Just last week a ferret owner brought a recently adopted ferret into the clinic. He was a young ferret with an estimated age of 1 year. The new owner had him for just a few days when he started having a green, mucoid and malodorous diarrhea. His appetite had also decreased, and he was losing weight rapidly. The rest of the ferrets in the house had normal appetites and feces.
With his young age and recent stay at a ferret shelter, the ferret enteric coronavirus (ECE) was suspected as the cause of the diarrhea and decreased appetite. However he was more active than most ferrets with ECE, and he was not dehydrated, as occurs with most ECE cases. A fecal exam was done to check for Coccidia and Giardia. Ferrets can have either Eimeria or Isospora species of Coccidia, and this ferret had lots of Eimeria species (most likely E. furonis) in his feces.
Coccidia infections are usually a mild problem in ferrets; however, an article in the December 15, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association described three fatal outbreaks of Coccidia. One outbreak was in a ferret shelter in the Detroit area, and the other two outbreaks were in Pennsylvania. The Dallas area also had a severe Coccidia outbreak several years ago.
Coccidia infections usually respond well to treatment with either Albon or trimethoprim/sulfa, so the ferret was started on a liquid trimethoprim/sulfa product. Carafate oral suspension was also used to help with the ferret’s decreased appetite and diarrhea. In addition a soft food (Hill’s a/d) was used to increase his appetite.
In more severe cases, a ferret might need fluid therapy to treat dehydration. If a ferret does not respond to treatment with Albon or trimethoprim/sulfa, then the horse Coccidia product (Marquis paste) can be used. In a ferret shelter or ferret breeding facility, all ferrets there must be treated in order to eliminate the Coccidia infection. [All treatment should be supervised by your ferret’s veterinarian. — Eds.]