Accumulation of Fluid in the Abdomen of Ferrets

Cecilia de Cardenas
Sep 29, 2008
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Ascites, also known as abdominal effusion, is the medical term referring to the buildup of fluid in the abdomen. In ferrets, this may cause symptoms such as weight gain, abdominal discomfort, and loss of appetite. A wide variety of causes may be responsible for ascites, thus treatments vary accordingly.


The body systems usually affected by this disorder typically include the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, renal (including the kidneys and bladder), lymph and immune systems. The signs and symptoms may include the following:

  • Weight gain
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • An unsteady gait or incoordination
  • Inability to eat or loss of appetite
  • Abdominal distension or a bloated appearance
  • Abdominal discomfort or pain during palpation



The causes for ascites are varied but may include the following:

  • Chronic heart failure or cardiomyopathy
  • Gastrointestinal and kidney diseases
  • An inflammation of the inner wall of the abdomen (or peritonitis)
  • Imbalances of electrolytes, such as potassium and salt, in the body
  • Obstruction of certain heart valves and veins, including the vena cava, which returns blood from the lower portion of the body to the heart


To diagnose ascites, your veterinarian will conduct an ascetic fluid evaluation on the ferret. This involves the removal of abdominal fluid to analyze for characteristics such as bacterial presence, protein makeup, and bleeding. The veterinarian may also analyze the urine or run X-rays and ultrasounds to determine the cause of abdominal fluid buildup.

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