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What is Parvovirus Infection?

Once your ferret has contracted this infection, he may begin to experience tremors, weight loss, dehydration, urinary incontinence, and signs of paralysis. 

There is no known vaccine or cure for the parvovirus infection. But, if you spot the symptoms of this condition, you should still take your ferret to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Even though there is no cure, the vet may be able to treat the symptoms your ferret is experiencing to make him more comfortable. 

The parvovirus infection is also known as Aleutian Disease Virus, or ADV. The name comes from the Aleutian mink, a type of animal that can also contract this virus. This infection develops when a ferret has been exposed to the parvovirus, which may be transmitted through contact with infected animals’ urine and feces. Although it can occur anywhere, parvovirus infection is most common in places where there are unsanitary living conditions and a lot of animals crowded into a small area. Because of this, ferrets that come from unsanitary pet stores or breeding facilities may be at a higher risk of contracting this infection.

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Symptoms of Parvovirus Infection in Ferrets

Some ferrets that have parvovirus are asymptomatic, meaning they do not show any symptoms that could indicate a serious health issue. However, most ferrets will begin to exhibit symptoms over time. Some of the most common symptoms you may observe include:

  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tremors
  • Dehydration
  • Pale gums 
  • Loss of control of the bladder and bowels
  • Weakness or paralysis in the limbs

Causes of Parvovirus Infection in Ferrets

This condition occurs when a ferret has been infected by the parvovirus, which can affect many animals including ferrets, minks, and dogs. Veterinarians are not sure how parvovirus is transmitted from animal to animal, however, they believe it can be transmitted through contact with an infected animal’s urine or fecal matter. 

Diagnosis of Parvovirus Infection in Ferrets

If you spot any of the signs of the parvovirus infection, take your ferret to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Be as specific as possible when describing the symptoms you have observed, and let your vet know when they first began as well. You should also let the vet know whether your ferret has ever been exposed to other animals, and whether you purchased him at a pet store. 

Based on your description of the symptoms, the vet should suspect that your ferret has parvovirus infection. But, he may perform X-rays to eliminate other conditions, such as spinal cord damage, that could be causing the neurological symptoms.

There are two tests that can be used to confirm the diagnosis of parvovirus infection: counterimmunoelectrophoresis and immunofluorescent antibody tests. However, it’s possible that your ferret may have a false positive reading using one or both of these tests. To be safe, the vet may take a urine or fecal sample and analyze it underneath a microscope to look for the parvovirus organism. 

Treatment of Parvovirus Infection in Ferrets

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for the parvovirus infection. However, the vet can focus on treating your ferret’s symptoms to make him more comfortable. 

The vet can prescribe anti-inflammatories and immunosuppressant medication to treat the ferret’s symptoms. The most common medications that are prescribed are prednisone and cyclophosphamide.

The vet may also need to hook your ferret up to an IV to supply fluids and nutrients that will help your ferret regain his strength. Antibiotics can also be administered to reduce the chance that your ferret will develop infections as a result of the virus.

In some cases, the vet may recommend that you euthanize your ferret. This is a difficult conversation to have, but it’s important to discuss this with your vet and decide what is best for your ferret. Even with treatment, ferrets may still experience discomfort and have a poor quality of life, so euthanization may be the best option under certain circumstances.

Recovery of Parvovirus Infection in Ferrets

There is no cure for parvovirus infections, however it is difficult to determine how long your ferret will survive after he has been diagnosed. You will need to isolate your ferret from other animals if he has been diagnosed with parvovirus. This will prevent the condition from spreading. 

Talk to the vet about what kind of diet your ferret should be on. Ferrets may lose their appetite when they are infected with parvovirus, so you may need to administer supplements to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need.

Unfortunately, prevention of parvovirus is difficult because there is no approved vaccine for ferrets. To reduce your ferret’s risk of contracting this infection, keep him away from any other animals that may be infected. You should also avoid taking your ferret to crowded areas with a lot of animals, such as breeding facilities or pet shops.