Gerbils have many weird behaviors like licking everything or male gerbils trying to mate. But when you see them twitching suddenly and involuntarily, it is a cause for concern as to why this could be happening.
In this article, you will know the reason behind a gerbil’s twitching and what can be done about it.
Why is My Gerbil Twitching
Your gerbil twitching is a symptom of an epileptic seizure. Epileptic seizures can be brought about by various factors, including stress, improper handling, or a drastic change in the living environment. It is theorized that the cause of these epileptic seizures is genetic and can be passed down from the previous generation.
Luckily these epileptic seizures are benign and most have no long-lasting effects on a gerbil’s health.
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Causes of Gerbil Twitching?
The leading cause for a gerbil twitching is an epileptic seizure. Epileptic seizures are a genetic nervous system disorder common amongst gerbils. The twitching is a symptom of the seizure.
The signs of epilepsy manifest during the first 2 or 3 months of the gerbil’s life, as it enters puberty.
The seizures can either be mild, called hypnotic seizures, in which the gerbil enters a trance-like state, non-responsive with its muscles twitching periodically. Their whiskers and ears twitch as well.
Or the episodes can be severe, that is, grand mal seizures which result in the stiffening of the muscles, convulsions, and jerking of the body.
The severity of these seizures usually begins to decrease once the gerbil reaches six months.
While the leading cause of epileptic seizures in gerbils is a genetic predisposition, several other contributing factors can cause seizures to occur:
- A sudden change in environment (such as, moving to a new home, a change in the cage environment)
- Improper handling
- Stress or anxiety
Should I Worry About Twitching?
While the thought of a seizure may sound scary, they are not as damaging as you think. Seizures present no long-lasting effects on a gerbil’s health.
No medication is needed in their treatment or management. A gerbil will go through an episode of a seizure and quickly return to normal after it ends.
A seizure generally lasts for a minute or less and recovery takes about 10 minutes. However, when a gerbil experiences a grand mal seizure for a prolonged period, more than a minute, it could lead to brain damage.
Therefore when you notice your gerbil going through an episode, time the duration of the seizure. When it lasts longer than a minute, take them to the veterinarian immediately.
Generally, a gerbil will live a healthy life with periodic episodes of seizures without any treatment.
To help reduce the risk of your gerbil not suffering from seizures, ensure that it is living in a stress-free environment.
Allow them to get plenty of exercise and provide it with a large cage with the freedom to roam and with plenty of bedding for it to burrow.
To prevent further stress, ensure that your gerbil’s cage is placed in a quiet room, free from passing traffic, loud children, and other large pets such as cats or dogs.
Ensure the room is free from appliances that emit ultrasonic sounds, such as televisions, computers, and vacuum cleaners.
Ensure that its cage is not moved regularly and avoid making unnecessary changes to the gerbil’s cage. Avoid allowing children who are more likely to mishandle the gerbil.
Seizures are easily prevented by placing a gerbil in a quiet, stress-free environment. Loud sudden noises act as environmental stressors that trigger seizures therefore keep your gerbil away from them.
Stressful situations also trigger seizures in gerbils. These include being in a new environment or constant or inappropriate handling of your gerbil.
Less handling of your gerbil often during the first three weeks you have them as a pet is an easy and effective way of preventing seizures.
Handling your gerbil correctly from such an early age will also allow them to become comfortable with being touched.
By establishing this behavior from a young age, your gerbil is less likely to become stressed when handled in the future.
While handling from an early age is a great way to prevent seizures, proper handling methods are also still required.
Have you looked into your gerbil’s cage to find them non-responsive and twitching? If so, this may be a sign that your gerbil is having a seizure.
While this may sound alarming, this twitching due to seizures is common and after a period of going through it for a few minutes, a gerbil returns to its normal self.
Seizures pass after a period of time and a gerbil can continue living their lives as usual. Although a common occurrence, seizures can be prevented and as a gerbil owner there are methods you can implement to minimize their occurrence.
Follow the tips provided on doing this to continue giving your gerbil a healthy life.