Fungal Pneumonia in Ferrets

PetMD Editorial
Jun 14, 2010
3 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Mycotic Pneumonia in Ferrets

Fungal pneumonia is rarely diagnosed in ferrets, and those rarely housed outside are less likely to be exposed to fungal elements, which are typically inhaled from contaminated soil and then colonize in the ferret's lungs.

Symptoms and Types

Dimorphic fungi is seen in two forms -- mold and yeast -- is sometimes attributed to fungal pneumonia. Blastomycosis is another form of this pneumonia. It is found in the southeastern U.S. and Midwest, along the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, and Tennessee rivers and southern Great Lakes; also in southern Mid-Atlantic states. Another form, similar to but more widely distributed, is found in Texas, Oklahoma, and California. Yet another form is found in the Southwest from Texas to California. And another form appears sporadically throughout the United States. In other words, your ferret may contract this disease almost anywhere in the United States.

Symptoms associated with fungal pneumonia will primarily depend on the organ systems involved. Some signs include:

  • Fever
  • Lameness
  • Runny nose
  • Chronic weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing (seen inconsistently in ferrets)
  • Bumps on the skin (uncommon, but have been reported)

Causes

There are a variety of fungi that may lead to pneumonia. Your ferret may be exposed to them by being outdoors and coming into contact with contaminated soils, fecal matter and other material. Moreover, ferrets with immune function issues (such as those undergoing chemotherapy) are more prone to develop this form of pneumonia.

Diagnosis

Many other diseases exhibit many of these symptoms, so your veterinarian will need to rule those out before he arrives at a definitive diagnosis. This is typically accomplished with a microscopic examination of cells retrieved from the respirator system, or from skin cells if there are tumors or cysts. He or she may also want to do a chest X-ray and possibly an X-ray and/or an ultrasound of the abdomen. In some cases, a spinal tap or an aspiration of bone marrow may be needed.

Treatment

Depending on the type of fungi, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-fungal medication. If your ferret is dehydrated, refuses to eat and is suffering from dehydration and severely low levels of oxygen in the blood, your veterinarian may employ fluid therapy and recommend dietary changes. Please be aware that the course of treatment is expensive and will probably be necessary for at least two months.

Living and Management

Unfortunately, the prognosis for many ferrets with mycotic pneumonia is guarded to poor. Your veterinarian will want to monitor your pet monthly while it is on medications and to check for recurrence. You are not likely to catch the disease from your pet. If you do come down with pneumonia, though, it's probably because of the same source as your pet's infection. You will want to look at the areas where your ferret lives and plays and clean thoroughly.

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