Gerbils, like other small rodents, have relatively short lifespans. Most gerbils generally live three to four years. Elderly gerbils---those over three years of age---are susceptible to strokes. There are a few very clear signs that may indicate a gerbil has suffered a stroke. Some gerbils will recover from a stroke on their own over a period of two to three weeks, while others do not recover. In some cases, euthanasia may be necessary.
Paralysis, either partial or entire, is a key symptom that may indicate your gerbil has experienced a stroke. Often a gerbil that has suffered a stroke will be paralysed along one side of its body, and it may be unable to move the limbs on that side. Paralysis may also be a sign of spinal injury. If your gerbil is still enjoying normal activities, such as eating and grooming, it may recover from the stroke over time. If your gerbil is curled up and unmoving, take it to a veterinarian immediately.
If the gerbil seems unable to fully open one of its eyes, this could be a sign that it has had a stroke. In the absence of other stroke symptoms, an inability to open its eye fully may merely indicate an injury or irritation to the eye. If the gerbil's eye does not improve, take it in to see a veterinarian.
Head tilting occurs when the gerbil tips its head over to one side. This is often an indication of a stroke. However, if no other stroke symptoms are present, it may be a sign of a middle-ear infection or a middle-ear tumour or cyst. Infections can be treated with antibiotics. If other symptoms are showing, such as disorientation or paralysis, head tilting may be a sign that the gerbil has had a stroke.
Disorientation in a gerbil is also a sign that it may have had a stroke. The gerbil may be turning in repetitive circles, or manoeuvres in an awkward manner, unable to travel in a straight line. When it attempts to stand it may lose its balance and fall. If you offer the gerbil its favourite treat, it may be unresponsive. These may all be indications that the gerbil has had a stroke. If the gerbil is so disoriented and unresponsive that it is not eating or grooming, take it to a veterinarian immediately.