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What are Dermatophytosis?

Fungal infection of the skin, hair, and nails (dermatophytosis) in ferrets is a cutaneous infection that grows in the keratinized layers of continuously replenishing cellular structures. This rare form of fungal infection is caused by the isolated organisms Microsporum canis and Trichophyton mentagrophytes. Exposure to dermatophytes puts a ferret at risk for acquiring the fungal infection, but does not necessarily result in an infection. The ferret’s immune system can kill the organism before it manifests into a visible problem. Therefore, ferrets with immune-compromising disease are often affected by this condition more than healthy pets. Dermatophytosis in ferrets can affect any ferret, felines, and even humans. 

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Symptoms of Dermatophytosis in Ferrets

Dermatophytosis often begins as papules and areas of circular alopecia. The skin may crust, and develop scales or erythema in more advanced cases. The skin can thicken and hyperkeratosis can be seen in association with chronic disease. Dermatophytosis can affect any part of the skin. A complete list of dermatophytosis symptoms are listed below: 

  • Dandruff
  • Poor hair coat
  • Erythema (reddened skin) 
  • Hyperpigmentation (darkened skin) 
  • Pruritus (itchy skin) 
  • Alopecia (hair loss) 
  • Lesions 
  • Paronychia (inflammation of the claw folds) 

Causes of Dermatophytosis in Ferrets

A dermatophytosis fungal Infection skin, hair, and nails in Ferrets is caused by the isolated organisms Microsporum canis and Trichophyton mentagrophytes. Exposure to dermatophytes puts a ferret at risk for acquiring the fungal infection, but does not necessarily result in an infection. Ferrets with weakened immune systems such as those with immunocompromising disease or those taking immunosuppressant medications may be predisposed to this form of fungal infection. A ferret can become infected if he/she comes in direct contact with another affected ferret or even a feline. Poor management practices, such as dirty cages, can put a ferret at risk for developing dermatophytosis.

Diagnosis of Dermatophytosis in Ferrets

The diagnostic tests specifically for dermatophytosis in ferrets is a fungal culture of the cutaneous cells. The veterinarian will scrape the ferret’s skin will a dull blade to collect a small sample of cells for the examination, which is generally painless for the mammal. Blood work, a urinalysis, and an ultrasound of the adrenal glands will not diagnose a fungal infection, but will be conducted to rule out other possible causes for the ferret’s condition. The veterinarian will want to rule out other common ferret health problems that affect the skin, including adrenal disease, seasonal flank alopecia, CDV, Neoplasia, ear mites, fleas, bacterial dermatitis, sarcoptic mange, demodicosis, and hypersensitivity to the environment.

Treatment of Dermatophytosis in Ferrets

Some cases of dermatophytosis in ferrets resolve themselves, requiring no treatment. In other cases, however, treatment is necessary to cure the problem. Dermatophytosis is a zoonotic disease and highly contagious, so seeking treatment immediately is the best choice for ferret owners. Your veterinarian may prescribe a lime sulfur dip to use topically on your ferret or a miconazole shampoo to bathe the pet as directed by the veterinary professional. Make sure to wear gloves while handling and treating your pet, as the fungal infection can easily infect humans. As part of the treatment plan, you will be required to disinfect the entire area your ferret occupied. Cleaning the ferret’s cage and food and water bowls with bleach is usually recommended. If your ferret is severely infected with this rare fungus, your veterinarian may prescribe griseofulvin administered orally for four to six weeks, ketoconazole, or itraconazole until symptoms resolve. 

Recovery of Dermatophytosis in Ferrets

Your ferret will be quarantined until the fungal culture tests reveals a negative result. If the environment was not properly sterilized, the chances of recontamination are great and your ferret will require an additional course of treatment. The recovery period with treatment is roughly two to four weeks for mild cases and four to six weeks for severe cases of fungal infection (dermatophytosis). Left untreated, some cases of this fungal infection may cure itself within a few months, but poses the risk for spreading the infection. To discourage this fungal infection from infecting your ferret again, keep the ferret’s environment clean and infected mammals away from your pet.