Nasal dermatitis, also called sore nose or facial eczema, is a serious condition that may affect your pet gerbil. Here are three things gerbil owners need to know about nasal dermatitis.
What are the signs of nasal dermatitis?
If your gerbil develops nasal dermatitis, you'll see hairless lesions on their snout. These lesions are red, swollen and crusted, and if not treated, they can become ulcerated. The lesions can also spread from the nasal area to the lips or the front paws. This condition can be very uncomfortable for affected gerbils, and the condition can make your pet not want to eat or drink water. If this happens, your gerbil could lose weight or even die.
What causes nasal dermatitis?
In the wild, gerbils are found in desert regions in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Deserts are hot, dry and have low humidity, and gerbils are adapted to these conditions. In captivity, they may live in homes with high humidity levels, and since they're not adapted for these conditions, they can become stressed and unhappy. In the wild, they bathe themselves by rolling around in the sand, so if their cage is lacking a sand bath, that can also make them stressed.
When gerbils become stressed, their Harderian glands secrete more fluids. These fluids are used to lubricate their eyes, but when too much is produced, the fluids run down to their noses. Over time, this wetness can irritate their noses and contribute to the development of nasal dermatitis. Opportunistic bacteria like staphylococcal species may grow on the wet, irritated skin and contribute to the development of the condition.
How is nasal dermatitis treated?
Your vet will need to clean your pet's lesions or ulcers. They will prescribe an appropriate antibiotic to clear up any staphylococcal bacteria that are worsening the condition. Both streptomycin and dihydrostreptomycin are fatal for gerbils, so a gerbil-safe antibiotic like ciprofloxacin will be used.
It's important to get rid of the stressors that allowed the nasal dermatitis to develop. Your vet can help you identify potential stressors. For example, if your gerbil doesn't have a sand bath, adding one to their cage can relieve their stress. If your home is very humid, place a dehumidifier near your gerbil's cage to recreate their preferred desert environment.
If you think your pet gerbil has nasal dermatitis, take them to an exotics vet for treatment before the condition can get worse. Contact a company like TLC First Animal Hospital for more information.