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Miscellaneous Diseases of Mink


Fur clipping and tail biting are common in mink and may be caused by captivity. Fur clipping decreases the value of the pelt, and tail biting frequently results in fatal hemorrhage. There is no effective treatment. All mink demonstrating these behaviors should be culled.

Urinary incontinence (wet belly disease) is a nonfatal condition that usually affects obese males in the late summer and autumn. It is characterized by dribbling of urine and staining of the pelt around the urinary orifice. Because affected areas of the pelt must be discarded, the condition is of economic importance. The cause is unknown, but genetic strain, high dietary fat level, and obesity appear to have the greatest influence on incidence. Affected mink should have an ample water supply.

Starvation and chilling cause death in mink fed inadequate fat or provided with too little feed during the winter and early spring. Affected mink are thin and may run until they collapse and die, or they may be found dead in their cages. Such deaths usually occur after the environmental temperature decreases suddenly, especially in the early spring when mink are being brought into breeding condition. Necropsy reveals emaciation and an absence of body fat, in some cases accompanied by hepatic lipidosis and gastric ulceration. This results from improper management and must be differentiated from infectious diseases.

Gray diarrhea in mink clinically resembles chronic pancreatic necrosis in dogs and is characterized by a ravenous appetite and passage of large amounts of gray, fetid feces. Affected mink appear to die of starvation. No pancreatic abnormalities, viruses, bacteria, or parasites have been demonstrated to be causes. Treatment is of questionable value.

Gastric ulcers and hepatic and renal lipidosis are common in mink and usually are associated with high levels of dietary fat or with other diseases or stresses that result in several days of inappetence (eg, during late gestation, the period of weaning kits, or the fall period of furring up). Renal lipidosis is commonly seen in mink implanted with melatonin. Treatment involves B vitamins (either feeding or via injection) and increasing the protein quality of the feed.

Hereditary diseases such as hydrocephalus, hairlessness, “screw neck,” “bobbed tails,” Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, hemivertebrae, and tyrosinemia occur occasionally. Culling the sire, dam, and littermates of affected mink is necessary for control.

Coccidiosis (see Coccidiosis) occasionally causes losses in young mink. Affected mink have diarrhea, blood-tinged feces, dehydration, and weight loss. Coccidiostats may be used to control outbreaks. Coccidiosis can be prevented through good sanitation and regular manure removal.

Myiasis develops in mink when flies of Wohlfahrtia spp lay maggots directly on the skin of kits. The larvae penetrate the skin and produce inflammation and lesions that resemble abscesses. Affected kits become restless, lose condition, and may die. Malathion dust (5%) placed beneath the litter in the nest boxes beginning a few days before the flies appear may help prevent infestation. It should not be used before whelping or until the kits are 1 wk old. Treatment may be repeated once after a 2-wk interval. (Also see CuterebraInfestation in Small Animals.)

Last full review/revision October 2014 by Hugh Hildebrandt, DVM

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