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Why is My Gerbil Falling Over? (Here’s Why)

Gerbils make great pets and have few health problems. Around 90% of gerbils never need to see a vet quite often, but you may notice some health problems can arise. 

This is why, along with monitoring your gerbil yourself, occasional check-ups with a veterinarian are something that I would recommend.

Let’s look at the reasons why a gerbil may keep falling over and what can be done about it.

Why is My Gerbil Falling Over?

A gerbil falling over, stumbling, or staggering is due to loss of balance which is caused by a variety of health conditions including head injuries, middle ear infection, ear cysts, stroke, brain tumor, or head tilt. When their sense of balance is compromised, it becomes difficult to walk without falling, walking in circles, or keeping their head at a proper angle.

Some of the underlying causes that cause these systems can cause lasting damage. If your gerbil develops a head tilt or certain mobility limiting conditions on one side of its body, these are unlikely to ever go away.

Causes of Gerbil Falling Over

If your gerbil is falling over, this is a sign of an underlying health problem.

Keeping a close eye on your gerbil and making a trip to the veterinarian will narrow down the condition your gerbil is suffering from and how it can be treated. 

The common causes that lead to a gerbil falling over are:

Head injury

Head injury from head trauma can lead to damage of the inner ear of a gerbil and can cause health problems. 

Signs that your gerbil is experiencing falling over due to head trauma include loss of control of head movements and loss of balance.

It can be hard to tell if your gerbil has been injured due to head trauma because they hide their pain and illness quite well. 

However, keep an eye on any physical or behavioral changes to get an insight that your gerbil is not ok.

Middle ear infection

Loss of balance in a gerbil often occurs due to middle ear infections. If your gerbil has an ear infection you will notice a lack of coordination and falling over.

Infections can arise from respiratory infections which also affect the middle ear and sinuses. 

The presence of ear cysts can also cause secondary infections of the middle ear leading to loss of balance when walking.

Ear cysts

The development of ear cysts is also known as aural cholesteatoma. The cysts in the ear push on the eardrum causing various symptoms and can cause permanent damage.

The cysts can be due to either infections or genetics.

The symptoms include the production of discharge and odor from the ear, constant scratching, swelling, walking in circles, pain, hearing loss, and lack of balance when walking.

Gerbil stroke

Older gerbils are susceptible to having strokes. Strokes occur when there is a blood clot that blocks blood circulation to the brain. 

A stroke in gerbils affects their movement and ability to function well. Like humans, the severity of the stroke determines the significance of the damage.

You might observe your gerbil exhibiting weakness on one side of its body, causing it to fall. If the stroke is severe enough, rather than weakness, it will exhibit partial paralysis on one side.

The symptoms include difficulty in movement, loss of balance, lethargy, lack of appetite, and paralysis on one side of the body.

Brain tumor

Brain tumors occur in gerbils and can lead to a general loss of balance, stumbling and staggering 

Depending on the location of the tumor in the brain, other behavioral changes include head-tilt, pain, loss of appetite, and lack of coordination.


Head tilt is a condition in gerbils that makes their head inclined sideways or twisted. It is caused by a brain or middle ear condition including head trauma, ear infection, ear cysts, tumors, or brain inflammation.

Heat tilt is common in older gerbils but all ages are still susceptible depending on the underlying cause. 

The signs of head tilt include loss of balance, falling over, twisted head, inability to eat or drink, and walking in circles.

Brain inflammation

Brain inflammation can cause a gerbil to fall over or stumble. This is one of the causes of head tilt in gerbils which can be a result of several issues. 

Treatment of brain information is usually from the administration of an anti-inflammatory injection performed by a veterinarian.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you notice your gerbil falling over including other symptoms, you need to take your gerbil to your veterinarian. 

When it comes to inner ear issues, a veterinarian will first run tests to see if the symptoms mirror the condition. 

They will look for falling, head tilting, ear discharge, blockage in both the ears and nose. They can also reach a diagnosis through ear examinations or an x-ray.

Treatment for this can be through the administration of antibiotics or, in rare cases, due to their size, your veterinarian can perform surgery to remove cysts.

If you think that your gerbil has had a stroke, it is important to take your gerbil to your veterinarian. 

Recovery from a stroke is possible, and that’s why medical attention is essential. With the help of your veterinarian, your gerbil can continue to live with little or no disabilities after time. 

Creating a detailed plan and focusing on hands-on care can be a sort of physical therapy for your gerbil. Over time, they may be strong enough to walk without falling over.


When watching your gerbil as it moves about, you may notice an issue with its balance. Losing balance includes instances where your gerbil falls over, stumbles, or seems to hold its head at an angle. 

Falling over or stumbling occurs when a gerbil’s sense of balance and coordination is out of its control which is commonly caused by a health condition.

If you notice that your gerbil is suddenly losing their sense of balance, it could be seriously ill so do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian. 

The signs of loss of balance should not be ignored because they indicate a medical emergency that should be checked and treated by a veterinarian.


Aural Cholesteatoma

Gerbil Diseases