Posted: January 1, 2011, 5 a.m. EST
Q: My ferret is approximately 5 or 6 years old, and for the last week or so he has been making a very high-pitched noise when breathing and snoring. He also has been sort of coughing and sneezing it seems. He doesn't gain any weight and has lost the hair on his tail. I haven't seen any signs of runny stool or unusual odor. When he eats, he drools terribly but eats and drinks normal amounts. I have just changed the litter I use thinking maybe dust was causing the problems. I also started giving him a ferret vitamin treat and purchased a liquid that goes under his nose to help his respiratory system. Since then, the noise isn't as bad and the drool has eased up somewhat. Any idea what it could be? Should I try something else? He eats a ferret-specific food.
A: Your ferret is showing unusual signs for a ferret and, because of that, it is very difficult to tell you exactly what is wrong.
Ferrets usually do not have a combination of coughing, sneezing and drooling for an extended period of time. The mildest ailment your ferret could have is an extended case of influenza. With the flu, ferrets have mild to severe upper respiratory disease that includes sneezing, snoring, coughing and even drooling. In most cases, these signs start to improve and are gone in three to four days. In more severe cases, it could take a week to 10 days.
If by the time you read this, your ferret is improved, this was probably just the flu. If your ferret is not better, then you may want to consider that this could be a longer-lasting infection or potentially a foreign object that is irritating the respiratory system or even something as unusual as a mass in the respiratory system.
If your ferret is not back to himself in a week to 10 days, then visit your veterinarian to find the cause of this problem. The tail hair loss is likely not related to the other signs, but probably represents adrenal gland disease.
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