Congestive Heart Failure in Ferrets

By PetMD Editorial on Jun. 4, 2010

Left And Right-Sided Heart Failure in Ferrets

Left- and right-sided congestive heart failure (CHF) occurs when the heart fails to pump blood at the rate required to meet the basic needs of the body. Either disorder can lead to various heart or vascular problems, including lack of proper circulation of oxygen, blood clotting problems, stroke, pulmonary edema, or swelling of fluid in the body. In fact, all organ systems in the body can be affected negatively by congestive heart failure.

Symptoms and Types

There are many signs and symptoms associated with congestive heart failure, many of which depend on the primary cause and overall health and wellness of the ferret in question. A few of the more typical symptoms include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart murmur and rhythm problems (heart beats too fast or slow)
  • Hardening of the aorta, the largest artery in the body
  • Inflammation of the heart lining, which prevent the left or right ventricle from filling up


Heartworms are one of the causes for congestive heart failure, but in some cases it stems from hereditary causes. In other cases, a weak heart muscle can cause congestive heart failure.


To diagnose congestive heart failure in ferrets, veterinarians will often rule out other causes for tachycardia or arrhythmias such as hypoglycemia, cancer, neurological diseases, pneumonia, and abdominal infections or liver disorders. An echocardiogram will help identify cardiac masses such as tumors, heartworms, or other abnormalities of the heart, valves, and ventricles. Laboratory tests, meanwhile, may also confirm heartworm disease or identify fluid retention.


The course of treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the heart failure. For example, heart medication such as beta blockers and calcium channel blockers may be employed. Ferrets with respiratory complications, meanwhile, will require oxygen therapy and those with electrolyte imbalances will require medication to help decrease swelling or fluid retention. A stress-free environment and rest is also important to reduce symptoms and recover quickly.

Living and Management


Prognosis may vary from ferret to ferret depending on the nature and severity of the disease and the type of care the animal receives in the short- and long-term. It is also important that the ferret be monitored closely, as fatal arrhythmias may develop quickly.

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