Lymphoplasmacytic Enteritis and Gastroenteritis in Ferrets
This is a form of inflammatory bowel disease characterized by lymphocyte and/or plasma cell infiltration into the lamina propria (a layer of connective tissue) underlying the lining of the stomach, intestine, or both. It is thought to be caused by an abnormal immune response to environmental stimuli due to loss of normal immune regulation, in which bacteria in the intestine may be a trigger. Continued antigen exposure and unregulated inflammation may also be underlying factors for the disease.
Symptoms and Types
Signs vary dramatically from patient to patient depending on disease severity and the organ affected. Symptoms to look for include:
- Loss of appetite (anorexia)
- Long-term weight loss, muscle wasting
- Chronic diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucous)
- Black blood in stool
- Coughing up/vomiting up blood
- Excessive salivation, pawing at the mouth
Moreover, plasmacytic (white blood cell) infiltration indicates long-term or a more severe inflammatory reaction.
The exact mechanisms, irritants, and factors involved in initiation and progression remain unconfirmed. However, intestinal and gastric lesions which cause unregulated inflammation and food allergens (meat proteins, food additives, artificial coloring, preservatives, milk) are suspected.
There are many possible diseases that can cause the aforementioned symptoms, so your veterinarian will need to rule out many of them before moving on to lymphoplasmacytic enteritis as a potentinal cause. Besides the physical examination, he or she will conduct blood tests and a urinalysis, as well as a fecal examination and cultures. A definitive diagnosis, however, usually requires a biopsy and cell culture, obtained via exploratory laparotomy. Intestinal fluid may also be cultured if bacterial overgrowth is suspected.