Merck Manual

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Other Noninfectious Diseases of Ferrets


James K. Morrisey

, DVM, DABVP (Avian), Companion Exotic Animal Medicine Service, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University

Last full review/revision Jul 2013 | Content last modified Jul 2013

Gastric foreign bodies are common in ferrets because of the animal's inquisitive nature. Foreign bodies are usually soft rubber or plastic items but can also be trichobezoars. Clinical signs include anorexia, bruxism, hypersalivation, cranial abdominal pain, diarrhea, and melena. Vomiting is more common with gastritis than with foreign bodies. Diagnosis is with plain or contrast radiography. Treatment involves surgical or endoscopic removal. Gastritis should be treated after removal of the foreign body.

Dilated cardiomyopathy can occur in ferrets, usually those > 4 yr old. Clinical signs can be similar to those of insulinoma, so both should be excluded when examining a ferret with lethargy, weakness, ascites, increased respiratory effort, or exercise intolerance. Diagnosis is by radiography and echocardiography. Treatment is based on echocardiographic abnormalities and includes furosemide, digoxin, enalapril, benazepril, and pimobendan. A formulary should be consulted for dosing instructions.

Renal disease in ferrets is similar to that in other species. Renal cysts are common in adult ferrets and usually do not cause a problem unless present in large numbers. Uroliths can develop in ferrets fed diets high in plant proteins and are usually composed of struvite.

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