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ROUTINE PHYSICAL EXAMS

If gerbils could talk, we would learn a lot about how they feel. Unfortunately, they can't talk and they don't tell us - in fact, most gerbils go to great lengths to hide signs of illness or distress. That is why it's important for you to observe your pet every day and make note of any changes. It's true - you're the best resource on your gerbil's health. You know your pet's normal behavior and appearance better than anyone else, and by observing any changes in that appearance or behavior, you're his first line of defense against disease.

Fortunately, gerbils are very healthy and robust animals. If your gerbil displays symptoms of illness or is having behavior problems, however, consult your veterinarian.

The first time you visit a new veterinarian or take a new pet to your veterinarian, you'll have to answer a series of questions about the pet and your household for the records. If the veterinary hospital is large enough, an assistant might take this information from you before the doctor does an actual examination. Questions that are typically included in a routine first visit include:

  • What is your gerbil's name? A pet's medical records are usually filed under both his name and your name.
  • Where did you get him? Whether he came from a breeder, a pet shop or a shelter, your gerbil will have certain medical risks that relate to his origin. The veterinarian will understand these, and knowing your pet's origin will help him or her decide what care may be necessary.
  • Is the gerbil male or female?
  • How old is he? Again, if you don't know your gerbil's history, the veterinarian will try to estimate his age for you.
  • Have you had any problems with him? The doctor can offer advice on changing your gerbil's behavioral habits.
  • How is he getting along with your other gerbils? The doctor can offer advice on encouraging the gerbils to live in harmony.
Besides seeking the specific answers to these questions, your veterinarian is also assessing the level of treatment you're expecting for your gerbil. You will probably also be asked a number of questions based on the veterinarian's observations. These will likely include:
  • What are the symptoms that your gerbil is displaying and when did you first notice them?
  • Are any of your other gerbils sick?
  • Has your gerbil had any other problems lately such as coughing or sneezing?
  • Is he having any problems with diarrhea or bowel movements?
  • Has he had a weight gain or sudden weight loss?
  • How much do you feed him? What type of food? Have you changed his diet recently?
  • Have his eating or drinking habits changed recently?
  • Is he active and getting exercise?
  • Has he been sick before? If so, what kind of illness? How was it treated? Were there any problems?
During or shortly after the exam write down any important information or instructions you've been given, such as:
  • Diet recommendations, including the brand name of recommended foods and the amounts to feed your gerbil.
  • If your gerbil will be taking medication, how much, how often, how long and how to administer it.
  • Recommended exercise level or any activities your gerbil should avoid.
  • When to schedule a follow up visit.
The more information you can give the veterinarian about your gerbil's history, the better he or she can assess your pet's current health, both by knowing if there are specific things to look for during the physical exam and by adding to his or her general store of knowledge about your gerbil. Make sure you keep track of and report any abnormalities or changes in your gerbil's behavior or physical condition.