Whenever your ferret undergoes an operation they will be administered an anesthetic to put them under. There are two forms Gas (isoflurane) and injectable. Most vets prefer the gas anesthetic as they have full control of how much is being given, and the ferret generally tolerates this form much better. Injectable anesthetics can not be controlled once administered, you have to wait it out, and ferrets generally have a harder time recovering. Vets who typically utilize this form do so for convenience sake and lower price. Isoflurane (gas) is the form of choice.
Gum disease in all animals including ferrets can lead into additional health problems such as heart disease and respiratory diseases like pneumonia. Ferrets 3 years of age or older should have their teeth cleaned annually by a professional to remove plaque and prevent periodontal disease and teeth loss. During the procedure your ferret is administered a general anesthetic and the vet will use a steel scraper or ultrasonic scaler to loosen/remove plaque.
DISSEMINATED IDIOPATHIC MYOSITIS
Usually affects ferrets younger than a year old and carries a high mortality rate. The disease does not appear to be contagious or related to food or specific breeders. The onset of DIMS has been reported as a very quick (fine one day, sick the next). Initial signs are severe persistent fluctuating fever, lethargy, weakness, masses under the skin, abnormal stools and decreased appetite. Additional signs (especially as the disease progresses) includes increased breathing rate, clear discharge from nose/ eyes, pain/ discomfort, depression and skin changes. Increased heart rate and murmurs may also be detected.
While signs come on quickly, duration can be days to weeks to months before death. Almost every suspected/ confirmed case has a very elevated WBC, neutrophils usually the predominate type. Often the ferret will become anemic, have increased glucose levels and blood protein. Albumin is usually decreased. Despite severe muscle damage and inflammation, the creatine kinase (CR) which is usually elevated in these conditions, is not. To date, the cause of disease cannot be identified, nor is it understood; there is no treatment and supportive care has not been effective.
Click here to download the AFA Medical alert on DIMS.
Currently research is underway to try and understand this new ferret disease. If you and your vet suspect DIMS, you can complete the case report form and send in with biopsy samples. Click here to download the order form in PDF.
Eosinophillic Enteritis (EE)
This disease generally seen in male ferrets. There is a large accumulation of eosinophils (type of white blood cells usually found with allergic reactions to parasites) found in the walls of the GI. The eosinophils contain granules in their cytoplasm which are released upon contact of parasites causing damage to the tissue. EE is usually determined by the rule out of other illnesses, and a CBC should show elevated eosinophils in the peripheral blood.
Treatment is usually life-long and consists of Prednisone (allergy treatment) and if parasites are confirmed, Ivermectin. Once Prednisone is stopped, the symptoms will once again return, so the goal is to find the lowest dosage to administer that will still be effective.
Frontline, Advantage and Revolution are all safe and effective flea control on ferrets and lasts about one month
Frontline kills fleas, ticks and works on ear mites as well. The spray form which should be used 1 spray per pound, is the most effective and most economical. You can also use the cat monthly top spot or cat size Frontline Plus. For ear mites, you should apply 1 spray into each ear and 1 spray on top of the neck.
- Advantage kills fleas only. You can use the cat size tube (1/2 to 1 tube per ferret). This application can wash off in baths.
- Revolution kills fleas, ticks, ear mites and skin mites and can be used for heartworm prevention. You can use the 5-15 lb cat size.
Ear mites: You can use either Frontline, Revolution (as mentioned above), Acarexx, Tresaderm or Ivomec.
- Acarexx is actually diluted Ivermectin ear drops. You should use 1 tube per ear and repeat after 3 weeks.
- Ivomec: This is an injectable or topical form of Ivermectin, and should be repeated in 3 weeks.
- Tresaderm: Ear Drops. 3 drops per ear twice daily for 10 days, stop 10 days and repeat another 10 days.
Usually causes upper respiratory symptoms with possible fever that may diminish within 48 hours. They may exhibit bouts of sneezing, congestion, watery eyes, nasal discharge, lethargic, loss of appetite and rub their face often. While not common, it is possible for the flu to turn into pneumonia. Treatment consists of supportive care with nutrition and hydration being key. In severe cases, antihistamines and antibiotics might be prescribed.
Lower respiratory problems may also be present consisting of coughing, labored breathing, wheezing and respiratory crackles. Ferrets can NOT catch the human cold (Rhinovirus). often what we commonly call the cold, is not a true cold but rather a respiratory infection, sinus infection, etc.
Yes, ferrets do get hairballs and intestinal blockages, but unfortunately they do lack the natural reflux ability of coughing it up. You can cut down and/or eliminate any/all accumulations by providing your ferret Laxatone/Petromalt on a weekly basis. If an accumulation or blockage does accumulate it might be necessary to have the substance removed surgically.
If you notice your ferret cutting down on its food intake or not eating at all, different looking poops, hind leg motor weakness, coughing, etc you should take them to the vet immediately for testing, as this usually signifies a blockage either in their stomach or intestines. All of the above signs are not just indicative of blockages, but also can be signs of other illness, and a medical exam is certainly warranted as soon as possible. If a hairball accumulation/blockage is left untreated, in time it could result in serious complications including death.
Your ferret can also exhibit these signs due to other types of blockages caused by swallowing pieces of their toys, styrofoam peanuts, rubber objects (pencil erasers), foam, strings, fabrics, towels, cigarette butts, gum, etc. Depending on the size of the blockage surgical removal might be necessary. It is important to check all new and used toys and bedding items constantly to ensure no lose pieces, they are not chewed through, as well as nothing is around they can chew/swallow that can cause them any harm.
If you own multiple ferrets, which most owners do, and have other animals in the house, your best safeguard is to weekly provide them with a lubricant such as Laxatone/Petromalt. This becomes more important during the shedding season due the increased amount of fur, as well as the additional fur from other animals your ferret can ingest from grooming.
