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Three Ferrets Suddenly All Lose Weight

Why would three ferrets suffer drastic weight loss at the same time?

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: November 1, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT

Q: Please help me. I have three ferrets: two boys, Ramone and Gizmo, and a girl, Daisy. They’re all around 3 to 4 years old. They’re all getting too skinny, especially Daisy, and I have no idea why. So skinny, that I can see her bones. It breaks my heart every time I see her. They’re usually very chubby and energetic, especially Daisy, even though she is very small for a 4-year-old ferret. I understand that in some seasons they lose weight and then gain it back later, but that’s not happening anymore. I really need your help.
 
A: During winter months, it’s normal to see some ferrets put on a little more weight than they might have had in the summer and their hair coat improves a bit. But it sounds like this is not happening.

It is highly unusual to have three ferrets all show signs of weight loss at the same time. When this happens to one ferret in the house, we can suggest it is due to some disease in the liver or gastrointestinal tract or possibly some other organic function. But when all the ferrets in the home exhibit the same problem, then this is either an environmental/husbandry issue or an infectious disease.

By environmental issue, what I mean is there might be a toxin somewhere in the ferrets’ environment affecting all three ferrets. By husbandry, I would be concerned about the food. Are the ferrets eating a well-balanced diet? Do they get a high-quality, commercial ferret food? Do they get enough food for all three? Is food available all day long? Are the ferrets getting more exercise than they used to get and not enough calories in the diet to make up for the extra use of calories?

If the cause of this weight loss is infectious, then all three ferrets have the infection. If that is true, then the infection is causing all three ferrets to either not feel good enough to eat or to have diarrhea resulting in a loss of calories.

Check your home for toxins and consider the diet you are feeding your ferrets, and then take them to the veterinarian. If you see diarrhea or a decreased appetite, please immediately take your ferrets to the veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment.

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