Negative Energy Balance in Late Pregnancy in Ferrets

By PetMD Editorial on Jun. 14, 2010

Pregnancy Toxemia in Ferrets

Toxemia is a life-threatening condition to both the mother and kits caused by a negative energy balance in late pregnancy. It usually develops in the last week of gestation and occurs during periods of inadvertent food deprivation or unusual loss of appetite (anorexia) or with large litter size. Moreover, toxemia typically occurs in first pregnancies.

Symptoms and Types

Other than a loss of appetite (anorexia), the pregnant mother may suddenly become lethargic or depressed.


Inadequate caloric intake during late gestation results may cause toxemia. This may due to a poor diet, inadequate access to food, diet changes, or anorexia. In fact, even short periods (as little as 24 hours) of anorexia or food deprivation may cause pregnancy toxemia. Excessive calorie demands caused by a large litter size (greater than 10 fetuses) is another common cause of this condition.


Your veterinarian will need to determine the exact cause of this condition in your pregnant ferret. To do so, he or she will order blood tests and a urinalysis. An ultrasound, meanwhile, may be recommended to determine the size of the litter.


Your pet will need to be hospitalized as an emergency patient, and an emergency Cesarean section may be necessary to save her life; however, the kits will may not survive if they are taken out too early. If toxemia occurs prior to the 40th day of gestation and viable kits are desired, intensive supportive care may keep the mother alive until a cesarean section can be performed. This does, however, carry more risks and has a poorer prognosis than surgical treatment. Your veterinarian may also recommend a special diet and prescribe medication, depending on the cause of the condition, and the treatment.

Living and Management

To prevent toxemia in the future, feed a diet consisting of at least 35 percent protein and 20 percent fat; ensure that food is available 24 hours a day; monitor the volume of food remaining in the feed dishes to be certain she is eating. Do not attempt a diet change during pregnancy. Some mothers that suffer from toxemia will not lactate following treatment, which will require you to rear the kits by hand. This is difficult and carries a poor survival rate.

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