Composed of lymphocytes and affects the blood. The tumor cells circulate in the blood and can affect the bone marrow. Ferrets often develop anemia and prognosis is very poor.
Mast Cell Tumors
This is the second most common tumor of the skin in ferrets. Mast cell tumors are almost always benign (non-cancerous) and pose no significant health risk. They appear as flat scaly areas on the skin with many associated with hair loss at the site. Usually appears as an itchy scab. Mast cells usually are near blood vessels and full of histamines. When stimulated, the histamines are released causing blood vessels nearby to dilate and leak fluid, which makes the ferret very itchy. They may cause hive like appearance, congestion, swelling, itching and general irritation. Frequency usually increases with age and several can be present at the same time. As they rarely invade below the skin surface, they can easily be surgically removed. If excision is complete, they won't return, it not, they will return.
This condition is characterized by the dilation of the esophagus due to lack of muscular motility. The ferret may have problems breathing or regurgitate its food as the food does not get passed into the stomach, but rather swells in the esophagus. Immediate vet care is essential as the ferret is not getting to the stomach, it can dehydrate and waste away in a few days time. This condition can be diagnosed by first giving a barium, then feeding the ferret and immediately taking an X-ray (food will show up in the esophagus).
Though prognosis is poor, you can certainly help the ferret live with this condition. Zantac, Pepcid or Tagament is usually prescribed to reduce reflux of the stomach acids, and should be given prior to eating. Proper feeding and hydration is key to survival, a bland diet should be given 3-5 times a day; the ferret should never go more than 8-10 hours without food. You should massage the ferrets throat to chest area to stimulate them to swallow. As the ferret is able to take in and hold down the food, slightly increase its thickness. Cisapride or Metaclopromide may increase motility.
It is extremely important to keep in mind that one or two irregular poops does not make for a sick ferret.....do not become a poop watcher. The following has been provided by Dr. Bruce Williams:
- Green: Generally represents food moving through the system too quickly.
- Black Tarry : Very suggestive of gastric bleeding and usually associated with gastric ulcers. The black color is the result of blood digestion taking place in the stomach.
- Bloody: In small amounts, usually from the large bowel or rectum. If a lot of blood, could be from the entire length of the GI tract. Massive hemorrhage is from severe gastric fluids or shock.
- Birdseed appearance: Represents maldigestion/malabsorption - undigested fat and starches (can be seen with any disease/illness). If continues, you should remove hard kibble for a few days and feed a bland diet (ie; Gerbers baby food-chicken or Duck Soup).
- Pencil Thin: You should start thinking about a partial obstruction, usually a foreign body.
Proliferative Colitis is caused by a non-contagious bacteria. Visible signs include dark stools containing large amounts of clear or green mucous. ferrets often strain to defecate and may act as if it is painful to go, which can lead into a prolapse rectum.
The bacteria causes the intestinal lining to become very thick, which interferes with absorption of nutrients and water. While they might still continue to eat in smaller amounts, they are often inactive and lethargic.
Preliminary diagnosis is usually made by x-rays or Ultra Sound. A definitive diagnosis can only be done by performing a biopsy.
If not treated, ferrets can rapidly lose much of their body weight, which will result in death. Treatment is providing Chloramphenical 25mg/lb twice a day. Supportive care is also very key.
Usually found in older ferrets when the kidneys lose the ability to perform their function due to the continual lose of renal tissue. As the disease progresses, it becomes chronic as the kidneys can no longer excrete substances, and therefore it builds up into the blood.
Renal failure can by measured by measuring certain blood and urine parameters. When 65% of the kidney function is lost, they will lose the ability to concentrate urine. When 90% of the kidney is lost, certain substances back up in the kidneys and can be found in increased levels in the blood which can be found on a chemistry panel (urea, creatinine, phosphorus). When the BUN level is severely increased, they may have an ammonia smell on their breath and have mouth ulcers. As the tissues never heal or replace, there is no cure, you can only provide supportive treatment to decrease levels of toxic substances in the blood, including providing a low protein diet. Regular administration of Sub-Q fluids are key to maintaining their health.
This is more commonly known as en enlarged spleen, and may be attributable to proliferative lesions, reactive processes or compensatory mechanisms. Common causes induce neoplasia (mostly lymphoma), Adrenal disease, anemia or pancytopenia, bacteria sepsis, generalized chronic debilitating illnesses or EMH (Extramedullary Hemotopoiesis). Use of certain anesthetics can cause enlargements dramatically, which is why important to evaluate by palpation, radiography or ultrasound "before" anesthesia.
Diagnostic tests include palpation and X-rays for size and aspirate or biopsy to determine cytology or histology. EMH is a common feature in spleens and is believed to be a common and benign cause. Causes are not yet fully known, and a tentative diagnosis can be made on an aspirate.
Can be asymptomatic or accompanied by some signs of abdominal distress. Some ferrets may vomit and have bad breath as well. Diagnosis is usually made on signs and symptoms, most notably grinding teeth (from abdominal pain), pawing at the mouth, and/or black tarry stools. Other vague signs include loss of appetite, occasional vomiting, loose stools, etc. A response to Carafate is also a good indicator.
Carafate (Sucralfate) is key in healing this condition which can last months. It acts as a patch during acid secretions by the stomach. It is important to give the medication 15-30 minutes "prior" to "each" feeding of a bland non-kibble diet (Duck Soup or Gerber's Chicken stage 2), or it will defeat its purpose.
Other medications you can try are Pepto-Bismol or Biaxin (which they hate the taste of), Tagament, Pepcid, or Cimitidine (inj Tagament). Attention must be given to ensure the ferret continues taking in food and water, and does not become dehydrated.