You probably heard a lot that you should never grab your gerbil by the tail because it can fall of. Well, it is actually true, and it’s not that the whole tail will just fall of like in lizards, but a bit different. In fact the skin and fur covering the tail could slip of, but not the whole tail and it is still a serious injury.
Bones and muscles of the actual tail would still be there, but without skin and you would be left with a piece of furry skin in your hand, which is not really a nice thing to see. It is called tail slip or tail degloving.
What could be the cause?
The reason why gerbils have a tail like that, is in fact their defensive sistem in the wild. Because animals that hunt gerbils obviously would grab them first by their tail, because a gerbil running away has its tail behind and the first thing the predator can grab is the tail.
So the sistem is that if the predator grabs the tail, the tail would slip of and the predator would go away with the tail while the gerbil would be safe.
But in most pet cases the cause of a gerbil loosing its tail is by poor handling and grabing it by the tip of the tail (or any other part that isn’t the base of the tail) and people just not knowing that they can’t hold a gerbil by its tail.
The tail can be lost in a fight if its heavy wounded, or it can be injured also by inapropriate wheels for running.
What to do with the injured tail?
The injury can cause roting of the tail, it can also dry and fall of by itself. And sometimes it can heal nicely. But if this ever happens, you need to take your gerbil to the vets as soon as possible.
The vet wont be able to fix it and the tail would probably have be amputated, but he will give something for pain relief and something for it to heal better.
If you don’t have access to a vet or there’s a longer ride to him, place the gerbil in a clean tank. The uncovered part of the tail will eventualy dry and fall of, but it won’t grow back like in lizards. The gerbil could have some balance problems in the begging but it will get used to it soon.
You can see images of an injured tail here (Warning! Some of you may find these pictures disturbing): 1 , 2 , 3
How to avoid the injury?
You can avoid the tail slip by handling a gerbil properly (avoiding grabbing the tail) and holding them with both hands, also by getting them proper wheels for running.
If you notice any early sign of a fight, separate them immediately to avoid any further injuries.
If you really have no other choice…
If there’s a situation that grabing your gerbil by the tail can’t be avoided for example if it’s going to fall down, if it’s somwhere on the sofa or bed and it doesn’t want to come out, or when you are cleaning their home and you need to get them out but they keep escaping – then pick up your gerbil by gently holding the base of the tail while supporting its body with your other hand, but only in situations where’s no other choice because it is not comfortable for them.
The easiest way would be to train your gerbils being handled with both hands.
A gerbils tail is a really strong part of their body which they use a lot, mostly for balance and it is a very sensitive part of their body. So you have to be careful with handling them.
I know it all sound scary alltogehter, but it’s actually not. Just avoid grabing the tail and everything should be fine.:)