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Ferrets/Blood loss, oral


QUESTION: I have had 10 ferrets over the years.  We now have a male and female originally from Marshall's.  They just turned 3 yrs old.
No recent health issues but got their annual check up and rabies shot just 3 weeks ago.
Thursday morning the male had blood on his paws and belly with diarrhea on his tail.  Gave him a bath and looked for injury, he seemed fine in all aspects.  Friday morning repeat with black stool, believed rectal bleeding.. called vet for emergency.  Spent 6 hours there, blood tests ok, but red blood cell count very low.  Fluid in his abdomen.  Vet put him on Amoxicillin and Prednisone with Carnivore Care food.  All night family took shifts to care for the poor guy.  Saturday morning identified the bright red blood was oral.. happy little guy, eating and drinking and taking his meds..  Now Monday and no more bleeding but has me and vet stumped.  Possible ulcer or ingested something hard???
No possibility of poison, home is ferret proofed.
Ideas.. thoughts..???

ANSWER: Hi Kevin:

Interesting question!  First I have heard of this.  I am wondering if 1: could he have bit his tongue while being restrained during his vaccine? ( due to the timing); OR, 2: he could have a loose tooth?  3: Possibly a lesion (cut, gum disease, or even a tumor or open sore in his mouth?  He could possiblpy even have a bleeding ulcer. Often blood in the stomach will cause people or animals to vomit the blood up,  and that may be what you were seeing when there was so much of it.  Do remember though, that it takes a fairly small amount of blood to look like a lot, but conversely, ferrets bodies don't have a lot of blood and definitely not enough to spare so much that his blood count came back low! (I promise I am not trying to panic you...just thinking of all possibilities).

Hopefully your vet did a very very thorough oral exam, even if he needs to give him a little snort of anesthesia to get in there and get a good look.  Any mouth wound tends to bleed more than other parts of our body because the mouth/nose are so rich with blood vessels.  He has, apparently, lost a fair amount of blood, tho, to have his hematocrit come back low. If the cause is not found, he could continue to bleed and end up with much more serious problems, so it definitely needs checked out very thoroughly.  I'm surprised your vet sent you home without finding the source of the bleeding.  There is always the possibility, if the blood is not coming from his mouth, that he has a bleeding ulcer, which could be life threatening.....anothe reason to check that mouth thoroughly, under tongue, all teeth, under lips, throat, etc.

If he did not exam him that thoroughly, I would return to the vet ASAP and request a thorough exam while ferret is sleepy/somewhat drugged to allow a very thorough exam.  HOPEFULLY it is a bit tongue, loose tooth, or small cut of some kind, but because there is always the potential if a tumor or other lesion that may require treatment, I would definitely not just drop the concern.  If nothing is found in his mouth, gums, terth, throat or lip underneath sides, I would think the next step would be to have a barium upper gastro exam, which would reveal any ulcer.  Ulcers can be treated, but if not treated, they can be lethal, so it is a valid concern. I would be sure to let the vet know you want a definitive answer.  Three years old is too young to die from a treatable ulcer.  On the flip side, he could even have a cancer in his digestive tract (esophagus, stomach).  The favt that the blood in his stool is black indicates that it has been digested, so it is coming from somewhere in his upper digestive tract - mouth to stomach somewhere.  If it were a vowel problem, blood i  the stool would be bright it is definitely from the upper end of his digestive tract somewhere, not the intestines.

You may even be able to do a cursory inspection of his mouth, gums, lips and teeth by scruffing him firnly, gently trying to wiggle each tooth one by one, checking for loose ones as you go, as you also watch for any cuts or lumps, bumps or open sores of any kind.

