Diarrhea in Ferrets
of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians: aemv.org
Diarrhea or loose stools are a common
diagnosis in pet ferrets. Some
ferrets may appear otherwise normal, or may experience appetite
loss, weight loss, dehydration, and abdominal pain. Stools vary in
character and color, and may be “seedy”(soft with a granular
appearance), liquid or contain mucous or blood.
causes for diarrhea and soft stools include:
- A bacterial infection, including Helicobacter mustelae
- A viral infection, including Epizootic
Catarrhal Enteritis (ECE)
- A hairball or other foreign material in the
stomach or intestines
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Lymphoma, or other gastrointestinal cancers
- Stress from a change in the environment or
other underlying medical condition
can be difficult for the veterinarian to distinguish between the
above diseases, as many will produce similar symptoms. It is
important to start with a complete physical examination and
appearing right after exposure to other ferrets may be caused by
an infectious disease or even stress. If stools are dark and tarry
and the ferret exhibits signs of abdominal pain, such as teeth
foreign body and/or Helicobacter should be considered.
Other clues in the history and physical examination findings
may suggest other causes.
diagnostic tests are important to help determine the underlying
cause. Specialized testis for specific viruses or bacteria may be
recommended. If testing is negative and the ferret does not
improve, it is often necessary to take surgical biopsies of the
stomach, intestines or other organs.
These samples are sent to an experienced exotic animal
pathologist for evaluation.
Treatment varies with cause. In many cases sick ferrets are
dehydrated and nutritionally depleted so treatment may begin with
fluid therapy and nutritional support.
Diarrhea caused by bacteria may be treated with
antibiotics. A special
combination of antibiotics and other medications is used to treat Helicobacter. Gastrointestinal foreign bodies typically require
surgical removal along with supportive care. Lymphoma requires chemotherapy or radiation and the prognosis varies
with severity of the disease when diagnosed, the age of the ferret
at diagnosis and other factors.
for ferrets with diarrhea varies with general condition and
underlying cause. A
thorough evaluation gives the best chance for finding therapy that
gives the best chance of a successful outcome.
by the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians: aemv.org 2005
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