What are Urinary Tract Stones?

It’s important to take your ferret to a veterinarian for treatment as soon as you spot symptoms of this condition. Urinary tract stones can be treated with surgery, and owners can prevent them from returning by making adjustments to the ferret’s diet. However, if urinary tract stones are left untreated, your ferret may suffer from complications, including serious bacterial infections and dehydration. 

Urolithiasis is a condition in which stones develop in your ferret’s urinary tract and cause a great deal of discomfort and pain. Once the stones have formed in your ferret’s urinary tract, he may excessively urinate or have trouble urinating. If he does manage to pass urine, it may be cloudy or bloody. This condition is most common in older male ferrets, however, it can affect any ferret, especially those who eat pet foods with plant-based proteins.

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Symptoms of Urinary Tract Stones in Ferrets

The presence of stones in the urinary tract will lead to inflammation, which can be uncomfortable and cause your ferret to try to lick the affected area. Besides this, other symptoms of urinary tract stones that you may observe include:

  • Bloody urine
  • Excessive urination or infrequent urination
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Cloudy urine
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

Causes of Urinary Tract Stones in Ferrets

If you believe your ferret has urinary tract stones, it’s important to take a look at what you are feeding him. Cat or dog foods that contain plant based proteins can cause urinary tract stones over time. When plant proteins break down, they create a product that makes urine alkaline. The magnesium salts within this urine can eventually form crystals, which can group together and form stones.

Diagnosis of Urinary Tract Stones in Ferrets

If you spot any of the signs of urinary tract stones, take your ferret to a veterinarian as soon as possible for treatment. Describe the symptoms that you have observed to your vet, and let him know when you first began to notice them. It’s also important to talk to your vet about your ferret’s diet so can determine if anything your ferret is eating could be causing his symptoms.

The vet should immediately suspect that your ferret has urinary tract stones based on his symptoms, but he will need to run a few tests to confirm his suspicions. The vet will begin by performing a blood chemistry profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis test on your ferret. These tests may be enough to confirm the diagnosis of urinary tract stones, but if your vet has any doubt, he can also perform an ultrasound or X-rays to look for visible stones.

Treatment of Urinary Tract Stones in Ferrets

Treatment will begin immediately following a diagnosis. Urinary tract stones will need to be surgically removed. This surgery is considered to be fairly simple unless the stone is located in the urethra, in which case it becomes a bit more complicated.

The stone that is removed from your ferret’s urinary tract can be analyzed after the surgery to learn more about how it was formed and how you can prevent other stones from forming. Talk to your vet to see if your ferret’s stones should be tested following surgery.

Some vets may recommend trying antibiotics before resorting to surgery. But, not every type of stone will respond to antibiotics. If you choose to try antibiotics before surgery, your ferret’s condition may worsen while you wait to see if the antibiotics eliminate the stones. Be sure that you talk to your vet about your options so you completely understand the risks and benefits associated with each.

Ferrets will also need to receive fluids through an IV to prevent dehydration and rebalance their electrolytes. Antibiotics may be administered during and after surgery to reduce the chances of your ferret developing a secondary infection as a result of his bladder stones.

Recovery of Urinary Tract Stones in Ferrets

Most ferrets will make a full recovery from urinary tract stones, but it is possible that your ferret will develop more in the future unless you learn how to prevent them. If you choose to have the stones sent for testing, you can learn valuable information on how to protect your ferret. For example, if the test results show that your ferret has struvite stones, this tells you that he needs more meat-based proteins to lower the pH level of his urine. Even if you do not get this testing done, it’s best to avoid giving your ferret any pet foods with plant-based proteins. 

If your ferret has surgery, be sure to keep him calm and comfortable while he recovers. He may be required to wear a cone around his neck to prevent him from licking the affected area. 

Be sure to administer all antibiotics and painkillers as advised by the vet and closely monitor your ferret’s urine flow to look for signs of trouble.