Weight Loss in Ferrets

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

Cachexia in Ferrets

When a ferret loses more than 10 percent of what is considered normal body weight for an animal its size, it is referred to as weight loss. This can result from a variety of mechanisms, but they often share a common feature: insufficient calorie intake and high-energy demand.

Cachexia, meanwhile, is defined as the state of extreme poor health. It is associated with loss of appetite (anorexia), weight loss, weakness, and mental depression.


  • Malabsorptive disorders
  • Bowel disease
  • Gastric foreign body
  • Ulcers
  • Metabolic Disorders
  • Organ failure—cardiac failure, hepatic failure, and renal failure
  • Cancer
  • Virus disease
  • Excessive nutrient loss
  • Protein-losing diseases
  • Anorexia and pseudoanorexia
  • Inability to smell or chew food
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Poor quality or insufficient quantity of food
  • Neuromuscular disease
  • Lower motor neuron disease
  • CNS disease
  • Increased physical activity
  • Pregnancy or lactation
  • Fever
  • Cancer (very common cause)


Your veterinarian will begin with a variety of diagnostic tests to find the underlying cause for the weight loss. After an initial health assessment, the following tests may be recommended for your pet:

  • Fecal studies to identify bacteria or intestinal parasites
  • Blood analysis to look for infection, inflammation, leukemia, anemia, and other blood disorders
  • Urinalysis to determine kidney function, to look for infections/protein loss from the kidneys, and to determine hydration status
  • Chest and abdominal x-rays to observe heart, lungs, and abdominal organs
  • Ultrasound of the abdomen
  • Bile acids test to evaluate liver function
  • Exploratory surgery (laparotomy) to search for cancer

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