The Ferret Owners Manual

If the ferret will not eat or drink, the ferret should be syringe fed using the Duck Soup or similar food, and given copious amount of water or Pedialyte. You must do this about every 3 – 4 hours until the diarrhea is under control and the ferret is eating on his own.

You may hear the term “ECE” or “Green Diarrhea” in conjunction with severe diarrhea. True ECE is caused by a virus; is contagious, and very difficult to eradicate. The virus that causes it may live in the environment for six months or more. New ferrets coming into a home infected with the ECE virus may come down with ECE. Antibiotics are not effective against true ECE, but may halt secondary infections. There are no accurate tests for ECE. It is usually diagnosed by ruling out all other causes.

Lately, the term ECE is being incorrectly applied to all severe cases of diarrhea, especially if the diarrhea is green in color. It is very important to know that not all green diarrhea is ECE. The green color is simply a sign of the rapid passage of the food through the ferret’s gut. Diarrhea from other causes will usually clear up with Pepto Bismol or Kaopectate, Amoxicillin, Flagyl and sulcrafate within a few days. ECE will take considerably longer and may be accompanied by a secondary infection such as helicobactor, which can and should be treated. With aggressive treatment and care, your ferret will very likely recover and be his frisky self again.

Hair loss and Adrenal Tumors Loss of hair may be due to many causes. Ferrets experience shedding twice a year. During this time it is not unusual for the ferret’s coat to appear rough and sparse, particularly on the tail. Sometimes the tail may become nearly bald from about halfway down its length to the tip and covered with black “dots.”

The dots are really blackheads and can be removed with a special acne cleaner containing benzoyl peroxide, available from your vet. Just shampoo the ferret with your usual ferret shampoo, but wash the tail with the benzoyl peroxide. Work it into a lather and let sit for 5-10 minutes. (A soft brush rubbed gently over the tail will help remove the blackheads.) Rinse very thoroughly. Repeat in about 2 weeks. (Some owners say that they’ve gotten good results by using Stridex Medicated Pads on the ferret’s tail every day for a week or so.) Once the blackheads are removed, the hair will generally grow back in before the next shedding period – often within a month.

Unusual and prolonged stress may often be a cause of a similar hair loss. Moving to a new home; the addition of a new (and unwelcome) ferret or other pet; the prolonged absence of a beloved owner, or even the stress of normal shedding may cause a temporary hair loss at the tip of the tail which spreads upward toward the middle. Relieving the source of the stress, (or the ending of the regular shedding period) usually clears up this type of hair loss.

If the hair loss is near the base of the tail and spreads up the flank, under the belly, and down the legs, it is likely that the hair loss is due to an adrenal tumor. With an adrenal tumor, the skin may show as shiny or “scaly” where there is hair loss.  Some ferrets with adrenal tumors show hair loss on the shoulders or even on top of the head rather than on their flanks or base of their tails.  Some don’t show any hair loss.

A female ferret may (in about 75% of the cases) show an enlarged vulva as if she were in heat. The male ferret may show signs of rut, complete with sexual aggression toward other ferrets and a “marking” of his territory with urine.

This disease is more dangerous in the male ferret than the female, although it does not seem to occur as frequently. In the male ferret, the adrenal tumor may cause the prostrate tissue to enlarge and close off the urethra, preventing urination. This can quickly lead to death. If you see him make frequent trips to the litter box but with no production of urine, RUSH him to a vet immediately.


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