What is Diarrhea?
Diarrhea, by definition, is the increased frequency, volume, and liquid content of fecal matter. Diarrhea in ferrets commonly occurs when the intestinal tract fails to absorb a sufficient enough amount of fluids from waste products, or water is directed toward the intestines, increasing the overall intestinal fluid volume. The intestines have the ability to control fluid volume by secretion, if not enough water is present, or absorption, if too much water is present. The functionality of the intestines can become compromised due to a number a causes, leading to the number one intestinal tract disease to affect ferrets, diarrhea.
Symptoms of Diarrhea in Ferrets
Diarrhea is easily identified by a loose or watery stool, paired with frequent defecation. The color of the feces may be dark brown, greenish, or yellow, and can contain blood or internal parasites. The exact symptom paired with a ferret’s diarrhea condition depends greatly on the primary cause. No matter what the cause, diarrhea always causes a decrease in hydration, termed dehydration, as well as a weakened overall state. If the ferret’s diarrhea is a result of an infection, the pet may also have a fever and decreased appetite. If the condition of diarrhea in ferrets persists for a long period of time, the pet may lose weight. A summarized list of symptoms related to diarrhea in ferrets follows:
- Loose, watery stools
- Frequent defecation
- Pain upon defecation
- Abnormal stool coloration
- Presence of pus, blood, or parasites in the stool
- Weight loss
Causes of Diarrhea in Ferrets
Diarrhea in ferrets can result from a range of causes, from a simple dietary change to internal parasites, which is why a proper diagnosis is crucial in any diarrhea case. If your ferret is experiencing diarrhea for a short period of time, it is likely that he or she ate something inappropriate and the digestive system reacted poorly. The same is true for a change in brand, ingredient, or flavor of your typical ferret food. If you would like to make a change in your ferret’s diet, you will need to make a gradual change in order to allow the intestinal tract time to adjust to the change. Ask your veterinarian how to properly adjust your ferret to make a change in diet. Chronic cases of diarrhea, on the other hand, can be a red flag for a more serious condition such as an infection. The common causes for a ferret to develop diarrhea include the following:
- Dietary change
- Foreign bodies lodged in the intestinal tract
- Viral infections
- Bacterial infections
Diagnosis of Diarrhea in Ferrets
If your ferret is experiencing diarrhea for greater than two or three days, it is important to have the pet evaluated by a licensed veterinary professional. Diarrhea is often diagnosed through an evaluation of the fecal matter, therefore, if you are able to collect a fecal sample prior to visiting the veterinarian, please do so. Fecal samples can be gathered the night before, collected in a plastic bag and stored in the bottom of your refrigerator away from food items. The veterinarian will hand off the sample to one of the veterinary technicians to perform a fecal analysis and a fecal flotation test, which will identify the presence of parasites. The doctor will then proceed to perform a physical examination, checking the ferret’s vital signs and overall health. If the results from the fecal examination are negative, the veterinarian may request a urinalysis and blood analysis. An ultrasound of the small and large intestines may be requested to identify a foreign body enlarged in the intestinal tract. Lastly, an exploratory procedure or a colonoscopy may be required to see the internal aspects of the intestinal system.
Treatment of Diarrhea in Ferrets
The treatment option selected to treat diarrhea in ferrets greatly depends on the primary ailment. Infections are treated therapeutically with intravenous fluids, electrolytes, and an antibacterial medication. If parasites are detected, an anti-parasitic medication will need to be administered to kill and remove all life stages of the parasites. In other cases, a dietary change may be prescribed and at-home medications may be required. To better understand the treatment options for your ferret’s diarrhea, ask your veterinarian.
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Recovery of Diarrhea in Ferrets
Most ferret diarrhea cases have an excellent prognosis, as those that receive treatment promptly make a fast and full recovery. If your ferret has had chronic diarrhea and was taken to the veterinarian in a poor state, the recovery time will be much longer. Diarrhea in ferrets does not always need veterinary attention if the condition only lasts a day or two, but any diarrhea case that lasts longer than two or three days must be properly diagnosed by a veterinarian.
Diarrhea Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
4 found helpful
4 found helpful
Hi my ferret who’s around 2 1/2 years old has just begun having diarrhea and i’m concerned as to what the cause could be. we live in a very hot state and his diet has been changed to a slightly different dry food, so i’m not quite sure as to what could have caused it. he’s going everywhere and i’m not sure how to treat him. thank you for your time.
June 28, 2018
Dr. Michele K. DVM
Stanley may have a parasite causing that diarrhea, or the change in food may have caused it. He may also have a systemic disease or a partial foreign body. Without seeing him, I can't determine the cause, and it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian to find out what is happening and how to treat it.
June 28, 2018
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1 found helpful
Hi We purchased two female ferrets from a reputable breedernot long ago. They were 10 weeks old and from two different litters. They get along fine, play well and love their food. But one of the ferrets has had diharear since the day we got her. We have put her on a bland chicken diet with vitamin support. She has an appetite, drinks well and is in good health otherwise. What could we be doing wrong or is this something she could have been born with?