Small Animal Health E-mail

Ferret Hair Loss Could Be Something To Worry About

Ferrets have a sleek silky coat of hair that is moderately thick and should have a lustrous shine. Like most animals they shed their hair during spring or summer. This should result in a bit of a thinner coat in the warmer months with thicker hair growing in for winter.

While some hair loss is normal for ferrets, excessive shedding can be the sign of serious illness so if you are unsure of whether your ferret is losing his hair in a natural manner or not, you should seriously consider taking him to the vet. Your vet can help you to determine if the hair loss is something to worry about or they can tell you what you should look at in order to insure that it is okay.

If your ferret does have a lot of hair loss or the hair that he has lost does not grow back this is cause for concern. If you notice hair loss that begins at the base of the tail and gradually spreading upward this is also cause for concern. The most common problem which causes ferret hair loss is an adrenal tumor, a problem that affects over 75 percent of ferrets over the age of 4.

An adrenal tumor is a serious problem, but if your ferret is still young and healthy he may be a good candidate for surgery. During this surgery one of the adrenal glands (the affected one) is removed and this surgery is not terribly difficult but since ferrets are so small, any type of surgery can be risky. If it is determined that your pet does need this surgery, you might want to make sure to take him to someone who has performed it many times.

Most ferrets do well after this type of surgery, although there is about a 10 percent chance of post operative mortality. If your ferret does survive and the disease was confined to the gland that was removed the hair loss and other symptoms will stop but he may need to take medication for the rest of his life.

In some cases, surgery cannot be performed due to the location of the tumor. Ferrets that are not good candidates for surgery need to be put on medication to help keep the disease in check.

Hair loss is not the only problem caused by an adrenal tumor. If left untreated, your ferret can become lethargic, lose his appetite and suffer damage of his other organs - all things which can take away his zest for life and lead to an untimely death.

It should be noted that not all adrenal tumors cause hair loss in ferrets and not all hair loss is caused by adrenal tumors so it is critical to get your ferret to the vet if you notice any strange hair loss patterns. Your vet will be able to properly diagnose the problem so that you can get the right treatment for your pet.