Diabetes in Ferrets

3 min read

Diabetes Mellitus in Ferrets

This form of diabetes causes the ferret's body to suffer from either an absolute shortage of insulin (Type I), or from an incorrect response from the cells to the insulin that is being produced, a condition termed insulin resistance (Type II). Both of these conditions will prevent the muscles and organs from converting glucose to energy, and will result in excessive amounts of glucose in the blood, which is also referred to as hyperglycemia. The deficiency in insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, will also affect the body's ability to properly metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

Symptoms and Types

The signs and symptoms of diabetes mellitus in ferrets typically include the wasting away of muscle mass; excessive thirst (polydipsia) and need to urinate (polyuria); weight loss even with normal appetite; unusually high blood sugar levels; lethargy; and depression. As the disease progresses many ferrets lose the ability to eat and develop problems with anorexia and even increased or enlarged liver and spleen.


Diabetes mellitus in ferrets is caused most commonly by a condition known as hyperglycemia, where the blood sugar is too high resulting from improper insulin management in the body. This may result from surgery, especially surgical procedures that involve reducing the size of pancreatic tumors, which may disrupt the body's ability to maintain proper blood sugar levels. Basically, diabetes is not a disease that happens spontaneously in ferrets; something has to happen to stimulate its arousal or formation.


Usually a formal diagnosis of diabetes mellitus is made after a veterinarian confirms excessive weight loss, an increase in the concentration of glucose within the plasma consistently, and an increase in urinary output and protein in the ferret. Identifying a single cause of diabetes mellitus, however, may be challenging and may first require a differential diagnosis, where he or she will rule out other similar conditions such as kidney disease.

Typically, blood sugar or glucose levels higher than 100 suggest the presence of diabetes although levels as high as 500 are common. Other common laboratory results include high levels of liver and kidney enzymes, low levels of electrolytes, and other related abnormalities.

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