Nervous System Disorders in Gerbils

Epilepsy in Gerbils

Epileptic seizures are related to disorders of the nervous system, however, they may occur in the absence of any nervous system disease. They tend to manifest in gerbils that are suffering from stress, improper handling, or from a sudden change in living environment. In many cases a propensity to seizures is passed down from the parents; it is thought to be genetically based, in some cases.

Fortunately, epileptic seizures will not usually cause severe or permanent harm to the gerbil. 

Symptoms and Types

Signs of epilepsy often make an appearance around the time when a gerbil reaches puberty, 2-3 months of age. The seizure may be mild to severe and will recur at frequent intervals until the gerbil is about six months of age. The frequency and severity of the seizures typically begin to wane after the age of six months. Mild seizures usually have the gerbil displaying a trance-like behavior with twitching of ears and whiskers. Gerbils with severe seizures, other other hand, will suffer from convulsions, stiffening of muscles, and jerking of the whole body.


Genetic predisposition is a leading cause of epilepsy. Other potential factors include:

  • Sudden stress
  • Improper handling
  • Sudden change in living environment (e.g., move to a new home or location, cage change)


Your veterinarian will most likely use differential diagnosis, a process that is guided by a deeper inspection of the apparent outward symptoms, ruling out each of the more common causes until the correct disorder is settled upon and can be treated appropriately. You will also need to provide a thorough history of your gerbil’s health leading up to the onset of symptoms, with as much familial history as possible.


An involuntary action in which the muscles contract; caused by a problem with the brain.


A condition of frequent or recurring seizures that are not of a system origin

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