ISSN 2398-2985      

Diarrhea

4ferrets
Contributor(s):

Agata Witkowska

Sarah Brown


Introduction

  • Cause: causes of diarrhea in ferrets range from dietary change, infections such as protozoal, bacterial, or viral infections, stress to inflammatory and neoplastic etiologies. 
  • Signs: acute or chronic diarrhea and may be mild or severe. Bruxism, drooling, vomiting may accompany in advanced stages, nausea, lethargy, anorexia, fecal staining of perineum and hind legs, abdominal distension, hypothermia, dehydration, sudden death.
  • Diagnosis: clinical history, dietary review, clinical examination findings, fecal analysis, blood work including complete blood cell count and biochemistry, diagnostic imaging, histopathology, post-mortem.
  • Treatment: dependent on cause.
  • Prognosis: dependent on cause and time of presentation; can range from good to poor.  

Pathogenesis

Etiology

  • Usually, the result of severe disruption of normal gastrointestinal flora:
    • Overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria/other microorganisms.
    • Infectious causes:
      • Bacterial:
      • Viral:
        • Ferret enteric coronavirus Ferret systemic coronavirus: usually following stressful event or mixing in groups. Also known as epizootic catarrhal enteritis (ECE). Common.
        • Rotavirus: affects neonates, weanlings, immunocompromised animals, eg on steroid treatment. Rare.
        • Canine distemper virus Canine distemper: unvaccinated animals.
        • Ferret infectious peritonitis virus (variant of ferret enteric coronavirus).
      • Parasitic: usually affects younger animals or those immunocompromised:
      • Inflammatory bowel disease Inflammatory bowel disease: usually affects animals of over 2 years of age, may progress to lymphoma Lymphoma overview. Lymphoplasmacytic gastroenteritis and eosinophilic gastroenteritis are common.
  • Stress: any change of husbandry, diet, pregnancy, or introduction of a new cohort.
  • Partial foreign body gastrointestinal obstruction Gastrointestinal foreign bodies. Neoplasia or intussusception also may cause obstruction.
  • Neoplasia such as lymphosarcoma Lymphoma overview: any age, but usually middle-aged animals to older. Adenocarcinoma is rare in ferrets.
  • Metabolic disease, eg hepatic or renal disease.
  • Maldigestion: pancreatitis and/or liver disease (rare).
  • Drug reaction or intoxication.

Predisposing factors

General

  • Inappropriate husbandry including diet: rapid dietary change.
  • Lack of quarantine when introducing new individuals to a group may lead to transfer of pathogens.
  • Geriatric ferrets will be affected by neoplasia more often.

Specific

  • Potential for raw fed ferrets to be affected by Campylobacter jejuni more often due to risk of transmission from poultry.
  • Lack of/lapsed vaccination against distemper Canine distemper in ferrets.

Pathophysiology

  • Usually the result of severe disruption of the normal gastrointestinal flora:
    • This causes an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria.
    • Parasitic or viral gut pathogens can also disrupt gut flora leading to dysbiosis.
  • The resultant dehydration, hypovolemia, septicemia, entero-/endotoxemia, decreased organ perfusion affects the entire body.

Timecourse

  • Variable, depending on infectious factor involved/underlying cause.
  • Days to weeks.
  • Ferrets may be asymptomatic carriers and shed microorganisms intermittently.
  • Progression from onset to shock may be fast, especially in younger animals.
  • Many pathogens will be detected on routine fecal screening.

Epidemiology

  • Usually an individual problem, infectious causes will often affect animals in shelters or larger households.
  • In ferrets, Coccidia Coccidiosis, Cryptosporidium Cryptosporidiosis, Mycobacterium Mycobacteriosis are all zoonotic and owners should be cautioned re treatment and risk of handling.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed Papers

Other sources of information

  • Perpinan D & Johnson-Delaney C A (2017) Disorders of the Digestive System and Liver. In: Ferret Medicine and Surgery. Ed: Johnson-Delaney C A. CRC Press, USA. pp 159-190.
  • Oglesbee B L (2011) Diarrhea. In: Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Small Mammal. Wiley-Blackwell, USA. pp 83-85.
  • Johnson-Delaney C A (2009) Ferrets: Digestive System Disorders. In: BSAVA Manual of Rodents and Ferrets. Eds: Keeble E & Meredith A. BSAVA, UK.

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