Diarrhea in Ferrets

By PetMD Editorial on Oct. 1, 2008

There are many different types and causes of diarrhea in ferrets. Relatively common among animals, it can cause loose stool, stomach pains and other gastrointestinal problems in ferrets. Diarrhea can also be a secondary symptom to another (sometimes more serious) condition. 


Symptoms and Types


The symptoms of diarrhea will depend on the underlying cause and severity of the illness, but most often include watery or loose stools, abdominal swelling or distension, and lethargy. If it persists for long periods of time, it can even cause the ferret to become dehydrated.


Inflammatory and infectious diarrhea are two serious forms of the condition. They can lead to permanent changes in the ferret's abdominal and intestinal wall lining, causing malabsorption (an inability to absorb nutrients during digestion) and other similar problems.




There are many different causes for diarrhea in ferrets. It can be due to a poor diet, an adverse drug or environmental reaction, or just an upset stomach. Some of the more common causes for diarrhea in ferrets include:


  • Bacterial infections (e.g., helicobacter mustelae, campylobacter sp., clostridium sp.)
  • Viral infections (e.g., rotavirus)
  • Parasitic infections (e.g., coccidia, giardia and cryptospiridum sp., all which can also affect humans)
  • Metabolic disorders and systemic diseases – these are often chronic and debilitating causes for diarrhea.




Your veterinarian will probably run a variety of laboratory tests to rule out certain causes of diarrhea and properly diagnose the source of the condition. Some clues that will help determine the cause include the duration of the diarrhea, the overall health of the ferret and whether or not it presents any other chronic disease symptoms.


Ferrets with underlying disorders may display such symptoms as anemia, increased serum protein and gastrointestinal bleeding. Some may have abnormally high or low levels of certain blood proteins. Fecal cultures done by the veterinarian may also reveal fungi, bacteria or parasites growing in the animal's stool.





Treatment in cases of diarrhea depends on the underlying cause of the condition. For example, food poisoning may require fluid therapy for rehydration; otherwise, this type of diarrhea will generally clear itself on its own. Meanwhile, bacterial, fungal or parasitic infections will require antibiotic, antifungal or antiparasitic medication, prescribed by your veterinarian. During severe cases of diarrhea, however, the ferret will need hospitalization to monitor the animal until it is stabilized.


Living and Management


Other than rest, a ferret suffering from diarrhea will need fluid and electrolyte replacement therapy. If the symptoms and diarrhea persist, bring the animal back to the veterinarian.

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