Adrenal disease- are tumors on the adrenal glands which are located in front of the kidneys and generally starts affecting ferrets over the age of 2. They will experience hair loss starting at the tail, moving upward on their body. They will become lethargic, they may gain a potbelly, and orangish skin. Males will get an enlarged prostrate, causing strain to urinate, while the female will have an enlarged vulva. (see below)
It will typically be on the head, or tail. Options are either surgery or medicine. Surgery can be successful in most cases where the ferrets normally bounce right back when they are younger. You can also give them melatonin or deslorilin implants to slow the process and potentially regrow the hair. Consult your vet. Hair loss on the tail can also be "blackheads" where the pores are plugged and cannot regrow hair.
INSULINOMA: (quick tip: this is like being a diabetic where getting oral medicine can give them a normal life. This is common to ferrets usually over 3 yrs of age.)
Insulinoma- is caused by tumors in the pancreas. This produces excessive amounts of insulin, where the ferret will experience a low blood sugar. Early signs are lethargic, pawing or foaming at the mouth, difficulty with hind legs, and staring into space. Options are either surgery or oral medication. They can still live a normal life on the medication. Consult your vet. For more information, INSULINOMA: (quick tip: this is like being a diabetic where getting oral medicine can give them a normal life. This is common to ferrets usually over 3 yrs of age.)
INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE (IBD Simply stated IBD is an inflammation of the GI tract. Often this disease goes unrecognized until signs and symptoms appear which is often at an advanced stage. The signs and symptoms demonstrated could represent a host of illnesses, which makes diagnosis much more difficult. The most common signs are bird-seed like poops, diarrhea, soft poops, and a change in appetite. There is only one way to diagnosis this disease and that is by a biopsy which includes the mesenteric lymph nodes. Often treatment is begun without a biopsy, on symptoms alone to see if a response is obtained from the treatment drugs. Care should be given to this however, as the drugs to treat IBD could worsen other illness like Proliferative Colitis, Heliocobactor or Coccidiosis, which generally present the same. It is also very common for the ferret to have ulcers at the same time.
CARDIOMYOPATHY: is the death of cardiac muscle fibers which gets replaced by scar tissue and can take on two forms: Dilated and Hypertrophic which share same symptoms but different causes. Signs of heart failure- include congestion, edema (fluid retention causing limbs to swell, build up in abdomen or around lungs, enlarged heart, low blood pressure, tiredness, and difficulty breathing). This disease is very hard to detect in the early stages, as it starts progressing, the respiratory rate and pulse increase, mucous membranes will appear purple or blue vs pink, and will have a slow capillary refill (press on the gums with your finger turning it white and release; will take 3+ seconds to return to pink color). There is no cure but there is treatments.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy - an enlarged heart and more common form of heart disease in ferrets. The heart muscles become stretched and lose the ability to contract with strength, resulting in only a small fraction of blood being pumped. The backing up of blood due to the decrease in pumping strength can back into the abdomen (swollen, fluid filled belly), lungs (initially soft cough which worsens, decrease in energy). At end stage (Chronic Heart Failure), it becomes very difficult to breath, often fluid in lungs and abdomen, which presses on the diaphragm.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy- is an overgrowth of heart fibers which decreases the effectiveness in pumping the blood. The muscle walls of the ventricles become extremely thickened, reducing the size of the chamber the blood flow through. This disease is often diagnosed in much younger ferrets than DCM, and is harder to diagnose as no heart enlargement will be visible on x-rays, necessitating the use of Echocardiograms, Sonograms and ECG.
COCCIDIA- is a gastrointestinal parasite affecting the lining of the ferrets intestinal track and can cause bloody diarrhea. This disease is usually due to poor sanitation but can be picked up from the environment. While not transmittable to humans, it can be contagious to other animals. Symptoms can include: Stool has a very strong odor, Diarrhea (often accompanied with a prolapse rectum), Weight loss, Dehydration, Lethargy. Diagnosis is usually done by a fecal float. Ferrets usually respond very well to Albon which is usually administered orally once a day for 9 days. Sub-Q fluids might need to be administered as well to keep the ferret well hydrated. This disease can be transmitted to all other ferrets so it is best to treat all animals. Constant cleaning of the litter box, bedding, cage area and environment will also be key in eradicating the parasite. This is also caused by stress. You will notice their feces turning green and smelling. It is easily treated with a medication or additive to their water.
HELIOCOBACTOR-is a bacteria that results in chronic infection of the stomach which eventually destroys the stomach lining impairing the ability to secrete acid and digest food and causes two stomach syndromes: Chronic atrophic gastritis and Peptic ulcers. Gastritis will cause abdominal pain and often food intake is minimal. If ulcers are present, they will have very dark tarry stools, and can exhibit any of the following: Gastritis, enlarged lymph, Lethargy, Painful abdomen, Grinding teeth, Excess salivation, Vomiting, Loss of appétit, Soft Black stool. Treatment usually consists of a combo of Amoxy, Flagyl and an antacid (Pepto-Bismol) for about 4-8 weeks. Steriods can be used to suppress severe inflammation.
FLU-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. 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 but rather a respiratory infection, sinus infection, etc.
MAST CELL TUMORS-The second most common tumor of the skin, almost always benign and pose no significant health risk. They appear as flat scaly areas and may have 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, but can easily be surgically removed.
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 interferes with absorption of nutrients and water. If not treated, ferrets can rapidly lose much of their body weight, which will result in death. Treatment is providing meds twice a day.
RENAL FAILURE-Usually found in older ferrets when the kidneys lose the ability to perform their function due to the continual lose of renal tissue. As it progresses, it becomes chronic as the kidneys can no longer excrete substances, and therefore it builds up into the blood. They may have an ammonia smell on their breath and mouth ulcers. There is no cure, only supportive treatment to decrease levels of toxic substances in the blood, including providing a low protein diet and Sub-Q fluids.
ULCERS-Can be asymptomatic or accompanied by some signs of abdominal distress. Some may vomit and have bad breath. Most notably- grinding teeth (from abdominal pain), pawing at the mouth, and/or black tarry stools, loss of appetite, occasional vomiting, loose stools, etc. A response to Carafate is also a good indicator and 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 duck soup. Other medications you can try are Pepto-Bismol or Pepcid and ensure the ferret continues taking in food and water, and does not become dehydrated.
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