Diarrhoea in ferrets

Whilst not a disease in itself, a bout of diarrhoea in your pet ferret is a clear indication that all is not well and that there are underlying issues that need to be addressed.

Because of their small size any episode of diarrhoea can quickly lead to ferrets becoming dehydrated, which can have serious consequences, particularly for very young or very small ferrets and for elderly animals. Both very young and senior ferrets can have trouble regulating their body temperature and coma may result from untreated diarrhoea.

If you see diarrhoea contact the hospital as soon as possible for advice. In the meantime, encourage the affected animal to drink as much as possible.

Clinical signs:
The signs of diarrhoea are fairly obvious: A loose, liquid or semi-liquid stool.

The causes can be less clear and diarrhoea can be triggered by many things. Sudden changes in diet are probably the most common. This includes any abrupt change of food, a sudden increase in one type of food, the use of ‘snacks’ and ‘treats’ particularly dairy products, or even a change in the brand of commercially prepared foods. Ingesting substances such as plastic or contaminated food, over-eating, an intolerance to certain food, stress and hygiene issues are also things that can cause upset stomachs and diarrhoea.

Some chemicals and certain medications can also lead to diarrhoea. Viruses and parasites such as fleas are other causes. Proliferative colitis is a disease of young ferrets caused by a Campylobacter bacterium and results in a mucous-like diarrheoa containing blood. The animal may also show anorexia (loss of appetite), weight loss, lethargy and depression.

Treatment protocols:
Identifying and treating the cause of the diarrhoea is our first concern. We rely heavily on information provided by the owner to isolate possible causes. In most cases we will suggest fluids and electrolytes be given to counteract dehydration. In severe cases this may need to be done in the hospital by means of a drip. Infectious causes of diarrhoea are normally treated by antibiotics. Known ingestion of material likely to cause diarrhoea may be treated with a laxative.