Ferret Health: Illnesses

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This week we are talking about some of the more common illnesses that affect ferrets and which can, sadly, shorten a ferret’s life. However, I need to put the caveat in that I am not a vet. Blue Ferret Boarding is not a vet. We talk about these illnesses for your general knowledge and understanding, not to diagnose your own ferret.

We will talk about some of the symptoms, but it is up to you to take your ferret to the vet. Your ferret might show other symptoms. So please do not take this as gospel.

IF IN DOUBT, TAKE YOUR FERRET TO THE VET

With the lymphatic system, you might find lumps and bumps. These are the lymphatic nodes in different parts of your ferret’s body that might have become enlarged. And quite often that’s because of a tumour.

The lymphatic system

Sometimes, with a bit of illness, a lymphatic node might enlarge because it’s helping to fight the infection. However, with lymphoma, there are actual tumours and you will start finding lots of lumps and bumps all over at the lymphatic nodes. There doesn’t necessarily have to be just at the nodes, though. There could be lumps and bumps all over the body.

Your ferret might be lethargic. There might be general wastage, diarrhoea, or laboured breathing because depending on where those tumours are, it can be pressing on the heart and the lungs. There could be a loss of appetite.

Lymphoma

There are two types of lymphoma.

The first is the general lymphoma and juvenile lymphoma. I’m happy to say I’ve never come across. I’ve never had a ferret myself with the general lymphoma. However, we did lose a ferret from juvenile lymphoma and it is very aggressive.

General lymphoma generally occurs in older ferrets. There are treatments so know your ferret and take them to the vet if anything changes.

Adrenal disease

The adrenal glands sit very close to the kidneys. And this is where you generally get tumours in the glands. The adrenal glands produce a few different hormones that can control various different things within the body. That means that some of the actual symptoms can change depending on where these tumours are and how they’re affecting it.

Ferrets can live for a long time with these ailments, so it’s not necessarily a death sentence. But it is worth being aware of the symptoms.

Symptoms for adrenal disease are things like hair loss on the back or around the kidney area, on the buttocks and on the lower back. And usually it’s on both sides, symmetrical.

I’ve heard of people worrying that their ferrets have adrenal disease when they notice their tail has gone ratty. If your ferret has a ratty tail and it’s within moulting season, don’t worry too much. But if you’re unsure, go to the vet.

Insulinoma

I always think of this as the direct opposite of diabetes. Insulinoma is a very prevalent cancer in ferrets. And that’s when you get tumours in the pancreas or in the pancreatic cells. These tumours can create an overproduction of insulin, which causes a massive drop in sugar levels.

If you’ve got a ferret with the insulinoma, it’s possible that that will start presenting with a seizure. Treatment involves managing your ferret’s blood sugar. Rather than there being too much sugar in the blood, there’s not enough, which is when we start rubbing a little bit of honey or a small amount of glucose syrup or something similar on the gums. The gums are a good way for the ferret to absorb that sugar into its blood system quickly.

Some symptoms of insulinoma are also a lot of salivation and pawing at the mouth. They could be dazed or confused, not quite sure what’s going on. They could have tremours and seizures. Know your ferret and if anything changes, take them to the vet.

Ometria and Anaemia

Ometria is a an infection of the uterus, so this only affects female ferrets. Ferrets are an animal that work on induced ovulation which means that a ferret can come into season and the only way they come out of season is through ovulation. And that can only be induced through one of a few ways, which means that your female ferret, if she’s not mated or if she’s not being jabbed, will stay in season indefinitely. A ferret in season is then very, very prone to infections in her uterus. And she’s also prone to anaemia because there’s a lot of blood loss.

And so ometria and anaemia can be very common and can be fatal for female ferrets.

Chordomas

Chordomas are kind of a mis programming almost of some of the cells in the body and they tend to happen at the end of the tail. They show up as a bony growth that looks a little like a hammer tail, like a mace on the end of the tail. Keep an eye on them and ask your vet if you’re unsure.

Watch the video to go with this blog and leave any questions you have below!

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