Vomiting in Ferrets

PetMD Editorial
Jun 22, 2010
4 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Why Do Ferrets Throw Up?

Much like in humans, the ejection of a ferret's stomach contents through the mouth is known as vomiting. It occurs less frequently in ferrets when compared to dogs and cats, but you should be aware of it nonetheless.

Vomiting may be brought on by neurological issues, adverse drug reactions, or motion sickness. Various metabolic or bacterial toxins or inner ear imbalance will also trigger vomiting.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms of vomiting include heaving, retching, and partially digested food coming up, along with a yellow fluid called bile. The contents being expelled may be in predigested form, tubular in shape, and often covered with a slimy mucus. The ferret's stools, meanwhile, may appear black and tarry. If the ferret becomes dehydrated, the mucous membranes will become dry and pale.

Signs of nausea, which often immediately prior to vomiting, include excess saliva production, licking of the lips, and pawing of the mouth. The ferret may even suffer extreme weight loss if it vomiting chronically.


Some risk factors include:

  • Dietary changes
  • Ingestion of raw meat products, which may contain bacterial enteritis, cryptosporidiosis
  • Exposure to other ferrets, which may expose the animal to Epizootic Catarrhal Enteritis (ECE) or other infectious diseases
  • Unsupervised chewing (foreign bodies)
  • Stress, debility (predisposes to Helicobacter-induced gastritis)
  • Vaccine reaction

Vomiting can also be initiated directly by stimulation of the cells in the vomiting center in animals with CNS disease.


There are so many possibilities for this condition that determining a cause for the vomiting may take some time. You will need to cooperate with your veterinarian in trying to pinpoint if there is anything related to your pet’s background or habits that might account for it.

To start, your veterinarian will need to differentiate between vomiting and regurgitation in order to determine whether the cause is gastric or non-gastric (i.e., based in the stomach, or not). You will want to pay close attention to the pattern of your ferret's vomiting so you can give a thorough description of the symptoms, as well as how soon after eating the vomiting occurs. Your doctor will ask you to describe the appearance of the vomit, and what your pet looks like when it vomits.

If your ferret is retching, and heaving from the belly, it is probably vomiting. The food that is in the vomit will be partially digested and somewhat liquid. A yellow fluid called bile will normally be present along with the expelled stomach contents. If the pet is regurgitating, your pet will lower its head and the food will be expelled without a lot of effort. The food will be undigested and probably will be tubular in shape, more solid than not. Often it is covered with a slimy mucus. Your pet may try to re-eat the regurgitated food. It is a good idea to keep a sample of the expelled content, so that when you take your pet to see the veterinarian, an examination can be made to determine whether the material is vomit or regurgitation, and what might be present in the contents.

A few diagnostic procedures your veterinarian may use to identify the underlying cause include blood and urine analysis; X-rays and ultrasounds; endoscopy to evaluate inflammation, erosions and ulcers; or exploratory laparotomy and surgical biopsy if tumors are suspected.

Related Posts

Hairballs in Ferrets

Hairballs in Ferrets

PetMD Editorial
Dec 28, 2016
Regurgitation in Ferrets

Regurgitation in Ferrets

PetMD Editorial
Jun 16, 2010
Insulinomas in Ferrets

Insulinomas in Ferrets

Jennifer Coates, DVM
Mar 26, 2012
Difficulty Swallowing in Ferrets

Difficulty Swallowing in Ferrets

PetMD Editorial
Jun 07, 2010