What is Salmonella Infection?

Any ferret that comes into contact with the bacteria can be infected, however ferrets with weak immune systems are at a higher risk of developing this condition. Young ferrets are also at a higher risk because their immune systems have not fully developed.

If you believe your ferret has a Salmonella infection, take him to a veterinarian immediately. Delaying treatment can lead to serious complications, including blood infections and dehydration. 

Salmonella infections (salmonellosis) are caused by Salmonella bacteria, which is present in undercooked meats and poultry. This type of infection causes gastrointestinal upset and can be incredibly painful for ferrets.

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Symptoms of Salmonella Infection in Ferrets

The symptoms your ferret exhibits will depend on the severity of his condition. Some ferrets may only experience minor symptoms, while others experience more intense symptoms. The most common signs of salmonellosis include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Shock
  • Bloody fecal matter
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Increase or decrease in heart rate

Causes of Salmonella Infection in Ferrets

Salmonella infections are caused by Salmonella bacteria. Ferrets may become infected with Salmonella after eating raw or undercooked meat or poultry or pet food that has been accidentally contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. Ferrets can also become infected by coming into contact with the stool of infected animals. 

Diagnosis of Salmonella Infection in Ferrets

If you believe you ferret is exhibiting the symptoms of a Salmonella infection, contact a veterinarian as soon as possible. Let the vet know what symptoms you have observed, when they first began, and what your ferret eats on a regular basis. There are a handful of conditions that can cause salmonellosis symptoms, so the vet will need as much information as possible to rule out other possible causes.

To diagnose this condition, the vet will need to take a stool sample from your ferret. If you can, it would be helpful to bring in a fresh sample when you take your ferret to the vet. If this isn’t possible, the vet can collect a sample once you have arrived in the office. The stool sample will be tested for the presence of Salmonella bacteria, which will confirm the diagnosis of salmonellosis. There are over 2,000 types of this bacteria, so it is very likely that your ferret will have multiple types in his system.

Treatment of Salmonella Infection in Ferrets

The vet will begin treatment immediately following the diagnosis. Because this infection is caused by bacteria, it will need to be treated with an antibiotic. The vet may administer the first dose orally in the office and then ask you to continue treatment at home. In extreme cases, the vet may need to administer the antibiotic intravenously so it enters your ferret’s system faster and begins to fight off the infection. 

The vet may also administer medication to coat the ferret’s stomach and prevent additional vomiting. If the ferret is in pain from abdominal cramping and diarrhea, the vet can administer medication to ease the cramping and prevent excessive bowel movements.

In most cases, you will be able to take your ferret home with you and administer antibiotics on your own. However, in some cases, your ferret may be required to stay with the veterinarian. For example, if he is suffering from extreme dehydration as a result of the vomiting and diarrhea, the vet will need to provide him with fluids and closely monitor him until his condition has stabilized. Another possible complication that could affect your ferret is sepsis. If your ferret has sepsis as a result of a Salmonella infection, he will need to stay with the vet until he has made significant progress in his recovery.

Recovery of Salmonella Infection in Ferrets

Ferrets with mild Salmonella infections will recover quickly after treatment, however, if your ferret has a more severe infection that has resulted in complications, the recovery is much slower. As long as you take your ferret in for treatment, it is very likely that he will recover from salmonellosis.

Talk to your vet about your ferret’s diet. He may be hesitant to eat because of the pain and discomfort he is experiencing from the infection, so the vet will recommend the best foods to feed him during his recovery. Because your ferret may become dehydrated, it’s important to make sure he is drinking plenty of fluids.

The ferret will shed the bacteria in his stool, so it’s important to keep his area clean and prevent him from coming into contact with other animals in your house. If you don’t, it’s possible that he may become infected again or spread the infection to other animals. You should also thoroughly wash your hands after handling the ferret so you don’t become infected.