I hope you will follow up as soon as possible. With a low blood count, he could go downhill very fast, as ferrets are so famous for doing.  I concur with feeding ONLY the soft food for now...Carnivore Care is excellent, as is Hills A/D Feline (canned) thinned with water and warmed. It is especially for sick and recovering carnivores, containing extra vitamins and easily digested as well as being gentle in case his mouth is sore.   I would remove access to kibble until you know what is going on. No sense in aggravating the problem.  I recommend serving the 'soup'  warm, introducing it by having him lick it from your fingers till he gets used to it, then moving to a spoon he can lick from.  I find my kids eat "soup" better if its nice and warm and I hold them to feed them. Its really important to get good nutrition down him right now and at leadt three to four times a day as much as he will eat. He may be reluctant at first since he's not used to it, but it won't take long for him to look forward to that one-on-one time with you and his warm, soft food. I like to make it about gravy consistency. If he acts like he doesn't want it, try thinning it just a bit more. Sometimes its the texture thry just aren't used to. The extra fluids won't hurt with his blood count being low too. Eventually you will determine how thick or thin he prefers it....and a bit more than lukewarm is good. Remember their normal body temperature is about 103-degrees, so lukewarm to us is cold to them.  Also, there is an iron supplement for small animals (I can't remember the name of it right nowm but it comes in a small brown dropper bottle and smells like iron and is not expensive. Your vet can best  advise on dosage.. You can add it to his soup or feed a few drops as a treat....ferrets like it, at least all I've given it to. Ask your vet about giving him that till his blood count is back up to normal. Small things can quickly turn into big problems with ferrets, as I am sure you know as an experienced ferret owner. I would approach this problem  from several angles for best results and nutrition and iron supplement would be important until this gets properly diagnosed and under control.

Thanks for an interesting question. Please write back and let me know what this turns out to be?  This is an interesting case and I am curious about what has caused this much bleeding.   Kudos to you for being an observant owner and getting him to the vet ASAP!  Hope to hear from you soon and that it turns out to be something simple and easily fixed.


Jacquie Rodgers

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for the fast reply and insight you provided.
The vet did sedate him to take blood and xrays.  She checked him orally as far as she could and everything was fine.  Doctors at Cornell reviewed the Xrays (can't wait for that bill) and determined that other than the fluid in his abdomen it looked ok.  
He was so bad that the vet offered to euthanize him Saturday, I declined as he was not suffering.
I am going with the ulcer or possible a piece of plastic ingested.
He loves his Amoxicillin and Carnivore Care, Prednisone is a different story.  
Since Sunday night no more blood and his weight is starting to go up again.  His nose and gums are still a bit pale but I am guessing it will take a bit for his red cell count climb back up, he was at 17 and the vet said 30 is critically low.
I am setting up follow-up appointments.  Would really like to know what happened to the little guy since there was no warnings and I have never seen something like this before.

Thanks again

Hi again Kevin:

Thank you so much for the follow up. Glad to hear he is doing better. I agree, if he is not suffering, no need to euthanize. You know your ferret and even tho he will likely not be quite as active with low blood count, hopefully his full energy  will come back up soon..  If you do see the vet again soon, it would be a good idea to ask for a liquid iron supplement to help get that blood count back up. You are obviously a great ferret dad, getting an opinion from Cornell (!) :-)  God bless you for loving him so much, giving him such great care, and being willing to get him nothing but the best.  

If I can ever be of any help, please don't hesitate to write again.  I want to invite you to join my online Facebook ferret group called THUNDERING FERRET PAWS. You could even post a picture of your little guy - I'd love to see him!  We have a great group of around 200 folks with many rescue moms, a vet or two and years and years of combined ferret experience and we all try to help each other. There is usually someone there 24/7 because we have owners from all over the world. It is quite interesting too.  Hope to see you there!

