Bacterial pneumonia is relatively uncommon in ferrets, but when present, should be considered a serious, life-threatening disease. Causing an inflammation of the lungs, it usually occurs secondary to viral infection or aspiration of foreign material. However, the development of the respiratory infection is depending on many factors, including size, inoculation site, number of organisms and their virulence, and resistance of the host.
Symptoms and Types
- Loss of appetite (anorexia)
- Weight loss
- Nasal discharge
- Cough (rare)
- Rapid or difficulty breathing
- Overall weakness (often manifested as rear limb partial paralysis)
Some common causes for this form of pneumonia include:
- Bacterial pathogens
- Regurgitation or vomiting
- Thoracic trauma or surgery
- Severe metabolic disorders (e.g., kidney disease, diabetes)
- Protein or calorie malnutrition
Exposure to animals that have not been vaccinated for canine distemper virus or that are infected with the influenza virus can also make a ferret more prone to this disease.
Many other diseases can account for these symptoms, so your veterinarian will need to rule out such things as viral pneumonia, canine distemper virus, and influenza virus among others. In addition to a thorough physical examination, he or she will do a blood test and urinalysis. Your veterinarian may also conduct microscopic examinations of cells from your ferret’s mucous membranes. If he is unable to make a definitive diagnosis on the basis of these tests, he may order chest X-rays.
The course of treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the pneumonia, and possibly the type of bacteria. Typically, your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics and want to do regular follow-up exams initially. If the ferret has trouble breathing, a nebulizer may be employed. In addition, the ferret should not be should not be allowed to lie in one position for very long at a time.