Q: My 1-year-old ferret’s tail is bright red on the skin. She hasn’t been biting or scratching it, so I don’t know why. Is this normal?
A: Any red skin on a ferret is not normal. This does not mean it is a reason to panic, but it is a condition that should be examined by your ferret’s veterinarian.
Red skin indicates that there is inflammation of one or more layers of the skin. The mystery for you and your veterinarian to figure out why is there inflammation.
To begin with, when we say “inflammation” what do we really mean? Inflammation is a combination of two different reactions within the body. These reactions are an increase of inflammatory cells (certain types of white blood cells) and an increase of chemical mediators released by those cells. These cells and the chemical mediators become active when the body perceives a “foreign” invader. And the body’s response to that foreign invader is called an “inflammatory response.”
There are numerous general causes for inflammation. So in your ferret, we might look for potential infectious causes such as a bacterial infection of the skin. Or maybe there is something in the environment, such as a carpet cleaner, that has irritated the area and the red you see is the body’s inflammatory reaction. Another cause happens when a ferret chews on its tail.
When you visit your veterinarian, bring a list of cleaners and chemicals used in the house. Any information you can describe about your home environment is very important, including any changes that may have occurred in your house since the last time your ferret appeared normal.