms.

If your gerbil has heatstroke, move their tank immediately to a cool, but not cold, place. Make sure they have plenty of water available and call the veterinarian.

Immediately contact your veterinarian if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Panting accompanied by clicking noise and wheezing
  • Lethargy and loss of appetite
  • Unconsciousness
  • Breathing problems with bigger or frequent breaths
  • Coughing and sneezing in an attempt to open up blocked airways
  • Prolonged inactivity

Treatment for a Panting Gerbil

Depending on the cause of gerbil panting, the treatment provided will be different. 

Treatment for heat stroke includes adjustment of a gerbil’s environment to control heat stress by the relocation of their tank or cage to a cool well-ventilated room and provision of water for hydration. 

Upper respiratory infections are usually treated with antibiotics. The veterinarian administers the initial treatment and you will be advised on homecare as well for continual administration of the antibiotic.


Gerbils are typically healthy animals and properly cared for gerbils rarely get sick. However, they do get sick which is indicated by behavioral and physical changes.

Gerbil panting includes one of these changes which show that your gerbil is not ok. It can be due to heatstroke or an upper respiratory infection both of which need immediate attention.

Learning how to recognize the symptoms of gerbil panting will help you to know the immediate care to provide to your gerbil and when to reach out to your veterinarian for medical attention.



Respiratory infection in gerbils