Salmonella Infection in Ferrets

PetMD Editorial
June 21, 2010
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Salmonellosis in Ferrets

This disease is caused by Salmonella, a strain of bacteria which infects the stomach and intestines. The affectation of this disease may be mild or moderate. If the infection spreads to the blood, however, there is high risk for septicemia to set in.

Most reports of samonellosis are of outbreaks occurring in breeding or research colonies, or in ferrets eating undercooked meats or poultry products. Young ferrets with poor immune systems and other diseases are also at risk of sustaining Salmonella infection.

Symptoms and Types

The severity of the disease will often determine the signs and symptoms that are overtly present in the dog. Symptoms commonly seen in ferrets with salmonellosis include:

  • Fever
  • Shock
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea, often with fresh blood and/or mucus
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Abnormally fast or slow heart rate

Causes

There are more than 2,000 different types of Salmonella, a Gram-negative enterobacteria. Typically, a host animal carrying the disease will have two or more different microorganisms or types of Salmonellae bacteria that cause this disease.

Risk factors include the ferret's age, with younger and older animals most at risk due to their underdeveloped and/or compromised immune systems. Similarly, ferrets with weak immune systems or immature gastrointestinal tracts are at risk.

Ferrets receiving antibiotic therapy are also at risk because the healthy bacteria that line the digestive tract (or florae), may become imbalanced, increasing the risk of salmonellosis.

Diagnosis

To confirm a diagnosis of salmonellosis, your veterinarian will examine the ferret for different physical and pathological findings. He or she will also analyze the ferret's blood, urine, and feces, which will assist the veterinarian in differentiating from other conditions of the digestive tract.

Treatment

Outpatient treatment is often possible in uncomplicated cases. However, if a ferret has sepsis, a blood infection, or a severe case of salmonellosis, inpatient care may be necessary, especially for kits that have developed severe dehydration as a result of the infection.

Treatment may also include rehydrating your ferret, helping it to overcome severe weight and fluid loss, and replacing lost electrolytes. Antibiotic therapy, meanwhile, is used to directly control and fight the infection.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian may order routine analysis on your pet's feces to verify its progress. The ferret should be separated from other pets during the acute stage of the disease because of the contagious nature of salmonellosis. Strict attention to hygiene is essential for preventing further spread of disease, which is often shed in the infected ferret's stool.

It is also important to provide your ferret a nutritionally-balanced diet. Avoid giving your dog raw or undercooked meat, as this is a risk factor for salmonellosis. If possible, avoid animal pounds and shelters, as overcrowding may promote the spread of disease.