Polyuria and Polydipsia in Ferrets
Polyuria refers to an greater than normal urine production, while polydipsia refers to an increased level of thirst. Assessing these two conditions in ferrets, however, may be more subjective since an extremely wide range of urine production has been reported, ranging from 8 to 140 mL/24 hours. (Conversely, normal water consumption volumes is generally considered to be 75-100 mL/kg/24 hours.) In fact, ferrets are rarely diagnosed with these two conditions.
Urine production and water consumption (thirst) are controlled by interactions between the kidneys, pituitary gland, and hypothalamus, which is involved in the functions of the autonomic nervous system and in endocrine mechanisms. Usually, polydipsia occurs as a compensatory response to polyuria to maintain hydration. It’s more likely to be seen in middle-aged to older ferrets.
Symptoms and Types
The most common symptoms of these medical conditions are an increase in urination, and drinking much more water than usual. There are generally no other behavioral changes.
- Liver disease
- Various electrolyte disorders
- Urinary obstruction
- Diabetes mellitus
- Ingestion or administration of large quantities sodium chloride or glucose
- Administration of diuretics (agents that increase the amount of urine excreted) and anticonvulsants
- Kidney failure, kidney inflammation, pus in the uterus, excess calcium in the blood, low concentration of potassium in the blood
Because there are many diseases that can cause the aforementioned symptoms, your veterinarian will first try to rule out the more common causes. He or she will ask you various questions, including whether your pet has lost weight recently or whether your pet’s hair has been falling out? Also, has your pet suddenly wanted to eat all the time or is it nauseated, vomiting, or pawing at the mouth? The answers to these questions will provide clues as to what is causing these symptoms.
Your veterinarian will also probably recommend blood tests, abdominal X-rays and ultrasounds, a urinalysis, and/or a microscopic examination of lymph node aspirates. If he or she suspects cancer, a biopsy of the lymph nodes may be needed.
It is important that you do not refuse your ferret water, even it is urinating more than usual. The underlying cause may be of serious medical consequence. If your ferret is vomiting, she will need to be hospitalized, where replacement fluids may be administered via tube. This is also the best recourse if she is dehydrated. Medication, meanwhile, will be prescribed according to the underlying cause.