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What are Hair Loss?

Owners may panic when they notice their ferrets begin to lose hair, and rightfully so. The hair loss may start off slow and then begin to spread to other areas of your ferret’s body. There are many causes of hair loss, and although some of them are harmless, others are much more serious. The most common cause of alopecia in ferrets is adrenal disease, which is a serious condition that requires surgical treatment. Other causes include allergic reactions, bacterial infections, parasitic infections, immune disorders, and an unbalanced diet.

If your ferret begins to lose hair, regardless of whether it’s limited to one spot or has spread throughout his body, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Hair loss, also known as alopecia, is fairly common in ferrets. Any ferret could develop hair loss, however it is much more common in ferrets that have been neutered or spayed, and those that are between the ages of three and seven.

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Symptoms of Hair Loss in Ferrets

The main symptom of alopecia in ferrets is hair loss in areas where hair typically grows. Your ferret may lose a lot of hair all at once, or the condition may start off slow and worsen over time. The hair loss can cover the entire body, or be limited to certain areas. In some cases, the hair loss may occur in patches.

Causes of Hair Loss in Ferrets

There are several causes of alopecia, and typically a vet will be able to determine the cause based on the amount of hair lost and how widespread the problem is on your ferret’s body. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Adrenal disease
  • Bacterial or parasitic infections
  • Allergic reactions
  • Unbalanced diet
  • Disorders that affect the immune system

Diagnosis of Hair Loss in Ferrets

If your ferret begins to lose hair, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. The vet will be able to tell your ferret has suffered hair loss just by looking at him, but he will need to perform further testing to determine the underlying cause of the hair loss. 

To rule out nutritional deficiencies, the vet will ask you questions about your ferret’s current diet. The vet will also need to perform a complete blood count, urinalysis, and blood chemistry profile test to check for infections that could be causing hair loss. These tests could also indicate whether your ferret has an immune disorder.

If nothing turns up on these tests, the vet will need to test your ferret for adrenal disease. Unfortunately, adrenal disease is the most common cause of hair loss. To test for it, the vet will perform an ultrasound to look for tumors on the adrenal glands. Tumors can cause the adrenal glands to produce too many hormones, which can lead to hair loss. If your vet spots a tumor on one of the glands, he will be able to confirm the hair loss is caused by adrenal disease.

Treatment of Hair Loss in Ferrets

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the hair loss. If the hair loss is caused by an unbalanced diet, the vet will recommend a diet that will help your ferret get the nutrients he needs. If an infection is causing the problem, your ferret will need to take medication orally for seven to ten days.

If your ferret has adrenal disease, he will most likely require surgery to remove the tumors. But, your ferret may not be a good candidate for surgery if he is in poor health or has already had one of his adrenal glands removed because of the disease. In this case, the vet can recommend alternative treatments. One of the most common alternative treatments is Lupron Depot injections, which are shots that help alleviate the symptoms of adrenal disease and could also shrink the size of the tumors. These shots work by slowing down the pituitary gland’s production of the hormones that are overstimulating the adrenal glands.

Recovery of Hair Loss in Ferrets

If your ferret is suffering from an infection, unbalanced diet, or allergic reaction, he will most likely make a full recovery from the condition. But, it’s much harder to predict whether your ferret will recover from adrenal disease. Every surgery has risks, and it’s possible your ferret may not make it through the surgery or the condition may return if any affected adrenal tissue is left inside your ferret’s body.

If your ferret does have surgery, he will need to return to the vet for a follow-up visit. The vet will check his hormone levels to see how he is recovering. 

Keep your ferret calm and comfortable while he recovers from treatment. Be sure to follow all of your vet’s recommendations regarding dietary changes and medications to help your ferret make a full recovery.