What is Runny Nose, Sneezing, and Gagging?

There are many reasons why your ferret could be experiencing a runny nose, sneezing, and gagging. Some causes, such as allergies or a common cold, are minor, while others, such as cancerous tumors or the canine distemper virus, are life-threatening.

If your ferret has nasal discharge, take him to a veterinarian as soon as you can. Although many ferrets experience nasal discharge because of minor health conditions, it’s possible your ferret could be suffering from something far more serious.

Mucus, pus, or blood coming out of one or both of your ferret’s nostrils is referred to as nasal discharge. It is often accompanied by sneezing, which is the involuntary expulsion of air caused by irritation to the nostrils. It can also be accompanied by gagging, which occurs when the ferret is involuntarily trying to remove mucus or other fluids from the upper respiratory tract. 

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Symptoms of Runny Nose, Sneezing, and Gagging in Ferrets

Nasal discharge may be observed in one or both of your ferret’s nostrils. The discharge could be clear, or it could contain blood or pus. Besides discharge, you may also observe these symptoms in your ferret:

  • Sneezing
  • Gagging
  • Excessive coughing
  • Dried discharge around the ferret’s nose or eyes
  • Fever
  • Eye discharge

Causes of Runny Nose, Sneezing, and Gagging in Ferrets

There are many underlying causes that can lead to nasal discharge, sneezing, and gagging, which makes the diagnosis of this condition very difficult. Some causes are very serious, while others are minor. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Bacterial or fungal infections
  • Tumors or abscesses
  • Dental issues
  • Common cold viruses
  • Influenza
  • Allergies
  • Canine distemper virus

Diagnosis of Runny Nose, Sneezing, and Gagging in Ferrets

If your ferret is exhibiting some or all of the symptoms of this condition, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Describe the symptoms you have observed in as much detail as possible. The vet will need to determine the underlying cause of the symptoms, but because there are so many possibilities, he will rely heavily on the information you provide.

The vet will begin by performing a blood chemistry profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis test. These tests will determine whether your ferret has an infection that could be causing the condition. X-rays of the chest, mouth, and nasal cavity can also be taken to look for tumors, abscesses, or dental issues that could be causing the symptoms. If tumors are spotted, a biopsy will need to be performed to determine whether the masses contain cancerous cells. The vet will also need to test for canine distemper virus to eliminate this condition as the cause.

In many cases, if the vet can eliminate all other possible causes, he will issue a diagnosis of nasal discharge due to allergies or a common cold.

Treatment of Runny Nose, Sneezing, and Gagging in Ferrets

Treatment will begin immediately following the diagnosis of the underlying cause of this condition. The treatment your ferret receives will depend on the underlying cause. For example, allergies can be treated with an antihistamine medication, while infections can be treated with either an antibiotic or antifungal medication.

Some causes, such as canine distemper virus, are not treatable. If a tumor is causing the symptoms and cancerous cells are found, your ferret will need to be treated with radiation, chemotherapy, and possibly surgery as well. Even if a tumor is not cancerous, the vet will likely need to surgically remove it to prevent further health complications.

Other causes require no treatment. For example, if the vet believes your ferret simply has a cold, he may just ask that you monitor him closely until his symptoms have improved. 

If dental issues are the cause, the vet may need to refer you to a specialist for treatment. Some vets do not treat dental issues, so they may feel more comfortable if you speak to a specialist about your ferret’s condition.

Recovery of Runny Nose, Sneezing, and Gagging in Ferrets

It is difficult to say whether your ferret will recover from this condition or not. His chance of making a full recovery will depend on the underlying cause of the condition. Some causes, such as canine distemper virus, are not curable, while allergies or infections are easily treatable.

It’s important to keep your ferret’s nasal area clean while he recovers. Ask your vet whether you can use wipes found at a pet store to sanitize the area and remove discharge. This will keep your ferret more comfortable and prevent skin irritation.

Closely monitor your ferret’s symptoms once he is home with you and alert your vet if they begin to worsen over time. If the symptoms are caused by allergies, talk to your vet about whether your ferret should receive allergy testing to determine what he is allergic to so you know how to protect him in the future.