Posted: May 1, 2012, 9 a.m. PDT
Q: I have a ferret that is sick. He is 3. When he walks, it’s like his hind legs don’t want to work, and he falls over. We took him to the veterinarian and had blood and stool tests done. The blood test says he has high liver enzymes. Can he recover? His veterinarian said it’s pretty bad.
A: When a ferret has trouble using its hind limbs, that is usually a sign of overall body weakness. Liver disease can cause signs of overall body weakness, so it is not surprising that your ferret is having trouble walking.
One of the many things that veterinarians measure in a blood biochemistry test are liver values. When the liver is diseased, depending on the type of damage that is present, the liver will leak or produce enzymes that spill into the blood; these enzymes can be measured to determine the extent of the damage. Other times, liver values will increase when the liver is too “sick” to process waste products and the waste products increase in the bloodstream and those values are also measured.
Depending on the type of liver enzymes or waste products produced and the amount of each, we can give a diagnosis of what is causing the damage and what the chances of recovery are for a ferret. In some cases, further testing of the liver, such as an abdominal ultrasound, must be done to better characterize why the liver is not functioning properly.
Without knowing which enzymes are elevated and to what extent, it is impossible to predict the chance of recovery for your ferret. Even though the values may be very high and your ferret may appear very sick, if this is a reversible disease, such as bacterial infection, he could pull out of this and do well. But if a cancer is causing the changes in the liver, then the prognosis, even if the values are just slightly elevated, may not be as good.
See all Ask The Doc questions and answers»