What is Renal Disease?

Renal disease can be seen in two forms in ferrets: chronic renal failure that occurs over a period of months and acute renal failure, which appears suddenly. In its early stages, renal disease shows very few clinical signs in ferrets and it is not until the disease reaches a potentially life-threatening state that the ferret begin displaying symptoms indicating an illness. Renal disease can be symptomatically treated in ferrets by a licensed veterinary professional, but even when the ferret receives prompt and appropriate care, the diagnosis does not always become positive. 

Renal disease in ferrets is characterized by a lack of significant regenerative capacity of the kidney organs. A common condition in older ferrets, renal disease, or kidney disease, is described as the wearing out of the renal tissues. As the ferret ages and the kidney tissues deteriorate, fibrous connective tissues take their place and the kidneys lose their performance abilities. Without the kidneys, the ferret will not be able to filter waste from the blood into the urine or reclaim the necessary amount of water to remain hydrated. 

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Symptoms of Renal Disease in Ferrets

The symptoms of renal disease in Ferrets are related to the general failure of both kidney organs. The progressive tissue degeneration within these vital organs will slow down their function of filtration, which may lead to complications in the bladder and abdominal pain. Straining to urinate, scant volumes of urine, and chronic bladder infections are usually the beginning signs of renal disease. Additional symptoms can include: 

  • Lethargy 
  • Polydipsia (excessive thirst) 
  • Polyuria (excessive elimination of urine) 
  • Vomiting 
  • Depression 
  • Weight loss 
  • Anorexia 
  • Poor hair coat 
  • Listlessness 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Anemia 
  • Weakness 
  • Blindness 
  • Seizures 
  • Ataxia 
  • Presence of blood in vomit or diarrhea 

Causes of Renal Disease in Ferrets

Renal disease in ferrets in its acute form is commonly caused by diabetes mellitus, drug toxicity, bladder disease, kidney failure, toxin exposure, shock, and heart failure. Chronic renal disease in ferrets is caused by the progressive degeneration of tissues specific to the renal organs. Chronic renal disease is often the result of old age, manifested by the urge to urinate more frequently. This form of renal disease may take months to years for clinical signs to make themselves present, but signs of acute renal disease in ferrets will appear almost instantly.Renal disease in ferrets in its acute form is commonly caused by diabetes mellitus, drug toxicity, bladder disease, kidney failure, toxin exposure, shock, and heart failure. Chronic renal disease in ferrets is caused by the progressive degeneration of tissues specific to the renal organs. Chronic renal disease is often the result of old age, manifested by the urge to urinate more frequently. This form of renal disease may take months to years for clinical signs to make themselves present, but signs of acute renal disease in ferrets will appear almost instantly.

Diagnosis of Renal Disease in Ferrets

Clinical signs the ferret presents often suggest complications with a ferret’s kidneys, so the veterinarian will likely run diagnostic exams to explore this observation. A biochemistry profile and complete blood cell count will likely be conduction to take note of the functionality of the kidneys. As the kidneys filter toxins from the blood to be passed in the urine, a urinalysis (examination of the urine), may also prove to be efficient in diagnosis a kidney problem. As the kidneys slowly lose their ability to function, the substances secreted by these vital organs begin to increase in the blood. Phosphorus, creatinine, urea and especially BUN (blood urea nitrogen), levels will show a significant increase on a ferret’s blood chemistry examination. After discovering this abnormality, the veterinarian will be positive that the ferret is suffering from renal disease. However, the reason as to why the kidneys have failed is the second portion of the diagnostic procedure. Determining whether a ferret has straightforward kidney disease, requires a differential diagnosis. The veterinarian will radiograph the ferret in the location of the kidneys, which could reveal enlarged kidney organs, a tumor, or cyst. 

Treatment of Renal Disease in Ferrets

Renal disease in ferrets has no known cure and treatment is only prescribed as supportive life care for the ferret. Potassium supplements or IV fluids are commonly given to pets suffering from Renal disease, as failure of the kidneys often lowers potassium levels in the blood. The blood cells themselves can also be affected, resulting in anemia that may require iron supplementation, as the red blood cells carry iron to circulate throughout the body. 

Recovery of Renal Disease in Ferrets

There is no true cure for renal disease in ferrets, as the deteriorated tissues cannot be replaced and only the effects that this disease has on the ferret can be treated. Since the condition progressively worsens as the ferret ages and there is no known treatment, the prognosis for ferrets affected by this disease is rather poor. To improve the quality of a ferret’s life, the veterinarian may recommend a diet low in sodium and supplement absent minerals or vitamins. Routine testing to evaluate blood electrolytes are to be expected to balance the prescribed treatments over time.