What is Stomach Inflammation?

Inflammation of the stomach (also commonly referred to as 'gastritis') refers to the irritation and gradual degradation of the lining of the stomach. Although isolated incidents of gastritis are not by themselves any cause for alarm, a protracted or chronic form of the condition can be dangerous to the health of many animals, not just ferrets. If allowed to become serious, gastritis can produce some fairly unpleasant symptoms that can have a major impact on the quality of life of the affected animal.

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Symptoms of Stomach Inflammation in Ferrets

Luckily, the symptoms of stomach inflammation are quite pronounced, making them easy to spot and identify. This means that owners should be able to easily judge when to seek further help.

  • Vomiting 
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Diarrhea 
  • Abnormal feces (bloody, green, or dark with a sticky, tarry texture)
  • Pain
  • Lethargy
  • Change in behavior (aggression, irritability)

Causes of Stomach Inflammation in Ferrets

The main causes of stomach inflammation tend to be fairly predictable, with the most common culprits being liver disease, foreign objects, ingested toxins, and infections. Liver disease is commonly the most serious of these, as whilst it can allow the stomach to become irritated and cause vomiting and diarrhea, it can also allow infections to attack other organs of the body such as the heart or brain if left untreated. Foreign objects will also cause gastritis, especially if they become lodged in the stomach or esophagus. Vomiting will usually be induced as the body tries to expel the object, and blood may become evident in the feces if enough damage is done. Most poisonings stemming from common flora will result in stomach inflammation, as it is the most direct way to prevent potential predators from consuming more of the plant. There are many substances that plants will use to provoke stomach upset, but few will do lasting damage. Lastly, bacterial infections of the stomach will produce all of the symptoms listed above. Vomiting and diarrhea will occur as the ferret tries to expel the microbes from its digestive tract, whilst pain will commonly be accompanied by evident bleeding in the feces as the bacteria damage the lining of the stomach or intestines.

Diagnosis of Stomach Inflammation in Ferrets

In the majority of cases of stomach inflammation, the vet will be able to diagnose the issue by taking samples of the ferret's blood, urine, and feces in order to pinpoint the culprit behind a possible bacterial infection. This can also help identify the source of many liver problems. An obstruction will commonly be located and identified via the use of a physical examination and imaging scans (such as x-rays and ultrasound), which can also show the extent of any damage to the digestive system.

Treatment of Stomach Inflammation in Ferrets

The vet will typically look to start fluid therapy on the ferret as soon as possible. This will help rehydrate them in the aftermath of diarrhea and vomiting, and will also provoke urination, which is useful for expelling irritants and other hostile substances from the body. In the event of poisonings or an infection, they will next look to start the ferret on a course of appropriate drugs. Foreign objects are most often dealt with by simply waiting for them to be passed out of the body or, in more serious cases, by surgically extracting them. There a variety of problems that the liver can suffer from, so to isolate and treat the issue, a battery of further tests will be needed (especially if a tumor or other growth is present).

Recovery of Stomach Inflammation in Ferrets

If the ferret has undergone surgery, it will typically have a relatively short recovery time, with just under six weeks being required for the majority to recover from the procedure. However, owners should be aware that the animal will need substantial assistance following the surgery, as they will require not just painkillers and antibiotics, but also a strictly monitored diet, in order to ensure that their stomach is able to properly recover. For several weeks, the ferret may need to be fed a liquid diet through a tube in order to stay alive, after which solids can gradually be reintroduced. It will also be necessary to restrict the ferret's level of exercise to a minimum, both in order to conserve its energy and to prevent tearing of the surgical wound. Follow-up appointments with the vet will also be needed, in order to monitor the animal's progress and to conduct any further tests that are needed.