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What is Gerbil Tail Slip and Does it Hurt?

gerbil tail slip

We all love our pets and want what’s best for them.

One thing that terrifies all pet owners, is something bad happening to our beloved friends.

One such thing that gerbil owners worry about is what’s called ‘gerbil tail slip‘.

Generally, a tail slip is something that happens in the wild, when a predator grabs a gerbil’s tail and it comes off to protect the gerbil from being a meal.”

Strangely enough, this can also happen to gerbils in captivity and it can be scary to see.

As a responsible pet owner, you should be aware of this condition and how to prevent it from occurring.

Today, we’ll explore the causes, symptoms, and treatments of gerbil tail slip.

To get you up to speed, you’ll discover the importance of proper handling how to recognize the early signs of tail slip, and what to do if you suspect your gerbil is experiencing this painful condition. 

What Exactly is Tail Slip in Gerbils?

gerbil being held

 If you are a pet gerbil owner, you may have heard of the term “tail slip”.

It refers to a condition where a gerbil’s tail can easily slip off if it is pulled or caught by another object.

This can happen due to several reasons, including improper handling, and overly aggressive play between gerbils.

Tail slip is a condition that can cause pain and discomfort.

If you suspect that your gerbil has tail slip, you can take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

A qualified vet will be able to examine your gerbil and determine the root cause of the problem.

They may recommend a variety of treatments, including pain medication, antibiotics, and even surgery in severe cases.

Causes of Tail Slip in Gerbil


Gerbils have long, slender tails that are not designed for bearing weight.

When a gerbil is picked up or held by its tail, the tail can easily become detached.

This is a common mistake made by inexperienced or careless handlers.

To prevent this, always support the gerbil’s body, rather than grabbing its tail.


Gerbils are sensitive creatures, and excessive stress can trigger tail slip.

Stressors may include sudden loud noises, aggressive cage mates, or an overly stimulating environment.

When stressed, gerbils may exhibit erratic behavior, including attempts to escape that can result in tail injury.

Fighting or Aggression

Gerbils can sometimes engage in fights within their colony or cage.

During these fights, they may bite or pull on each other’s tails, causing tail slip.

Provide ample space and appropriate social dynamics to minimize conflicts.

Improper Handling Tools

Using tools like small nets or inappropriate materials to catch gerbils can lead to tail slip.

The use of unsuitable equipment can inadvertently put pressure on their tails, leading to detachment.

Watercolor gerbil

Safety Tip

Always handle gerbils gently, avoiding their tails. Preventing tail slip starts with careful, gentle handling to keep your gerbil safe and healthy.

Symptoms of Tail Slip in Gerbils

Visible Tail Detachment

The most apparent symptom is the actual detachment of the gerbil’s tail from its body.

This can be a partial or complete separation and is typically seen as a clean break, often with exposed bone.


Tail slip is often accompanied by bleeding from the injured area. The tail stump may appear raw, and blood may be noticeable on the gerbil or its bedding.

Pain and Distress

Gerbils with tail slip will exhibit signs of pain and distress.

They may squeak, squeal, or vocalize more than usual. They’ll also show signs of discomfort, such as restlessness or attempts to groom the injured area.

Swelling and Inflammation: The tail stump may become swollen and inflamed in response to the injury.

This can make the injury more noticeable and painful.

Reduced Activity

Tail slip can cause gerbils to become less active due to the pain and discomfort. They may spend more time hiding or resting in one place.


In some cases, tail slip can lead to secondary infections in the injured area. Look for signs of redness, discharge, or foul odors near the tail stump, which may indicate an infection.

why do gerbil tails fall off

How Do I Avoid Tail Slip?

The question arises, can you pick up gerbils by their tails?

To avoid tail slip, you should always hold your gerbil firmly but gently.

Make sure that your grip is not too tight or too loose. You can also use a soft cloth or towel to hold your gerbil.

Remember to never lift your gerbil by its tail.

This can cause serious damage to its tail and spine.

What Happens if You Pull a Gerbil’s Tail?

Pulling a gerbil’s tail is extremely harmful and should be avoided at all costs.

Gerbils’ tails are fragile and not designed to bear weight or withstand force.

If you pull a gerbil’s tail, it can lead to a “tail slip,” and the tail will become partially or completely detached from the body.

Is Gerbil Tail Slip Painful?

Yes, gerbil tail slip is a painful condition.

The tail contains nerve endings, and when it becomes detached, it can cause significant discomfort and distress to the gerbil.

The pain is often evident through vocalizations, restlessness, and other behavioral changes in the affected gerbil.

gerbil lost its tail

Can Gerbils Live Without Their Tails?

The tail serves various purposes, including balance and communication.

However, gerbils can adapt to these changes and still be just as happy.

What to Do if Your Gerbil’s Tail Falls Off?

If your gerbil’s tail falls off, it’s natural to be concerned.

But it does not affect your gerbil’s future and they can still enjoy a long and happy life.

The next steps to take include:

Stay Calm: Remain calm to reduce stress for your gerbil. Handle them gently and avoid causing further harm.

Isolate: Separate the affected gerbil from cage mates to prevent potential aggression or further injuries.

Hygiene: Ensure the wound is clean. You can use a mild saline solution to gently clean the tail stump if there’s any blood or debris. Be very gentle to avoid causing pain.

Veterinary Care: Contact a veterinarian experienced with small rodents immediately. They can assess the injury, provide pain relief, and offer guidance on wound care.

Pain Management: Gerbils can experience significant pain after tail loss. Follow your vet’s instructions for pain management, which may include pain medication.

Keep the Environment Stress-Free: Maintain a quiet, low-stress environment for the gerbil to aid in recovery.

Watercolor gerbil

Stress-free Life

Maintain a low-stress living environment for gerbils. Minimize loud noises and conflicts to reduce the risk of tail slip and other health issues.

Treatment of Gerbil Tail Slip

The only treatment available is amputation of the tail. This may be complete or partial depending on the injury. This will help to stop any infection from developing in your pet.

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