Helicobacter Gastritis and Ulcers in the Ferret

Filed Under: Pocket Pets, Diseases, Ferrets

Ferrets are often kept as laboratory animals for the study of Helicobacter mustelae, a bacterium implicated in the development of gastritis and ulcers. Helicobacter species of bacteria have been implicated in disease production in various animals and man. Disease is usually associated with stress.

Stressful situations for the ferret may involve the introduction of a new ferret or pet to the home, moving to a new home, or lack of exercise and playtime when a ferret is constantly kenneled.

The disease may be slow to develop (chronic), or may develop rapidly (acutely). Clinical signs associated with gastritis and ulcers include weight loss, loss of appetite (anorexia), nausea, vomiting, salivation or drooling (ptyalism), grinding of the teeth (bruxism), and diarrhea which may contain blood (melena).

A complete blood count or CBC may show a regenerative anemia (an anemia in which the body shows signs of attempting to replace the blood loss) resulting from blood loss and microcytosis (small red blood cells). Radiographs show variable amounts of gas with segmental ileus (lack of intestinal contractions).

Treatment consists of concurrent use of Metronidazole and amoxicillin to control the bacteria population in the gut. Sucralfate and a histamine (H2) blocker such as ranitidine or famotidine may also be used to decrease production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and to aid in the repair of the gastric ulcers. Supportive therapy should include fluids and force-feeding to provide nutritional support until appetite returns.

References:

Fox, James. "Biology and Diseases of the Ferret." Lea and Febiger 1988. Philadelphia Pp. 257 and 258.

Lichtenberger, Marla DVM, Editor. Veterinary Clinics of North America, Exotic Animal Practice, Emergency and Critical Care. Volume 10. No. 2. May 2007. pp. 484-485.

Topics: stress, ulcers

Symptoms: nausea, vomiting, weight loss

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