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Why Does My Gerbil Have A Bloody Nose? (Here’s Why)

A bloody nose from a gerbil can be a very frightening sight. It causes panic and distress in any gerbil owner. 

In this article, we’re going to delve into the reasons why a gerbil can have a bloody nose and what to do about it.

Why does my gerbil have a bloody nose?

The cause of a gerbil’s bloody nose is due to excessive harderian gland secretion deposits which are reddish-brown in color and can be mistaken as blood. Other causes of a bloody gerbil nose include an allergic reaction leading to scratching and bleeding and bite wounds from gerbil fighting.

A gerbil’s bloody nose is not life-threatening however medical attention is required to determine the underlying possible cause in order to implement the appropriate action.

Let’s look deeper into these different causes that might lead a gerbil to have a bloody nose

Causes of a bloody nose in gerbils

Porphyrin irritation in gerbils

Porphyrin is a reddish-brown pigment found in the secretion from the harderian glands. The harderian gland is a gland found behind the eyes of a gerbil that produces a secretion that has different functions.

The functions of the secretion from the harderian gland include:

  • Thermoregulation 
  • Lubrication of the eye 
  • Photoprotection
  • The eye’s immune defense
  • Pheromone source
  • Osmoregulation function for the eyes

The secretion from the gland is produced naturally and serves these essential functions for a gerbil.

However, the harderian gland can be triggered by illness, stress, bacterial infection, and an allergic reaction to produce excessive secretions.

The excessive secretions then drain from the tear duct and run down to the nose area of a gerbil giving an appearance of a bloody nose because of the porphyrin’s reddish-brown color.

When the porphyrin deposits dry up around the nose and eyes, it causes irritation to the nose and facial skin area.

This causes a gerbil to constantly scratch the area which leads to bleeding and a bloody nose is observed. A gerbil develops sores on its nose and face because of the constant scratching.

Recommended reading: Why does my gerbil look greasy?


Gerbils are allergic to materials and things in their environment. Allergic reactions stem from their bedding material, pet hair, scented candles, aerosols, or food.

The most common irritant is their bedding material. 

Cedar and pine wood shaving causes irritation and inflammation to their nasal passages which trigger an allergic reaction.

This leads to the gerbil having a sore nose, red runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, and wheezing which can also bleed because of scratching and rubbing of the nose on the cage bars due to irritation.

Bleeding due to fighting

A bloody gerbil nose can also be a result of fighting amongst gerbils. 

Fighting can be a result of incompatibility of gerbils when pairing them, exertion of dominance between the gerbils, or rejection of a new gerbil to a group. 

Fighting involves biting different areas of their body. This includes bites to the face, throat, tail, and other body parts. This can lead to bleeding due to injury and also a bloody nose.

Signs and symptoms that accompany a gerbil bloody nose

In addition to a bloody nose, other symptoms that accompany a bloody nose include:

  • Sore and swollen nose 
  • Porphyrin deposits around the nostrils
  • Hair loss around the affected area
  • Irritation of the nose
  • Red inflamed skin around the nose 
  • Bacterial infection due to open sores 
  • Bleeding from sores and scabs due to constant scratching
  • Spread of scabs and sores to the rest of the body due to spread of infection to other body parts

When to see a vet

Because a bloody nose can be due to various causes, it is important to immediately take your gerbil to the veterinarian to confirm the underlying cause. 

The veterinarian will ask about the symptoms to better understand the situation including their diet and living environment.

Provide as much information as possible. The veterinarian will also examine your gerbil and conduct tests to determine the actual cause of the bloody nose.

The veterinarian will also take samples from the affected nose area to identify or determine if an infection is present. 

Treatment and solutions

The treatment and solutions for a bloody gerbil nose will depend on the underlying cause. These include:

Cleanup of the porphyrin deposits

If the bloody nose is a result of porphyrin deposits on the nose, and eye area, the veterinarian will clean your gerbil to remove the deposits.

This will stop the irritation caused by the porphyrin deposits, relieving your gerbil and they will not feel itchy and compelled to scratch.

This prevents the development of bleeding sores from the constant scratching as well as the appearance of the bloody nose due to porphyrin deposits.

Administration of antibiotics and cream

Through tests and examination, the veterinarian will determine if there is a bacterial infection on the sores on the nose or body area.

Treatment of infection involves the administration of oral antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory cream for application on the sores in the affected areas.

The veterinarian will guide you on how to apply the cream and also how to complete administering the antibiotic dose to your gerbil when at home.

Treatment of underlying illness

The veterinarian will determine the underlying illness that triggers the excessive production of porphyrin-filled harderian gland secretions.

They will prescribe the right medication for treating the illness which will reduce the production of the secretions from the harderian gland.

Provide a stress-free environment

Stress is another factor that leads to the production of excess harderian gland secretions which run down to the face and nose of a gerbil causing irritation and development of sores from scratching.

Create a stress-free environment for your gerbil to prevent this.

Do this by handling your gerbil properly, minimize sudden loud noises around them, and have a conducive room temperature and humidity level.

Also, separate incompatible gerbils to stop fighting and injuries caused by this.

Feed your gerbil a balanced diet

A poor diet lowers a gerbil’s immune system making them vulnerable to infections and development of disease. 

Some illnesses trigger excessive harderian gland with porphyrin which leads to a bloody nose appearance when it runs down the face to the nose. 

A healthy gerbil will not be sick as often because of its strong immune system which prevents the excessive production of harderian gland secretions and the resultant effect of this to a gerbil.

Therefore feed your gerbil a healthy balanced diet to build their immune system to prevent the development of diseases.


A gerbil with a bloody nose can be quite distressing to see. The reasons behind this need to be determined in order to implement the best plan to manage it.  

Your veterinarian will be able to determine the actual cause and also advise on the best approach or treatment if required.


Gerbil porphyrin deposits

Harderian Gland