Foot and Toenail Disorders in Ferrets

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Pododermatitis and Nail Bed Disorders in Ferrets

Inflammation of the feet, including foot pads, nail beds, and between the toes, is referred to as pododermatitis. Causes for these type of disorders include infectious, allergic, cancerous, and environmental diseases, though it's uncommon in pet ferrets. Nails and nailfolds are also subject to trauma and degeneration.

Symptoms and Types

The following symptoms are commonly seen:

  • Lameness
  • Reddened/swollen paws
  • Painful and itchy paws
  • Fluid buildup in the paws
  • Small, solid masses
  • Thickened, raised, or flat top areas
  • Loss of the top portion of the skin
  • Deformity or shedding of the nail
  • Discharge from the paws
  • Inflammation of the soft tissue around the nail

Causes

Bacterial, fungal, and viral infections can cause this form of skin inflammation to develop, especially those that have not been vaccinated against canine distemper virus. There are also two forms of parasitic infections caused by mange (which is caused by mites): one involving primarily the feet, another more generalized or localized to other areas of the body. Other potential causes for it can include cancer, trauma, poor grooming, decreased levels of thyroid hormones, increased levels of steroids present, and irritants from the environment.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination to try and identify the underlying cause of the inflammation. He or she may ask your questions about the ferret's environment and its diet. By conducting skin scrapings, cultures, and microscopic examination of any fluid or pus from lesions, your veterinarian can deduce the type of infection. He or she will be most concerned that your ferret has canine distemper virus, mange, or possibly even cancer.

Treatment

Foot soaks, hot packing, and/or bandaging may be necessary, depending on cause. Whether or not you need to limit your pet’s activity or administer medication will also depend on the underlying cause and the severity of the lesions. If there are tumors, they may need to be removed surgically. If there are abscesses, they may need to be drained. In severe cases, removing dead tissue may be necessary before medications are prescribed.

Living and Management

Success of therapy depends on finding the underlying cause. You will need to follow your veterinarians directions and advice, particularly in administering appropriate medications.

Prevention

There are a number of causes that can lead to pododermatitis and nailbed disorders, thus it is difficult to pinpoint effective preventative measures. However, vaccinated against canine distemper virus may limit the ferret’s ability to contract that form of skin inflammation.

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