What are Pruritus?

If your ferret has inflamed skin, take him to a veterinarian right away. Although many cases of inflamed skin are caused by easy-to-treat conditions such as fleas or allergic reactions, other cases can be caused by adrenal gland tumors, which is a far more serious condition. Let a veterinarian examine your ferret to identify the underlying cause of the skin irritation so he can create an appropriate treatment plan. 

Every animal gets the desire to itch, chew, or lick himself once in awhile, but if it becomes excessive, your ferret may be experiencing pruritus and have a skin condition that requires treatment. Pruritus is the sensation of itchiness that prompts an animal to scratch. Beside obvious scratching, licking, biting, and chewing, your ferret may also have red, swollen skin, hair loss, or open wounds in the affected areas.

Book First Walk Free!

Symptoms of Pruritus in Ferrets

Skin irritation and pruritus is fairly common in all animals, including ferrets, and is usually not a cause for concern. Some of the most common symptoms of skin irritation that your ferret may exhibit include:

  • Scratching
  • Licking
  • Biting or chewing
  • Skin redness
  • Hair loss in the affected areas
  • Raw, open wounds in the affected areas

Causes of Pruritus in Ferrets

Your ferret’s skin can become inflamed and irritated for a number of reasons. Some of the most common causes of this condition are:

  • Fleas
  • Allergic reaction
  • Reaction to medication, shampoos, or other products used on your ferret
  • Poor nutrition
  • Bacterial infections
  • Adrenal gland tumors

Diagnosis of Pruritus in Ferrets

If you notice your ferret has inflamed skin that is causing, or resulting from, his itching, chewing, or licking, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Describe the symptoms you have observed, and when they first began. You should also tell the vet if your ferret has been exposed to anything that could have irritated his skin, including outdoor allergens or new shampoos or treatments. If you have recently changed your ferret’s diet, be sure to mention this as well. 

The vet will begin with a physical examination of your ferret’s skin. He should be able to immediately identify areas that are irritated based on the condition of the ferret’s skin. If your ferret has fleas, the vet should be able to spot them at once. The vet will take a sample of the skin cells so he can closely examine it under a microscope and look for signs of infection. An allergy test may also be performed to determine if your ferret is having an allergic reaction.

Finally, the vet may also perform an ultrasound of your ferret’s adrenal glands to look for tumors. This is a fairly common problem in ferrets, and will require immediate treatment.

Treatment of Pruritus in Ferrets

Treatment will begin immediately after your ferret has been diagnosed, and will vary depending on the cause of the skin irritation. Many causes of skin irritation can be treated with topical ointments or oral medications. For example, bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics administered orally, while fleas are usually treated with special medications administered to the ferret’s skin. Anti-inflammatory medication can also be administered to reduce swelling and irritation. In many cases, topical creams can be rubbed onto the affected area to alleviate the itchiness and make your ferret more comfortable.

If your ferret has tumors on his adrenal glands, the vet will need to surgically remove them. This is a risky procedure, and it’s possible the tumors could return if the vet does not remove all of the affected tissue. Be sure to talk to the vet about possible complications that may arise as a result of this surgery.

Recovery of Pruritus in Ferrets

In most cases, your ferret will make a full recovery from skin irritation. If your ferret was diagnosed with adrenal gland tumors, he may suffer from complications, but it is likely that he will recover after treatment.

Be sure to administer all medications as advised by the vet. If you miss one dose, especially if it is an antibiotic being used to treat a bacterial infection, your ferret’s symptoms may reappear or begin to worsen. Monitor your ferret’s condition closely as he recovers and get in touch with your veterinarian if the symptoms do not disappear or if they become worse.

Your vet may also recommend putting a cone on your ferret’s neck while he recovers. This will prevent your ferret from biting, chewing, or licking the affected area. This is especially important if you are applying topical ointments to the ferret’s skin and don’t want him to ingest the medication when he bites or chews his skin.