It's actually a thing. Gerbils do lose their tails… and it's called gerbil tail slip. It's not that the whole tail will just fall off… like a lizard tail will. (BTW, we totally love lizards.) But with our gerbils, the skin and fur covering the tail can slip off. Ouch, right?
Gerbil tail slip is a pretty severe injury. I mean, would you feel calm with part of your body having no skin on it? Not me. Fo realz.
Bones and muscles of the actual tail will still be there but without the skin. The skin will likely be left in your hand. Or on the floor. Or wherever skin goes when it's not on your gerbil's tail.
So, What’s The Cause Of Tail Slip?
Historically, gerbils are wild animals. But their defense systems were bred to keep them alive… in the wild. As a result, gerbils are prey animals. Those hunter animals go for the tail while their prey is running away. The tail's in the back. Grab it.
So, when a predator grabs the tail, it slips off. The predator got the tail. But not the gerbil. Safety at its finest.
But in a domestic setting, most gerbil tail slip occurrences are caused by poor handling and grabbing by the tip of the tail (or any part that's not the base, really). So it's super crucial for gerbil owners to understand… do NOT hold your gerbil by the tail. Attention: DO NOT HOLD YOUR GERBIL BY THE TAIL.
If It Falls Off, What The Heck Do I do?
Gerbil tail slip is a pretty darn severe injury and can cause rotting of the tail. But, it can also dry and fall off by itself. Sometimes it heals nicely. Sometimes not. If you have a gerbil who lost its tail, you have to get to your exotic vet ASAP. They're not going to be able to fix it, and the tail will likely have to be amputated, but they'll get a pain reliever. And that's a mental relief for you.
If you can't get to your exotic vet right away, put your pet in a clean tank. The uncovered part of the tail will eventually dry and fall off. It won't grow back, but who cares? I mean, I have lots of stretch marks. I call them tiger stripes. Because moms are totally fierce. It's my story, just like your tail-less gerbil has his story.
How Do I Avoid Tail Slip?
Gerbil tail slip stinks. But you can do everything in your power to avoid it. First, educate yourself on how to handle your gerbil properly. Never grab 'em by the tail. Instead, hold them with both of your hands. Get them proper wheels for running. They like to run. (Good for them. I hate cardio. But they're probably in better shape than me.)
No Other Choice? Listen Up.
Sometimes you probably can't help grabbing your gerbil by the tail. But, unfortunately, it can't always be avoided. Sofa? Bed? Falling Down? Cleaning their home, and you need to get them out, but they're pulling a Houdini?
Try your best to pick them up by gently holding the base of the tail while supporting the body with your other hand. Only in difficult situations, though. It's not comfy for them to ever be handled by the tail. And no one likes to be uncomfortable.
Always try to handle your gerbil with two hands. Yep, two.
Your pet's tail is one of the most substantial parts of its body. So they use it a lot for balance. And their balance is incredible.
Be careful. Be smart. Y'all are gerbil parents. And we know you’ve got this.
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