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Treating Ferrets With ECE

What is the best way to treat ferrets with epizootic catarrhal enteritis (ECE)?

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, DABVP
Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2009, 6:50 p.m., EDT

Q: I run a ferret rescue. I have six ferrets so far, with another two coming to me soon. I suspected that my ferrets might have been exposed to ECE and asked the woman who relinquished the last two ferrets to me. She told me the ferrets were carriers of ECE. I’m concerned about whether the ferrets are getting the right treatment.
I keep them hydrated and feed them their vitamin supplements daily. They won’t eat Duck Soup, so I sprinkle it on their food. I also give them small amounts of yogurt to help with digestion. They all seem happy and healthy, but they have mucous in their stool. Their coats are still nice and they are eating, but they have some minimal weight loss that has me concerned.
The ferrets are on azithromycin to treat secondary infection, if there is any. I am giving them extra water through a syringe once a day. They aren’t losing any more weight, but they aren’t putting any on either. Tomorrow I will try some pedialyte. Is this the right treatment? The vets in my small town have little to no experience with exotics.

A: You ask a very difficult question. Even if the ferrets have been exposed to epizootic catarrhal enteritis (ECE), you do not know if they will get the disease and show signs of the disease. If the ferrets have never been sick, you may not need to treat them.

Giving the ferrets an antibiotic to treat a secondary infection in a disease that the ferrets may not have could lead to antibiotic resistance, making it much harder to treat an infection if one occurs.

Yogurt is not part of a normal ferret’s diet; that by itself could be causing the mucous in the stool or the antibiotic could be doing that.

What you may want to do is to find a veterinarian in your area who will work with you and your rescue. There are many online resources for veterinarians to answer their questions. Then rather than treating for a disease that might not be present, a veterinarian could tell you the likely chance that your ferrets may have ECE. 

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Treating Ferrets With ECE

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Reader Comments
And these guys have been living with ECE since 1993
Furbies, London UK, AL
Posted: 8/6/2009 12:57:01 PM
This is a really useful sets of articles about
Furbies, London UK, AL
Posted: 8/6/2009 12:50:47 PM
We've just got our guy over what appeared to be ECE (all other tests were negative and symptoms etc point to ECE) and have passed on information on our experience to other ferret owners whose ferrets are experiencing the same.

The most important thing is to keep the fert hydrated, we didn’t realise this at first an ended up in a mad night dash to our vets to get him rehydrated (sub cut fkuids), and start to deal with what is a nasty virus infection.

We ended up making up big batches of home made Duck Soup and feeding it to our fert via a syringe 15-20ml at a time (gently does it). We read somewhere that 90ml a day will keep a ferret alive, ideally you want them to take in more than that though. We ended up doing 20ml every 4 hours (including over night). You can get a premade powdered version Marshalls Uncle Jims Duck Soup that there is a lot of positive right ups on - unfortunately our fert didn’t like it. Also there’s Carnivore Care by Oxbow which is another powdered mix.

Our vet prescribed Flagyl (Metronidazole), Synulox Pal and Antepsin (Sucralfate) – the antibiotics to treat secondary infection and the Antepsin to sooth the stomach. Other vets use Baytril or Ibaflin in place of Flagyl as Flagyl tastes really bad, and pro kaolin plus paste in place of the Antepsin.

Our guy had severe diahorrea for days, in the end we had to resort to Immodium 1x10th of a 2mg capsule per dose, maximum of 2 doses a day.

As our fella was really bad with this – went on for weeks, our vet in the end put him on steroids to help stop the inflammation of the gut and help get his appetite back.

He was really ill for about 2 months and lost 300+g but is now through it and slowly putting back on the weight – we are still supplementing his normal food with syringe feeds of liquidised chicken wings (no bones) the water they were boiled in and some ferratone.

Useful links
LINK (great place to share ferret knowledge and get help)
Furbies, London UK, AL
Posted: 8/6/2009 12:09:22 PM
I too have 5 ferrets that have ECE and there is nothing that my vet can do either, i travel a long way to see my vet but it is worth it my babies are my life. I lost 3 to this awful illness. My vet goes to meetings all the time for exotic animals. Is there any cure for this awful illness or am i gonna lose all of them. My poor little one is so sick i feed him baby food mixed with a/d food, he won't drink water anymore so i have ta force feed the water to him. their stool is so stinky and really green yuck.
judy, lincoln, ME
Posted: 8/5/2009 7:15:43 PM
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