Bleeding Under the Skin of Ferrets

By PetMD Editorial on Jun. 13, 2010

Petechia Ecchymosis Bruising in Ferrets

Petechia and ecchymosis refer to a disorder of primary hemostasis, the first step in the process by which blood loss from the body’s blood vessels is prevented. This results in uncharacteristic bleeding into the skin or mucous membranes, which causes bruising.

Petechia and ecchymosis are most commonly seen in female ferrets with hyperestrogenism, a condition characterized by a heightened level of estrogen hormone. Usually, they are caused by thrombocytopenia, a medical condition where blood platelets responsible for forming blood clots, among other things, become too low.

Symptoms and Types

Both of these disorders are evident by unnaturally severe bruises on the body that are more serious than would be expected with any level of trauma experienced. Symptoms include symmetric hair loss (that usually begins at the base of the tail and progresses towards the head), ferret adrenal disease (a condition affecting the adrenal glands located by the kidneys), and splenomegaly (an enlargement of the spleen). Hyperestrogenism in females is considered a risk factor for petechia or ecchymosis. Symptoms of hyperestrogenism include a large vulva and purulent vaginal discharge.


The primary cause of patechia and ecchymosis is thrombocytopenia, which reduces the ferret's platelet count. Other causes include low levels of blood platelet production, or an increased use or destruction of platelets (known as consumptive coagulopathy). Additional causes of petechia and ecchymosis have been identified in other animals but not yet reported in ferrets; still, they should be considered. These include acquired platelet function disorders such as liver disease, and immune-mediated disease.

Hyperestrogenism, or a heightened level of estrogen hormone, is considered to be a risk factor in female ferrets. Additional risk factors include former administration of aspirin or other Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs).


Measuring the mucosa bleeding time -- checking how long it takes for the bleeding of mucous membranes to desist -- is one procedure that can be used to diagnose petechia or ecchymosis. Other diagnostic tests may include a bone marrow examination, abdominal ultrasounds to check for splenomegaly, urine analysis, and coagulation studies to test the body’s blood clotting capabilities.

It is imperative that the condition be diagnosed properly and treated accordingly; untreated, a condition such as thrombocytopenia may lead to death caused by hemorrhage to the brain or other vital organs.


The exact treatment will vary depending on the cause of bruising; however, activity should be reduced to avoid the risk of trauma. Meanwhile, medications that alter platelet function (such as aspirin or other NSAIDs) should be discontinued. Any additional medical prescriptions will vary depending upon the cause of the bruising. Ferrets that show no interest in eating should be offered new foods recommended by your veterinarian, such as canned cat foods or commercial nutritional supplements.

Living and Management

Future care after initial treatment will vary depending on the underlying cause of bruising. Patients with thrombocytopenia, for example, should have a daily platelet count until the condition improves.


Due to the fact that there are a wide variety of causes that may lead to bruising disorders such as petechia or ecchymosis, there is no distinct method of prevention that can be recommended.

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