Urinary Tract Obstruction in Ferrets

By PetMD Editorial on Jun. 21, 2010

A urinary tract obstruction causes the ferret to strain while urinating, producing little or no urine each time. This may occur due to inflammation or compression on the urethra, or simply a blockage. If left untreated, it may also affect the renal, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, nervous, and respiratory systems as uremia and acute renal failure develop. Urinary tract obstructions are more common in males than females.

Symptoms and Types

The first sign of a urinary obstruction is straining to urinate. This may actually look like constipation since the ferret may hunch over in pain while trying to urinate. Because of the abnormal passage of urine, the stream or flow of urine will be interrupted and may appear cloudy. If any urine is seen, it may appear dark or blood-tinged.

The pain involved causes many ferrets to cry out and they will stop eating and become depressed. Vomiting or retching may also occur. If the ferret does not receive medical treatment, renal failure can develop, which can be life threatening


Intraluminal Causes (inside the tubes)

  • Solid or semisolid structures, including kidney stones, pus, blood clots, and tissue fragments; often these are found in the urethra

Intramural Causes (within the walls)

  • Cysts
  • Tumors
  • Increase in size of prostate
  • Muscle wall dysfunction
  • Edema, hemorrhage, ruptures, punctures, etc.
  • Feeding of dog food which may lead to urinary tract stones


Your veterinarian will first attempt to differentiate from other causes and hormonal imbalances. This is often accomplished by conducting blood and urine analysis and abdominal X-rays and ultrasounds. If urinary stones are discovered, a sample may be taken for analysis.


The obstruction must be relieved as soon as possible. Sedation is often necessary. Depending on the severity of the obstruction, several methods may be used by the veterinarian to remove the obstruction -- urethral massage and using fluid to push the obstruction out of the urethra and into the bladder are two examples.

Once the obstruction is removed or pushed back into the bladder, a urinary catheter is sometimes left in place and is maintained for at least 24 hours, depending on the cause of the obstruction.

Intravenous (IV) fluids are usually administered to rehydrate the ferret and normalize its electrolyte levels. Because of the pressure buildup and the inability to eliminate urine and its components, the entire renal system is affected and kidney damage can occur, which may require surgical removal. In many cases, this damage is repaired with adequate fluid and electrolyte administration. Medications to treat the pain may also be necessary.

Living and Management

It is important to monitor the flow of urine to ensure that there are no visible signs of complication. Ferrets are prone to repeat obstructions; some causes of urethral obstruction can be treated and eliminated, others cannot. Therefore, carefully monitoring the pet is very important. Dietary changes may be necessary to prevent crystals, stones, or other potential causes of the obstruction.

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