What are Paralysis and Paresis?

There are many different causes of paralysis and paresis that range in severity from infections that are easily treatable, to viruses that have no cure, and cancer.

If you notice that your ferret is beginning to lose control over his voluntary movements, or has already lost complete control, bring him into a veterinarian as soon as possible. A vet will need to perform tests to determine the underlying cause of the paralysis or paresis and immediately begin treatment. 

Paralysis is a term used to describe the complete loss of control over voluntary movement. Paresis refers to the slight loss of control over voluntary movement. There are many different types of paralysis and paresis. For example, your ferret may experience a slight loss of control in his back legs, which is known as posterior paresis, or he may completely lose control over all four of his limbs, which is called quadriplegia. 

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Symptoms of Paralysis and Paresis in Ferrets

The main symptom of both paralysis and paresis is the inability to control voluntary movement. Ferrets with paralysis will have absolutely no control over their movements, while ferrets with paresis may experience some loss of control. All four limbs may be affected by this condition, but it’s possible that only some will be affected. Some of the other symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Excessive drooling or salivation
  • Incontinence

Causes of Paralysis and Paresis in Ferrets

There are various causes of paralysis and paresis, which can make diagnosing this condition more difficult for veterinarians. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) which could be the result of a pancreatic tumor
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Anemia
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Central nervous system trauma
  • Bacterial or fungal infections
  • Canine distemper virus
  • Aleutian disease Virus
  • Abdominal tumors
  • Kidney failure
  • Hypocalcemia (low blood calcium)

Diagnosis of Paralysis and Paresis in Ferrets

If you notice that your ferret has started to exhibit any of the symptoms of paralysis or paresis, it’s important to take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. The vet will immediately be able to tell that your ferret is suffering from paralysis or paresis after observing his inability to control portions of his body, but he will need to determine the underlying cause of this condition before he can begin treatment. Describe the symptoms to your vet in as much detail as possible. You should also go over your ferret’s medical history with your vet, and let the vet know if it’s possible your ferret could have been exposed to anything unusual. 

The vet will begin by performing complete blood count, urinalysis, and blood chemistry profile tests. These tests can help the vet determine whether your ferret has anemia, bacterial infections, signs of kidney failure, low blood sugar, or low blood calcium. The vet may also test for Aleutian disease virus and canine distemper virus to eliminate these as possible causes.

Finally, ultrasounds and X-rays can also be performed to look for signs of trauma or tumors that could be the cause of your ferret’s paralysis or paresis. 

Treatment of Paralysis and Paresis in Ferrets

Treatment will begin immediately after the vet has identified the underlying cause of your ferret’s paralysis or paresis. Because there are so many potential causes of this problem, treatment can vary greatly. For example, a bacterial or fungal infection can be treated with antibiotic or antifungal medication. Cancer may need to be treated with a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Some possible causes, including canine distemper virus and Aleutian disease, cannot be cured. If your ferret has been diagnosed with either of these, treatment will focus on making your ferret more comfortable. The vet may also recommend that you euthanize your ferret if he has one of these conditions.

Be sure to thoroughly discuss treatment options with your vet before he begins treating your ferret. It’s important to understand the risks and complications associated with each option before you decide how your ferret should be treated.

Recovery of Paralysis and Paresis in Ferrets

It is difficult to say whether your ferret will recover from paralysis or paresis. This is because his chances at recovering will depend on the underlying cause of the problem. For example, your ferret will have a much better chance of recovering from a fungal or bacterial infection than he will at recovering from cancer.

If your ferret is sent home with you, be sure to keep him calm and comfortable while he recovers. Place his water and food bowl close to him so he doesn’t have to move very far in order to stay hydrated and nourished. Keep him inside and away from other animals so he doesn’t become overstimulated.

If your ferret has lost control of his bladder and bowels, be sure to keep his anus and genitals clean while he recovers.