Q & A: My three-year-old pet gerbil recently started to become ‘wobbly’. She also shakes at times and seems unwell. What could be the reason?

Q. My three-year-old pet gerbil recently started to become ‘wobbly’. She also shakes at times and seems unwell. What could be the reason?

A. I’m afraid to say that sadly it does sound as if your gerbil is nearing the end of her life – they really don’t live much longer than two to three years. If you think that she has a poor quality of life, you should take her to see your veterinarian.

Small animal veterinarian


Q. Do rabbits show specific signs of aging and do older rabbits need specific care? 

A. Aging pets require different care. But how do you know at which age you need to start a different care routine? And how do you tell a rabbit’s age if, for example, he is a rescue?

The average lifespan of a healthy rabbit is 10 to 12 years. We consider them to be ‘seniors’ from seven to eight years old. Older rabbits can commonly suffer from arthritis of the joints, kidney problems and tooth problems. There isn’t really anything concrete that you can use to age a rabbit, but older bunnies tend to be less active and often have less glossy coats.

Your older bunny friend does need some special attention. We recommend yearly health checks with an experienced rabbit vet to pick up any problems before they become severe. This will include a full physical and dental examination and possibly some routine blood tests as needed. Some older rabbits may develop overgrowth of the cheek teeth, making it difficult for them to eat their hay, which is critical to their gut health. The overgrown teeth can be filed down to make the rabbit more comfortable. For rabbits with painful joints, joint supplements should be added to the food and anti-inflammatories may be prescribed.

It is critical that your older rabbit eat a healthy diet consisting of good-quality grass hay with a limited amount of high-quality (not supermarket) rabbit pellets and some greens and vegetables. For house bunnies, access to unfiltered natural sunlight (not through a window) is beneficial. With proper care and regular health checks you can expect your rabbit to have a good number of happy golden years.


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