In the height of summer, we all need to take as many precautions as we can to protect ourselves from the sun and high heat.
Heatstroke can be pretty dangerous if we are not careful. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures and a lack of water can make it difficult for us to breathe.
We can also become disoriented and even lose consciousness. But, what about our small pets?
Our smaller pets usually live their lives in the comfort of our homes where the temperature is steady.
So if the temperature is steady, can smaller pets like our gerbils overheat? Yes, gerbils like most mammals can overheat if left in a very hot room or left in the sunlight for too long without a cover.
We all know not to leave pets like dogs unattended in hot cars. We also then need to remember to prevent heatstroke in our smaller pets like gerbils.
Below we will discuss some of the risks involved in gerbils overheating, what to do if you spot the warning signs and some preventative measures.
Why do Gerbils Overheat?
It is important to understand why gerbils overheat. It is easy to assume that a gerbil would be completely fine in hot temperatures.
Their wild ancestors are sand rats that scurry around the deserts of Africa and Asia in high heat.
However, these animals can change their habits and physiology to cope with temperatures above 68 degrees Fahrenheit (+20 degrees Celsius) and below -4 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 degrees Celsius).
They are far more capable in this mid-range. They can make the choice to head to a cool borrow in the scorching midday heat, to find water, slow down their metabolic rate and rest.
Pet gerbils don’t have the same free will. They live where we decide to place them in our homes, so they have to put up with the conditions we provide.
Sometimes it’s easy to overlook that especially in an uncommon situation like if the A/C goes out. We have to remember that they live with us and can feel a more extreme version of what we feel.
Therefore, they could easily overheat in those higher temperatures if we don’t help them out.
Conditions like gerbils getting heatstroke or overheating can be fatal so you must understand the symptoms and treat it as soon as possible.
The more you know now, and the better prepared you are, the more comfortable your animal can be. So then, what are the signs?
Signs of Gerbils Overheating
There are a few different signs to watch out for, especially during the summer months. Here are some of the signs that I found while looking this up.
They start panting. The first is any obvious panting.
- They may seem to be breathing fast with their mouth open.
- This could mean that their temperature has risen and they’re trying to cool down.
They start to rearrange their habitat. Some may then begin rearranging the cage bedding to create a cool space in which to lie down.
- This can look like a lot of bedding in one place.
- They sometimes can create a small tunnel to cool off in.
- This creates a dark cool place to escape the heat.
They become noticeably slower. In more prolonged cases, they may exhibit more lethargic movements.
- You may also notice them trembling due to the exhaustion.
- They may choose to stay in their homes a little more due to that exhaustion.
- That low energy can cause them to eat and exercise less as well.
Their behavior becomes different than you’re used to. There may also start to exhibit mood changes.
- You may notice some obvious irritability.
- If they still have the energy they may even become slightly more aggressive.
These are some of the signs that you need to look for if think that your gerbils are starting to get too hot.
If this all goes unnoticed, the animal could stop moving completely and lose consciousness.
What Should you do if Your Gerbil Overheats?
Move the affected gerbil to a safe place as soon as you can, the cooler and darker the better. Keep in mind that the area needs to a least have a little airflow. Gerbils are social animals so it’s okay to move them together.
Make sure that the room is cool with a good supply of air and that the gerbil has access to cool water and a little bit of fresh food.
Try to leave them alone as much as possible and tell other family members not to disturb them. This is important because they need to feel comfortable, so it’s best they get their peace and quiet.
Check on them regularly to watch for signs of improvement. In many cases, the animal will perk up and recover if you act quick enough and be as beneficial as possible.
Let them get back to their old self in this safe space and then consider ways to prevent it from happening again. Just don’t leave your gerbils separated for too long because they can be affected negatively by the loneliness.
If they don’t show rapid improvement and you’ve done all that you can to try to help, then it may be time to take them to a vet.
Be careful when transporting the gerbil to the vet to make sure they don’t overheat further and ensure there is still a regular water supply.
What not to do if Your Gerbil Overheats
Be careful when giving gerbils certain snacks when you’re trying to rehydrate them.
Some people love to give them lots of cold fresh fruit, like watermelon and strawberries, to rehydrate them and refresh them. But, it is easy to give them too much.
Don’t forget that gerbils should be on a restricted diet in summer because their metabolic rate drops in high temperatures.
Stick with water for immediate rehydration. Water is and has always been the best for rehydration.
Don’t give in to the desire to pet the gerbil or try to hold it while it’s trying to recover.
This isn’t as helpful and comforting as you might think, especially if they are already irritable. Your body heat won’t aid the cooling process.
Don’t cover the cage. Some gerbil owners may think that covering the cage with a towel will help to calm the animal and block out the sun. While the intentions here are good, the towel may restrict airflow into the cage.
Keeping Your Gerbils Temperature Regular
One of the best ways to prevent gerbils from overheating especially in the summer is to ensure that they can cool off by themselves.
This means creating a living space that is the ideal summer residence, so think about the things you would want.
We all like to sunbathe but also need a place to cool off in the shade. So for them, this means enclosed spaces, like small hideaways and tunnels. This does a good job at mimicking their natural burrows.
Some gerbil owners like to put cool stone slabs in the cage. Gerbils can lie on them for quick relief and they stay cool for a long time.
You might also consider relocating the gerbil to an air-conditioned room for the summer so that it has a regular supply of cool air.
Just don’t forget to check on your animals regularly to make sure that they are fine and don’t need anything.
This means checking the health and well-being of the animal, the heat of the cage and the water supply.
Your gerbils will drink that water more quickly in the summer months so be sure to keep their bottles clean and topped off.
If the sun has moved so that it is directly shining on the cage, move the cage to a cooler part of the room or close the blinds to block the sun’s rays.
Making sure that you’re doing all that you can to keep their temperature regular is the best way to prevent your gerbils from any kind of overheating or heatstroke.
Always be Mindful of the Risks
It is all too easy for gerbils to find themselves in high temperatures with no way to cool themselves down.
When this happens, heatstroke is a dangerous possibility. Take the time to adapt the cage set-up and location in the summer to lower this risk.
Also, remember to be careful with food and water supplies and to check on your gerbils regularly. The most important time to check on them would be around midday when the day is at its hottest.
A few small changes and regular checks could make the difference between a comfortable, happy animal and one at risk of a fatal condition.