What is Kidney Disease?
In the very early stages of kidney disease, it’s possible that your ferret will not show any signs of being ill at all. Eventually, symptoms will set in and you may observe excessive urination and thirst, fatigue, weight loss, ulcers in the mouth, and dehydration.
If you spot the signs of kidney disease in your ferret, it is imperative that you take him to a veterinarian for treatment as soon as possible. Kidney disease is a very serious condition, and could indicate an underlying health problem that requires immediate medical attention.
The kidneys are responsible for several functions, including filtering waste out of the blood, so they play an important role in your ferret’s overall health. Kidney disease, which is also known as renal disease, is not common in ferrets. This condition can be characterized as either acute, which means the symptoms begin all at once, or chronic, which means the condition will begin to appear over a period of several months.
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Symptoms of Kidney Disease in Ferrets
Ferrets may not exhibit any symptoms when they first develop kidney disease, which makes it difficult for owners to spot a problem during the early stages of the disease. Over time, they may begin to exhibit noticeable symptoms, including:
- Increased thirst
- Excessive urination
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Ulcers in the mouth
There are two types of kidney disease: acute and chronic. If your ferret has acute kidney disease, the symptoms will appear suddenly and will most likely be very severe. However, if your ferret has chronic kidney disease, the symptoms will slowly begin to appear over the course of several months.
Causes of Kidney Disease in Ferrets
There are a number of different causes of kidney disease—some that are much more serious than others. Some of the most common causes include:
- Aleutian disease
- Autoimmune disorders
- Certain medications that affect the kidneys
- Kidney cysts
Diagnosis of Kidney Disease in Ferrets
If you begin to observe the symptoms of kidney disease in your ferret, take him to a veterinarian for treatment as soon as possible. Describe the symptoms you have observed in great detail. You should also let your vet know when you first began to notice the symptoms, and if your ferret is taking any medications.
The vet will begin by performing complete blood count, urinalysis, and blood chemistry profile tests. The results of these tests will indicate that your ferrets’ kidneys are not functioning properly. For example, his electrolytes, protein, blood urea nitrogen, and creatinine levels could be abnormal.
The vet will need to determine what is causing the kidney disease. If it’s not a result of medication, and the blood and urine tests do not indicate the presence of an autoimmune disorder, the vet may need to perform an ultrasound of the kidneys. An ultrasound will help the vet spot any cysts or tumors that could be the cause of kidney disease. Masses will need to be biopsied to test for cancerous cells.
Treatment of Kidney Disease in Ferrets
Treatment will begin immediately following the diagnosis of kidney disease. The treatment will vary depending on the cause of kidney disease. If a medication is causing the kidney disease, the vet will ask that you stop administering the medication and suggest alternatives that will not affect your ferret’s kidneys. If your ferret has cancer, he may need to be treated with a combination of radiation and chemotherapy. He may also require surgery to remove cancerous tissue. Certain causes, such as Aleutian disease, may not be treatable. Autoimmune disorders can usually be managed with medication. Cysts or kidney stones may be treated using lasers to break them down into smaller pieces so they can pass through the ferret’s urinary tract. If the cysts or stones are too large for laser treatment, surgery may be required to remove them from the kidneys.
Regardless of the cause of the kidney disease, your ferret will most likely need fluid therapy and nutritional support during treatment. He may also need supplemental heat during treatment.
The vet will take multiple blood samples from your ferret throughout the course of treatment. This is done to determine if the treatment is effective. If it’s not, the vet can make adjustments to the treatment to make it more successful.
Recovery of Kidney Disease in Ferrets
It’s difficult to determine the recovery rate of kidney disease, because it varies depending on the cause of the disease. For example, your ferret will have a much more difficult recovery if the underlying cause is cancer as opposed to a non-cancerous cyst.
In any case, be sure to follow the vet’s instructions closely and administer all medication as advised. You should also talk to the vet about your ferret’s diet. It is likely that the vet will ask you to make modifications, including limiting your ferret’s salt intake.