Renal Failure in Ferrets
Failure of the kidney -- which among other things regulates blood pressure, blood sugar, blood volume, water composition in the blood, and pH levels, and produces red blood cells and certain hormones -- can take so place so slowly, that by the time the symptoms have become obvious, it may be too late to treat the condition effectively. As a result, kidney failure is a condition that should be taken seriously by pet owners.
As a result of renal failure, there is decreased ability of the kidneys to concentrate urine, leading to accumulation of toxic chemicals in the body.
Symptoms and Types
There are two types of kidney failure: acute renal failure, which occurs as a sudden onset syndrome; and chronic renal failure, which is caused due to a more long-standing disease.
Acute renal failure (ARF)
- Sudden loss of appetite, tremors, seizures
- Depression, dehydration, poor hair coat
- Diarrhea, vomiting, fever, increased heart rate
Chronic renal failure (CRF)
- Loss of appetite, excessive salivation, weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting
- Lethargy, poor hair coat, seizure or coma
- Abnormally large or small kidneys
The most common causes of kidney failure in ferrets include:
- Heart failure
- Exposure to toxins
- Kidney or bladder disease
- Drug toxicity
- Diabetes mellitus
Your ferret will undergo a complete blood profile, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. Ferrets with renal failure may have anemia, abnormal electrolyte levels, and elevated blood pressure. The levels of certain protein enzymes and chemicals such as creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) will also be high.
Another good indicator of renal failure is urine that is neither concentrated or dilute, thus indicating the kidney's inability to process the urine correctly.
X-ray or ultrasound imaging may be used to observe the size and shape of the ferret's kidney(s) to see if there are any visibly noticeable abnormalities. Often, kidney failure causes kidneys to become abnormally small or large.
If the presentation of symptoms is sudden and acute, then hospitalization is required; chronic kidney failure, meanwhile, may be managed by outpatient treatment. Ferrets suffering from kidney failure will often undergo fluid therapy to assist with depleted body fluid levels (dehydration). Dietary protein is sometimes restricted, since it can further compound the problem.
The types of medication prescribed will depend on the symptoms. If your ferret has stopped urinating, for example, diuretics may be given to increase urine output. There are also drugs to stop vomiting, decrease blood pressure, and minimize the acid production in the stomach.
Living and Management
Your ferret's prognosis will depend on the severity of the disease and its stages of progression. Acute renal failure has a poor prognosis due to the complications associated with the condition, such as sepsis and multiple organ failure; chronic renal failure tends to worsen over months, possibly even years. Both, however, typically incur high medical expenses due to the prolonged hospitalization. Monitor the ferret regularly for possible complications such as gastric bleeding, anemia, etc., and try to feed the animal a high-caloric diet. Seek your veterinarian's advice for the best type of kibble for your ferret's needs.