Urolithiasis in Ferrets
Urolithiasis is a condition where certain compounds called uroliths form in the urinary tract. Made of stones, crystals, or calculi, the uroliths are caused by metabolic and dietary factors that affect the acidity of the ferret's blood. Ferrets with this condition suffer from secondary bacterial infections and pain due to the rubbing of the uroliths against the urinary tract.
Symptoms and Types
Uroliths are rough in nature, causing the ferret's urethra, urinary bladder, or kidneys to become inflamed. Kidneys can also become inflamed due to secondary bacterial infections. Ferrets suffering from urolithiasis will lick or bite the urinary area. And while some are unable to urinate or at least urinate properly, others frequently urinate but only in small amounts, leaving the fur around the perineum damp. In severe cases, urolithiasis may lead to renal failure. Some other symptoms include:
- Painful and difficult urination
- Cloudy urine
- Bloody urine
- Foul-smelling urine
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
The consistency of uroliths depends on the types of minerals or solutions in the formations. For example, urolithiasis struvite stones consist of magnesium ammonium phosphate and causes the ferret's urine to become highly alkaline, and urolithiasis cystine stones consist of calcium oxalate, causing the urine to become highly acidic. Meanwhile, ammonium acid urates and silicate stones cause the urine pH to become either neutral or acidic.
Urolithiasis is most common in middle-aged to older ferrets (3 to 7 years), especially males. Risk factors include the consumption of dog food, poor quality cat food, or diets with plant-based proteins. Abnormal retention of urine can also lead to urolithiasis.
Other than observing the ferret's clinical symptoms, the veterinarian may recommend X-rays and urine examinations to confirm the diagnosis. Culture and sensitivity tests may be required if secondary bacterial infections are present.
Once the type of urolith is diagnosed and located, your veterinarian will devise a treatment plan. If the uroliths can not be dissolved with antibiotics, surgery is required to remove the “stones.” Fluid therapy is also necessary to maintain the ferret well hydrated.
Living and Management
Once the stones are removed, your veterinarian will devise a dietary and living plan for your ferret.
Providing a well-balanced, healthy diet for your ferret may help prevent uroliths from forming in your ferret. But because there are various causes for the condition, there is no surefire way to prevent it.