What is Lack of Coordination and Sensory Dysfunction?

If your ferret begins to exhibit any of the symptoms of ataxia, it is imperative that you take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible for treatment. Some causes of ataxia can be easily treated, such as low blood sugar. But others, such as spinal cord damage or other nervous system disorders, are much more serious. Your best chance at helping your ferret recover is by seeking immediate treatment.

Ataxia is the medical term used to describe lack of coordination and sensory dysfunction that can affect many animals, including ferrets. This condition can affect all parts of the ferret’s body, including his head, neck, and all four limbs. He may lose control over one or more of these areas. Besides tilting his head or showing unsteadiness or lack of control over his limbs, your ferret may also begin to move his eyes in an abnormal manner. 

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Symptoms of Lack of Coordination and Sensory Dysfunction in Ferrets

Symptoms of ataxia are easily observable. It can be alarming to witness your ferret begin to exhibit the symptoms of ataxia, especially when he has lost control over more than one his limbs. Some of the most common symptoms that you may observe include:

  • Head tilting
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Noticeable weakness in any or all of the limbs
  • Swaying back and forth
  • Inability to stand steadily on his feet
  • Falling over when attempting to walk

Causes of Lack of Coordination and Sensory Dysfunction in Ferrets

There are a number of different causes of lack of coordination and sensory dysfunction that range in severity. Some of the most common causes of this condition are:

  • Consumption of toxins
  • Low blood sugar
  • Anemia
  • Nervous system disorders, including spinal cord damage
  • Musculoskeletal damage

Diagnosis of Lack of Coordination and Sensory Dysfunction in Ferrets

If your ferret begins to exhibit any of the symptoms of ataxia, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible for treatment. The vet will need to know what symptoms you have observed and when they first began. Let your vet know if your ferret has been exposed to anything unusual lately, such as new medications or plants that could be toxic. It may be helpful if you take a video of your ferret’s odd behavior before seeing the vet so he gets a clear understanding of the ferret’s symptoms.

The vet will begin with a physical examination. He will need to rule out low blood sugar and anemia first, which is done by performing complete blood count, urinalysis, and blood chemistry profile tests. He may also take X-rays to ensure your ferret has not injured himself. X-rays can also be used to look for spinal cord damage that could help make a diagnosis.

The vet can also perform a neurological examination to determine if a neurological disorder is causing the symptoms. This includes testing the ferret’s control over his limbs and his ability to identify where his limbs are in space. For example, if the vet were to pick up your ferret and then lower him down towards the table, the ferret may outstretch his limbs in anticipating of being placed on the table.

Treatment of Lack of Coordination and Sensory Dysfunction in Ferrets

The treatment for this condition will begin immediately after the doctor reaches a diagnosis. Treatment will vary depending on the underlying cause of the symptoms. In many cases, ferrets may need medication and extensive physical therapy in order to regain movement in his limbs and see improvement. The vet may recommend that you keep your ferret still while he recovers to limit the damage, or he may recommend a treatment plan that includes more exercise and activity, depending on the exact cause of the condition.

If the cause of ataxia is consumption of toxins, this can usually be treated in-office. The vet may induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal to ensure no other toxins remain in your ferret’s body. He may also perform a gastric lavage, which is a stomach wash that flushes toxins out of your ferret’s stomach cavity.

Recovery of Lack of Coordination and Sensory Dysfunction in Ferrets

Ataxia recovery rates vary depending on the underlying cause of the condition. In most cases, the earlier you can take your ferret in for treatment, the better his chances are at making a full recovery.

If your ferret’s ataxia was a side effect of low blood sugar, the vet will recommend dietary changes that you will need to implement right away to keep your ferret healthy.

Be sure to administer all medications that are prescribed by the veterinarian. Follow all of the vet’s instructions closely and bring your ferret in for all scheduled follow-up appointments. If you notice your ferret’s symptoms begin to worsen, immediately contact the vet.