Jacquie Rodgers


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Jacquie Rodgers


PLEASE READ ALL BEFORE ASKING QUESTIONS... WHAT I CAN DO: Being a ferret owner for 20 years, I can answer questions re: general care, cage ideas & requirements, healthy foods and snacks, safety issues, ferretproofing play areas, common causes of intestinal blockages, appropriate housing, litterbox training, making bathtime fun, toys, games galore, outdoor trips, "Do`s and Don'ts, traveling w/ferrets by car or RV, safe environmental temperatures & keeping your ferret cool in summer (NOT A FAN!!), setting up a hospital cage, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), helicobacter (ulcers), adrenal disease symptoms & care,intestinal blockages, helping your ferret recover quickly/safely from surgery; common problems of ferret ownership, illnesses; care of sick or injured ferrets, hospice/palliative care, facing & coping with your ferret's death, choices that must be made when a ferret dies, memorializing your pet online and in your daily life. #1 TIP: FIND AN EXOTICS VET BEFORE YOU GET A VET...IF YOU WAIT, YOU MAY FIND YOU HAVE TO DRIVE UP TO 6-HRS TO GET TO A PROPER VET!..if you did not find one first, be WILLING to drive as far as possible for proper care. AND.... #2 TIP: FERRETS ARE EXPENSIVE TO FEED, HOUSE, VET & CARE FOR PROPERLY...IF YOU CANNOT AFFORD ONE/OR NOT READY TO SACRIFICE, PLEASE DON'T GET ONE!! A FERRET IS NOT LIKE HAVING A CAT OR DOG!! THEY REQUIRE MORE TIME, ENERGY, CARE AND MONEY to properly care for them. Prepare to spend up to $8,000-$10,000 OVER A FERRETS LIFETIME (6 to 8 years usually) FOR NECESSITIES & VET CARE. WHAT I CAN`T DO: I can`t take the place of your ferret vet; if your ferret appears sick,PLEASE have your ferret examined by a ferret vet .TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE FOR A SICK FERRET - PLEASE, IF IN DOUBT, GET THEM TO A VET! 24- hours of a ferret not eating/drinking may kill your ferret! NEVER FORCE FEED A SICK..he may choke. Sub-Q or IV fluids from your vet who is not eating WILL help save his life IF he gets it in time.


I have nursed ferrets through many illnesses, an injury, and a variety of diseases over the years.Ferrets are so very delicate, yet incredibly strong-willed; a well-loved ferret will fight courageously to live if given proper medical care, close monitoring, and especially lots of TLC.& LOVE. A ferret can entertain for hours on end when they know they are the center of attention; and they can make even the grumpiest person laugh. They do require a LOT of time, love and daily care, but the love you give a ferret always comes back to you tenfold OR MORE!! I dedicate the time I spend helping others here to my precious little ones who have gone to the Rainbow Bridge. They taught me how to laugh, to love unconditionally....and how to live each & every day to its fullest, and for that I am forever grateful.


Yuma Daily Sun (local newspaper) recognition for being an outstanding ferret mom and having incredibly well-trained ferrets. I am currently working on book of ferret care to share my experience. JOIN ME ON FACEBOOK:!/groups/thundering.ferret.paws/ for faster answers to your questions and input from other experienced ferret owners. Lots of past questions answered on that you can still reference by category. If you don't find your answer there, please submit it and I will be happy to help you :-)

I read everything I can get my hands on regarding ferrets, I learn from my great Exotics Vet, and my own experience and interactions with other ferret owners. I am writing a book on ferret care (Great Need for a CORRECT one!) never rely on a ferret book OR a website when your ferret is sick. I can help with suggestions to use IN CONJUNCTION with proper care by your exotics specialist vet (ASK when you call for an appointment whether or NOT your vet has EXPERIENCE in working with EXOTICS..if not, move on and continue to seek one. The wrong vet can KILL your ferret. I learned this early when my ferret hurt his front paw jumping off the couch...a vet, NOT EXOTICS SPECIALIST couln't handle ferret properly because he was afraid of the ferret...and ended up xraying THE WRONGBARM, telling me it was not hurt. I took xray & ferret to EXOTICS SPECIALIST VET 3-hrs away & found out the arm WAS BROKEN & wrong arm had been xrayed. THAT is how important it is to have a PROPERLY TRAINED VET FOR YOUR FERRET!

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