Removal of Red or White Blood Cells by the Spleen in Ferrets

By PetMD Editorial on Jun. 7, 2010

Hypersplenism in Ferrets

Hypersplenism is a syndrome in which red or white blood cells are removed at an abnormally high rate by the spleen, resulting in one or more cytopenias (insufficient cells in the blood stream). On rare occasions, this cause the ferret's spleen to enlarge. There are no breed, sex, or age predilections for hypersplenism.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms are those that are caused by anemia, leucopenia (a type of cell), and thrombocytopenia (a small number of cells are circulating in the blood stream), including:

  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Petechia (pin-sized, red spots on the skin)
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Abdominal distension


The underlying causes for hypersplenism are unknown.


Once other causes of an enlarged spleen are ruled out, hyperpsplenism is diagnosed based on the presence of one or more cytopenias. Your veterinarian will confirm via blood analysis and imaging studies, including X-rays of the abdomen and ultrasound. He or she may also recommend performing a fine-needle aspiration of the bone marrow.



Blood transfusion may necessary if the ferret is severely anemic. Your veterinarian will may also recommend fluid therapy if it is dehydrated. If the ferret's condition still does not improve, he or she may recommend surgically removing the spleen.

Living and Management

Your ferret should be brought in for routine blood tests post-op in order to ascertain its rate of recovery. Supportive care, rest, and dietary changes may also be required for a speedy recovery.

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