Viral Infection (ECE) in Ferrets

PetMD Editorial
July 02, 2008
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Epizootic Catarrhal Enteritis in Ferrets

Epizootic catarrhal enteritis (ECE) is a highly contagious viral infection in ferrets. It often recognized by the inflammation it causes in the ferret's intestines. Older ferrets develop the severest form of the viral infection, and also take the most time to recover -- about a month.

Symptoms and Types

The viral infection causes damage to the villi -- hair like projections in the lining of the intestines. Due to the damage, the intestine looses its ability to properly digest and absorb food.

ECE display symptoms in the ferret about two to fourteen days after the infection, including:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Greenish, watery or slimy diarrhea (green poop)
  • Stools stained black with blood
  • Dehydration
  • Sluggishness (lethargy)
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness

Causes

Ferrets frequently contract this viral infection from other infected ferrets. Your ferret may also become infected if it is exposed with diseased objects like utensils, bedding and clothing.

Diagnosis

This infection is generally diagnosed with an intestinal biopsy.

Treatment

Your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics and antiviral drugs to treat the ferret. Protective medicine for the intestinal lining may also be prescribed. Along with the medication, nutritional treatment, in the form of fluids and a bland, easily digestible diet, is needed.

Prevention

A new ferret should be quarantined for a month before it is introduced to older ferrets. Proper hygiene should also be observed to prevent ECE from spreading, including cleaning and disinfecting the ferret's environment, and washing your hands after handling it.