What is Urinary Tract Obstruction?

Urinary tract obstructions are more common in males than females, and often found in ferrets with adrenal disease. Most obstructions are caused by inflammation, cysts, tumors, or urinary tract stones.

If your ferret is displaying symptoms of a urinary tract obstruction, it’s imperative that you take him to a vet as soon as possible. Some obstructions are medical emergencies that require immediate treatment. 

A ferret’s urinary tract consists of his kidneys, ureters, bladder, and the urethra. If there is an obstruction in any of these parts, your ferret will begin to strain to urinate. Urine may or may not come out, but if it does, it may come out slowly or in an interrupted flow. Your ferret may also experience lethargy, a loss of appetite, and vomiting as a result of a urinary tract obstruction.

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Symptoms of Urinary Tract Obstruction in Ferrets

If your ferret has a urinary tract obstruction, you may notice that it has become difficult for him to urinate. However, many owners make the mistake of thinking their ferret is straining to defecate, not urinate. As a result, they may think the ferret is just constipated and delay in bringing him into a vet for treatment. Besides straining, other symptoms of this condition include:

  • Cloudy urine
  • Inability to urinate
  • Interrupted urine stream
  • Slow discharge of urine
  • Pain during urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy

Causes of Urinary Tract Obstruction in Ferrets

In order to treat a urinary tract obstruction, a vet must determine the underlying cause of the condition. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Urinary tract stones
  • Inflammation of the urethra, which is common if your ferret has had surgery in this area or recently suffered trauma
  • Tumors
  • Cysts

Diagnosis of Urinary Tract Obstruction in Ferrets

If you spot any of the symptoms of a urinary tract obstruction, take your ferret to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Describe the symptoms that you have observed and let your vet know when they first appeared. If your ferret has recently had surgery or experienced any trauma, this is important information that your vet should know.

The vet will begin by performing a complete blood count, blood chemistry profile, and urinalysis test if he is able to collect a sample of urine. The vet may also perform an ultrasound to take a look at the urinary tract. If your ferret has tumors, cysts, or stones, they should appear on the ultrasound. The vet may also be able to tell if the urinary tract is inflamed simply by looking at the ultrasound.

If tumors are found in your ferret’s urinary tract, the vet will need to take a sample of the tissue to determine if the tumor is cancerous or not.

Treatment of Urinary Tract Obstruction in Ferrets

If your ferret’s urinary tract is completely blocked, this is considered a medical emergency and will require immediate treatment. Partial blockages are still serious and should be treated as soon as possible after the diagnosis.

If your ferret is suffering from inflammation, the vet will administer anti-inflammatories to reduce the swelling and open up the urethra. 

However, if your ferret has tumors, cysts, or stones, the treatment will be more complicated. First, your ferret will be sedated and receive IV fluids that will re-balance his electrolytes during treatment. Then, the vet will insert a catheter into your ferret’s urethra all the way up into the bladder to allow urine to flow out freely. Most tumors, cysts, and stones will need to be surgically removed. Some stones may dissolve after being treated with antibiotics, but you should consult with your vet to determine what options are available to your ferret. 

Some cysts in the urinary tract develop because of adrenal gland disease. If your ferret is suffering from this disease, he may need to have his adrenal gland surgically removed to prevent further complications. 

Recovery of Urinary Tract Obstruction in Ferrets

If your ferret went through surgery, he will likely have to spend a day or two at the vet before coming home. Monitor his urination closely once he is home, and report anything unusual to the vet. Administer all antibiotics and pain medications as advised by the vet to promote healing and keep your ferret comfortable.

Most ferrets recover from urinary tract obstructions as long as they are treated early on. However, many ferrets will suffer from other obstructions later on in life that will also need to be treated.

Talk to the vet about whether you need to make any changes to your ferret’s diet, especially during the first few days after treatment. For example, dog or cat foods with plant-based proteins could cause bladder stones, so should not be given to your ferret. You may also want to put a cone around your ferret’s neck to prevent him from licking, biting, or chewing the affected area.