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Strange Discoloration On Ferret’s Tail Spreads

Why is the skin of a white ferret’s tail turning black?

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: October 1, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT

Q: I have a huge concern about my little ferret. Her name is Coco and she’s 3 years old, all white. I have three other ferrets, but my concern is Coco. About six months ago I noticed the tip of her tail was black and purple, it was most noticeable if her tail was wet. As time went by it seems that it spread down more than half of her tail and she’s missing some fur; but, again, nothing noticeable unless it’s wet. If you look close enough, it can be seen when it’s dry. It’s starting to scare me because it doesn’t look good, and the fact that it’s spreading down her tail is the worst part. I constantly clean it and check it, but it’s not getting better. I would take her to the vet, but that is very costly and my money situation is not great right now. Please help me and give me some tips on what I can do and what it could possibly be. I love my ferret and want to fix this problem.

A: Unfortunately, your ferret does appear to have a disease condition on her tail. There are many possible causes for what you are seeing. If we play the game of “common diseases occur commonly” then a likely cause of what you are seeing is adrenal gland disease. Other possible causes include bacterial skin infection, fungal skin infection, contact reactions to allergens in the environment or self-mutilation of the skin along the tail. With all of these conditions (and there could be others), your veterinarian needs to diagnose and prescribe the correct treatment course.

Is there anything you can do if you cannot make it to a veterinarian’s office? You can make sure there is nothing in the environment that can cause a skin reaction. Remove any carpet cleaners or other types of cleaners that your ferret comes in contact with. Be certain that any towels or clothing that your ferret is in contact with are washed in hypoallergenic types of detergent and dried without fabric softeners. You may also want to consider using a ferret-safe shampoo to clean any potential harmful bacteria or fungus from the skin of the tail.

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