By Mary Van Dahm
Just when we’ve finally gotten the treatment of ECE (Epizootic Catarrhal Enteritis) under our belts and have a heightened awareness of ADV (Aleutian Disease Virus), another “bug” pops out of the woodwork to plague our pets. We have been hearing reports from all over the country about sick ferrets. Some fatalities have been reported, also.
The symptoms are intermittent diarrhea and dehydration, often with severe weight loss and often accompanied by high fever. In severe cases there may also be bloody stool. Not all ferrets are affected by this “virus” (for lack of a definitive classification). Affected and non-affected ferrets can share the same cage. Older ferrets with other medical problems seem to be hit the hardest. Stool samples and intestinal biopsies often show a high helicobacter count, which probably just means that the virus has weakened the ferret’s immune system enough to allow this opportunistic organism to proliferate.
Aggressive treatment with fluid therapy, high calorie hand feedings (“Duck Soup”) and antibiotics (Amoxicillan) for 3 – 4 weeks seems to pull most ferrets through this illness. Unlike ECE, ferrets, once recovered, do not seem to be further carriers of this disease. The possibility of a severe flu strain is very likely so if anyone in your house gets sick this winter, keep them away from your ferrets!