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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 Jan 2020 | Content last modified Jan 2020

Noninfectious diseases of ferrets include those that are not caused by viruses, bacteria, or other infectious agents. Some of the more commonly seen noninfectious diseases include gastric foreign bodies, dilated cardiomyopathy, and kidney disease.

Foreign Objects in the Stomach

Because of their inquisitive nature, ferrets often swallow foreign objects that can become lodged in the stomach or intestines. Foreign objects are usually soft rubber or plastic items but can also be hairballs. Signs include:

  • loss of appetite

  • teeth clenching or grinding

  • excessive drooling

  • sharp abdominal pain

  • diarrhea

  • tarry black stool

Vomiting is more common with gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) than with foreign objects. Veterinarians use radiographs (x-ray images) to diagnose the problem. Surgery or endoscopy is usually required to remove the foreign object. Ferrets should be treated for inflammation of the stomach once the object has been removed.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy (heart disease) usually occurs in ferrets that are more than 4 years old. The walls of the heart become thinner, reducing its ability to pump blood. Signs can be similar to those of insulinoma Insulinomas Two hormonal (endocrine) disorders, insulinomas and hyperadrenocorticism, are common in ferrets. An insulinoma is a tumor of the pancreas. These tumors are very common in ferrets older than... read more , a tumor that causes the body to overproduce insulin. Your veterinarian should test for both problems. Signs include lethargy, weakness, and trouble breathing. Affected ferrets may also have an enlarged abdomen and decreased activity level. Radiographs and echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart) are used to diagnose the disease. Treatment depends on the abnormalities revealed by echocardiography.

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease in ferrets is similar to that in other species. Kidney cysts are common in adult ferrets and usually do not cause a problem unless they are present in large numbers. Bladder stones can develop in ferrets fed diets high in plant proteins and are usually composed of crystals known as struvite.

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