Loss of Appetite in Ferrets

By PetMD Editorial on Sep. 29, 2008


Anorexia is a very serious condition which causes a ferret to lose its appetite, refuse to eat, and thus lose a dangerous amount of weight. Typically, ferrets lose their desire to eat due to systemic or total body diseases, however, psychological causes are another factor; this is referred to pseudoanorexia.


Regardless of the causes for loss of appetite, the signs and symptoms of ferret anorexia are fairly standard,; they include:

  • Pallor
  • Jaundice
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Inability or lack of desire to consume food
  • Pain while swallowing (Dysphagia)
  • Pain while eating (Odynophagia)
  • Dental disorders or diseases (e.g., chronic bad breath)


There are many potential causes which can be attributed to anorexia, including infectious diseases associated with the ferret's gastrointestinal system (or gut) and bowel, abdominal swelling or distension, and foreign bodies or masses located within the gut. Other causes for anorexia may fall into the following formal categories:

  • Cardiac or heart disease and failure
  • Bacterial, viral and infectious diseases
  • Gastrointestinal and metabolic diseases (e.g., kidney and liver diseases)
  • Psychological problems (e.g., stress or environmental factors)
  • Toxic problems (e.g., allergies or ingestion of toxic materials)
  • Neurological problems


Diagnostic procedures vary depending upon the symptoms displayed by the ferret and the underlying condition causing the animal's refusal to eat. Some possible procedures may include a dental exam, X-rays or ultrasounds (to rule out cardiac or lung disease), and urine analysis. Examining the history of the animal’s environment and diet is also important, as it may reveal any changes that lead to psuedoanorexia.



Anorexia needs to be addressed by treating the underlying cause of the condition. However, no matter what the cause, it is important the ferret begins eating again as soon as possible. Many ferrets will need higher-calorie diets with an appropriate amount of protein or, for those that have not been eating regularly and are dehydrated, fluid and electrolyte therapy. Still others will require medication to help stimulate appetite or reduce nausea.

Living and Management

Follow-up care is necessary to monitor the ferret's progress and help prevent a relapse. In the event of a relapse, early intervention and treatment can prove critical to the ferret's long-term survival.


As there are many causes leading to anorexia in ferrets, it is difficult to suggest any specific methods of prevention. However, psychological causes of anorexia may be prevented by providing a stress-free, clean environment and a healthy, well-balanced diet.

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