Q: I cannot afford veterinary care but my ferret has been sick for about two and a half weeks. She still eats and drinks, but she looks like she hasn’t eaten in forever. She is all bones. She’s really weak. There are no signs of anything else being wrong, such as swollen eyes or weird-looking stools. She just is weak. I don’t know what to do. She is still eating, but she looks so bad!
A: This is a difficult one to answer. We can start by making it very simple, your ferret is not absorbing enough calories. This can happen due to three basic reasons:
1. Not enough calories coming into your ferret either because you ferret is not eating or because the food is too low in calories;
2. Calories are coming into your ferret but are not being absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract; therefore your ferret will have diarrhea that includes all of those calories that are not being absorbed;
3. The metabolic rate of your ferret has greatly increased such that more calories are needed.
Of these three things, number 3 is rare in ferrets. So, at this point, you need to figure out if the weight loss is due to the first or second reason.
Although the solution may be straightforward, you really need a veterinarian to help you better understand which of these situations is present. By examining the stool and blood tests, your vet can tell if there is a reason your ferret is not absorbing calories.
One cause for calories not being absorbed is gastrointestinal parasites. More complicated causes could include an inflammatory process, cancer or infection.
Unfortunately, if your ferret is eating well and you are feeding her quality ferret food, it is likely that there is a disease process occurring in your ferret. It will take a visit to a ferret-savvy veterinarian to be able to diagnose and then treat your ferret.
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