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Do Gerbils Have Eyelids? (Answered and Explained)

Most animals have eyelids that protect the eyes from infection, injury, and excess light. Is this the same for gerbils? Do gerbils have eyelids?

Let’s dive into this and learn whether this is a fact or not.

Do Gerbils Have Eyelids?

Yes, like most animals, gerbils have eyelids. A gerbil’s eyelids protect its eyes from harmful debris, and they ensure the eyes retain essential moisture. Gerbils have more than two eyelids on each eye. They have a third eyelid that is usually retracted and not easily seen.

You can see a gerbil’s visible eyelids immediately after it is born, as the eyelids will be shut, while they are sleeping, and briefly when it blinks. 

For more information on what a gerbil’s eyelids look like, how eyelids protect a gerbil’s vision, and what eyelid complications to look out for, keep reading.  

Why do gerbils have eyelids?

Eyelids play an important role in the health of your gerbil’s eyes and eyesight. 

Not only do the eyelids bat away unwanted and damaging debris, but they ensure that its eyeballs do not dry out and become itchy and aggravated, which would impact its ability to see. 

What does a gerbil’s eyelid look like?

A gerbil’s eyelid is a thin layer of tissue that can fold up above the eye, appearing nearly undetectable, and expand over the eyeball when blinking or winking.

It looks much like the eyelid of any other animal and is unmistakable when you see it. 

What is the third eye in gerbils?

The third eyelid in gerbils is a transparent membrane also referred to as a nictitating membrane that is located at the corner of each eye near the center of the face and can be drawn across the eye. 

It is part of the that is part of the conjunctiva of the eye and is supported by cartilage.

The main function of the third eyelid is the protection of the cornea of the eye, production, and distribution of tears which keeps the eyes moist while maintaining the ability to see.

The third eyelid is common in other mammals as well such as cats, cattle, rats, dogs, and fish. 

This eyelid is not easily seen when you look at a gerbil, but it can sometimes protrude and be seen covering the eyeball when the eye is injured or inflamed because of an illness or infection.

For example, conjunctivitis or pink eye is an eye problem that can affect your gerbil. This is a condition where the whites of the eyes become inflamed and appear pink in color.

The third eye protrudes due to this inflammation and you will see it.

What To Do If You See Your Gerbils’ Third Eyelid

It is very uncommon to see a gerbil’s third eyelid and when you do see it is a sign of illness or injury.

Seek medical attention immediately when you see a protruding third eyelid. If your gerbil is also showing other signs of illness, take them to the veterinarian. 

Do not try to put any ointment in your gerbil’s eyes before you see your veterinarian or try to remove an irritant from their eyes. This can further make their eyes worse.

Can gerbils wink?

According to research conducted by Edinburgh University, members of the rodent family, such as the gerbil, have a definite capacity to blink, which is defined as the closure of one eyelid rather than two. 

So, yes, gerbils can wink and may frequently do just that in an attempt to communicate with you and or another gerbil. Although, if you are not paying attention, you could miss this subtle sign. 

When a gerbil winks, it is a sign that it is relaxed and trusts the party on the receiving end of the wink. 

Do a gerbil’s eyelids protect its eyes from the sun?

A gerbil relies on its vision to find food, find shelter, and avoid predators. Many things could damage a gerbil’s eyes, resulting in a loss of good vision, and that includes harmful sun rays. 

A gerbil’s eyelids act as a barrier for its eyes just like they do for other animals. 

However, a gerbil also relies on the UV light produced from the sun to see better at times of the day when the sunlight is dimmer, such as dawn and dusk. 

How do I know if something is wrong with my gerbil’s eyelids?

A gerbil’s eyes and eyelids might appear swollen, red, or crusty when they are suffering an allergic reaction or an eye infection.

Also, when your gerbil has eye and eyelid problems, you will notice that they will:

  • Rub their eyes frequently  
  • Blink excessively 
  • Pink eyes 
  • Inflammation of the skin around the eyes 

If you notice your gerbil’s eyelids having any of these symptoms, it is best not to touch your gerbil’s eyes, as that may make the situation worse, but instead to take your pet to a veterinarian. 

If my gerbil gets something stuck in its eye, should I help clear it out?

If you notice your gerbil blinking rapidly, it might be trying to clear away something that is bothering its eyes. Try not to intervene in this situation, as your gerbil instinctively knows what to do.

However, if the problem persists, bring your gerbil to your veterinarian for assistance or diagnosis. 


Eyelids are part of the physiological structure of most animals’ eyes. They offer protection to the eye and keep their eye moist.

The same case is also for gerbils. Gerbils have more than two eyelids on each eye by having a third eyelid. The main function of the eyelids being the protection of the eyes and keeping the eyes moist.

As a gerbil pet owner, also look out for any unusual appearance of your gerbil’s eyes and eyelids. 

An unusual appearance could indicate an illness or injury. When you do see this immediately contact your veterinarian for an examination and determination of what could be wrong. 


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