Dermatophytosis in Ferrets
Dermatophytosis is a rare form of fungal infection in ferrets affecting primarily the hair, nails (claws), and sometimes the uppermost parts of the skin. It can affect both males and females regardless of their age. Moreover, an infected ferret can spread the infection to other animals.
Symptoms and Types
Symptoms of dermatophytosis include accumulations of surface skin cells, such as seen in dandruff (scales); poor hair coat; reddened skin (erythema); darkened skin (hyperpigmentation); itchiness (pruritus); and hair loss (alopecia), which may be patchy or circular. Other indications of dermatophytosis that are readily apparent on the skin are raised, rounded, knotty (nodular) lesions known as granulomatous lesions, or boils, and raised nodular lesions. There may also be inflammation of the claw folds (paronychia), the folds of skin bordering the nail.
Ferrets most commonly develop dermatophytosis because of infections with the fungi Microsporum canis or Trichophyton mentagrophytes. The incidence of each fungus varies according to your geographical location.
Diseases or medications that decrease the body's ability to develop a normal immune response (known as immunocompromising diseases, or immunosuppressive medications, respectively) can increase the likelihood that your ferret will be susceptible to a fungal infection of the skin, hair, and/or nails, as well as increase the potential for a more severe infection. Environments that are densely populated with animals (for example, in an animal shelter or kennel), or where there is poor nutrition, poor management practices, and lack of adequate quarantine period, will also increase risk of infection.
To diagnose dermatophytosis a veterinarian will want to rule out other causes for hair loss, which may include ferret adrenal disease and seasonal flank alopecia, a form of hair loss that occurs during the breeding season. Contamination with ear mites, fleas and parasitic infections can also result in characteristic forms of hair loss or alopecia. Your veterinarian will also perform a fungal culture of skin clippings, a microscopic examination of a sample of hair, and possibly a skin biopsy.