Large Bowel Diarrhea in Ferrets

By PetMD Editorial on Jun. 4, 2010

Clostridial Enterotoxicosis in Ferrets

Abnormally high levels of the Clostridium perfringens, a bacteria commonly found inhabiting decaying vegetation and marine sediment, can bring on the intestinal syndrome Clostridial enterotoxicosis, sometimes referred to as large bowel diarrhea in ferrets. It can also be acquired from raw or improperly cooked meats and poultry, and meats that have been left out in the open. Typically, the syndrome and its associated symptoms, such as diarrhea, resolve within a week, but it may also become more severe or lead to other gastrointestinal disorders.

Symptoms and Types

Depending on the strain of pathogen, the disease may be mild or life-threatening. Some signs and symptoms associated with Clostridial enterotoxicosis include:

  • Gastrointestinal distension
  • Diarrhea (sometimes with green mucous or small amounts of blood)
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Tachycardia
  • Shock



In addition to being found in decaying vegetation or raw meat, there is some evidence that ferrets may become infected with Clostridium perfringens bacteria from being boarded with other animals, such as in a kennel.


To confirm a diagnosis, common causes for diarrhea and abdominal distension will first be ruled out. These may include inflammatory bowel disease, food poisoning, metabolic diseases and related disorders. Examinations and pathology reports may reveal spores containing the pathogen C. perringens in the fecal matter. Mucous matter is also a common finding in laboratory examination.


In severe cases, the ferret will be hospitalized to help restore electrolytes and treat for dehydration; some animals may also require therapy to restore proper cardiovascular function. Otherwise, the veterinarian will prescribe medications such as antibiotics, pain relievers to help relieve abdominal bloating, and corticosteroids to help alleviate extreme gastric bloating and distension.

Living and Management

Most ferrets fully recover with treatment. However, depending on the severity of the abdominal bloating, the prognosis may be more guarded.

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