What is Regurgitation?

Regurgitation in ferrets is commonly noted by the expulsion of food or liquid from the stomach. The ferret may also have accompanying symptoms that depend on the underlying cause of the pet’s condition. Common signs a pet owner might notice in their ferret include:

  • Vomiting (may contain blood if the stomach has ulcerated or torn)
  • Dark, tarry stools (an indication of stomach bleeding) 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Pawing at the mouth 
  • Teeth grinding 
  • Drooling 
  • Nausea 
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Refusing food 
  • Weight loss 
  • Chronic wasting 
  • Lethargy 
  • Reluctance to move 
  • Pronounced weakness 

Regurgitation in ferrets is the return of fluid or food from the gastric digestive system. Regurgitation is often referred to as vomiting, due to the digested nature of the food. However, regurgitation specifically is noted by the uptake of undigested or partially digested food matter. The underlying cause for a ferret to regurgitate a meal can be variable and potentially life-threatening, which is why a proper diagnosis is essential. 

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Symptoms of Regurgitation in Ferrets

Causes of Regurgitation in Ferrets

Regurgitation in ferrets can be caused by a variety of conditions, including foreign bodies, inflammatory disease, liver disease and helicobacter infection. 

Foreign Body

A blockage of the gastrointestinal system from a foreign object can cause partial or complete obstruction, preventing the flow of food and liquids from entering the stomach and/or intestines.

Eosinophilic Gastroenteritis (EG)

This internal disorder is characterized by an abnormal accumulation of white blood cells in the intestinal wall called eosinophils associated with lymph nodes.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD is a broad term used when referring to a collection of microscopic changes in the gastrointestinal tract causing variable signs and caused by a variety of sources. Inflammatory bowel disease is characterized by an inflamed, irritated bowel or intestinal system. The inflammation in the bowel is the immune system’s response to a potential threat, such as an allergy, parasite or infection of some kind.

Diagnosis of Regurgitation in Ferrets

The cause of regurgitation in ferrets is sometimes difficult to diagnose as the symptoms associated with this condition mimic most ferret health abnormalities. The veterinarian will want to perform an analysis of the ferret’s blood, urine and feces to rule out all other possible causes for the ferret’s irritated gastrointestinal system. Parasites, bacterial infections, viral infections and a variety of other common ferret health problems will be differentiated using these tests. Endoscopy, ultrasound and/or x-rays will likely be requested to identify foreign objects trapped in the intestine, tumors, or other abnormalities. Again, diagnostic imaging, like clinical exams are designed for a differential diagnosis and the only true way to diagnose the underlying cause of regurgitation in ferrets. 

Treatment of Regurgitation in Ferrets

The treatment option your veterinarian chooses for the treatment of regurgitation depends on the diagnosis of the pet’s specific underlying cause. The most common cause of regurgitation in ferrets, a gastric obstruction, is commonly treated with an exploratory procedure, in which the vet will open the ferret’s abdomen or chest to physically locate the object. If the ferret’s regurgitation is a result of an infection, the doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics and/or anti-parasitic medication. 

Recovery of Regurgitation in Ferrets

Ferrets affected by regurgitation can make a full recovery if the pet is treated promptly. Paying attention to symptoms and changes in your ferret’s overall behavior can help your vet arrive at a correct diagnosis and start appropriate treatments promptly.