Gerbil Eye Pustules
It's recently been brought to our attention that there is a health issue in the lines from Poland, which migrated to the Czech Republic and is now appearing in the UK and Germany.
After having repeatedly requested any sort of history of the gerbils brought from the continent, in all honestly it comes as little surprise that something else beyond the paralysis and epilepsy in the lines has popped up.
From what we can gather it's been known for a while now that some gerbils are suffering from spots around the eyes, this is in all lines and not contained to only wavy lines.
I will not rant too much about husbandry or morals when knowing there are health issues but instead try to stick to experience and try to properly document what's happening here.
Soon after being told about these eye spots, I discovered that two of mine were losing hair on their upper eyelid and it was looking a bit angry and sore. One - Jenny, began to swell somewhat and after around two or three weeks little spots appeared. A trip to the vet was in store, along with the rest that were also showing symptoms. And a shot of antibiotics given to Jenny as she was the only one obviously suffering - the other just looked a little red but has not yet swollen up or got any worse if anything I'd say she looks better now without any intervention! The antibiotic lasted a week and Jenny's eyes definitely had an improvement and they no longer looked an angry red. However there was a spot still left, so another shot was given; this time supposedly lasting 2 weeks and we're hopeful that the spot will have completely gone after the two weeks.
After speaking to the vet, we now believe that it's possible the spots will go anyway, especially since they are reacting to the antibiotics. And we can only assume that it's perhaps in some ways similar to a sty in humans. Here's the only photo I've managed clearly showing spots:
And this one shows the swelling and how the eye must at least be tender for her
The waved lines have now been split from my normal lines in an attempt to minimise any risk of contamination. I am very strict in my use of alcohol handwash between tanks, so know risks were already low but it's easy for things like this to spread.
Updated photos of the eyes after the second shot was given:
First we'll start with wider views so you can see that it isn't overly obvious what's going on to the human eye...
It's only thanks to my macro lens that what's going on becomes far more obvious:
To an inexperienced owner it is easy to think that this isn't anything too dangerous or too important to worry about; however anyone having kept Syrian hamsters or experienced their 'parvo' (which isn't actually parvo, but we'll not go into that), alarm bells will ring as this is also a symptom seen in Hamsters suffering the disease which managed to desecrate fancies from the US then made it way to Scandinavia and even the UK.
So you may understand why we are taking this so seriously.
Currently it does not appear to be the same, however it does appear to be some sort of inherited virus. The reason I say this is because not all members of the same tank have shown any symptoms. it's also thought that there's a degree of immunity already being seen in some animals; where they only seem to get slightly red or swollen eyes but the spots never appear.
Even developing immunity is a problem in itself because once they come into contact or breed with none-immune animals then the cycle will start over again. Therefore gerbils suffering from this ought not be bred, and their lines stopped.
The fact remains though, that this cannot be sorted purely by antibiotics, and of course antibiotics will not kill off the virus - it will only get rid of the bacteria causing the pustules. Therefore when they go, this DOES NOT mean the animal is suddenly 'cured' or is now healthy.
As a consequence, all my animals are now in quarantine until we know what's going on. I am rather angry as it also means I cannot work with Rexoid or bring any new animals into my house. All because of initial blasé attitude toward an illness - which regardless of severity ought always to be fully investigated before breeding and passing it on to other, innocent people who assume they will get healthy animals from supposed 'breeders'.
It is only common sense to quarantine and stop breeding or selling any animals showing illness until it can be proven what's wrong.
I hope we can all learn from this to be more careful when anything unusual shows up.
There is also a lively topic on the eGerbil forum discussing this issue;