Heart Disease in Ferrets
Heart disease is relatively common in middle aged to older
ferrets. Symptoms may
include decreased appetite, lethargy, generalized or rear leg
weakness, labored breathing, purplish or pale gums, coughing,
and/or abdominal enlargement from fluid accumulation.
Either weight loss or weight gain (from fluid) can also be
observed. In the early
stages of heart disease, there may be no symptoms.
As the heart disease progresses, mild signs often start to
develop and then more severe signs.
The severe signs are generally seen when the heart cannot
keep up with its job of circulating the blood in the body, and
therefore fluid backs up in the lungs and/or abdomen.
This is called congestive heart failure.
If you observe your ferret showing any of these signs, you
should bring them to your veterinarian for an examination.
The veterinarian can listen to the ferret’s heart with a
stethoscope to check for an abnormal rhythm or heart murmur.
Not all ferrets with heart disease will have a detectable
murmur or arrhythmia, but if present, this helps to confirm heart
If heart disease is
suspected, x-rays are usually the next step.
An enlarged, rounded heart and fluid in the lungs are
common findings with heart disease.
If the x-rays indicate a heart problem, a cardiac
ultrasound is recommended.
The ultrasound can evaluate the heart function, whether the
heart wall is thickened or too thin, and how the heart valves are
working. The two tests
together help to provide a picture of how severe the heart disease
is and help the veterinarian decide the type and dose of
medications that need to be administered. Pictured below is
an X-ray of a ferret with obvious heart failure.
heart disease help to decrease the workload on the heart, control
the blood pressure, and keep fluid from accumulating in the lungs.
Heart disease cannot be cured, but it can be managed.
This can increase the length and the quality of the
ferret’s life. The
ferret will need to be evaluated regularly to evaluate whether any
adjustment is needed in the dose of medication.
The dose of medication depends on the individual ferret and
the severity of the heart disease.
Bloodwork will also need to be monitored to make sure there
are no adverse effects from the medications. See this page
for the vitamin supplement
we recommend for your pet!
Most heart disease
develops as the ferret ages and cannot be prevented.
Once heart disease is diagnosed though, the progression of
the heart disease can often be slowed down with medications.
An exception to this is heartworm disease.
It is much easier to prevent heartworms than to treat them.
Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes.
If your ferret goes outdoors or has exposure to mosquitoes,
a monthly heartworm preventative prescribed by your veterinarian
can be given. Please
refer to the Heartworm Disease page on this site for further
If you have any
questions or wish to schedule an exam, please call Chicago Exotics
at 847-329-8709. Thank you.
evaluations available by appointment.
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