Common Intestinal Parasites

Introduction

Intestinal parasites that may infest the intestinal tract of ferrets include worms and protozoa.  As a general rule intestinal parasites are fairly uncommon in pet ferrets, however, juvenile ferrets with diarrhea should still be suspect, especially if they came from a pet store. Intestinal parasites can spread between dogs, cats, and ferrets. Humans are also at risk for infection.

What signs will my ferret show?

Some ferrets infected with intestinal parasites will look and act perfectly normal. When signs of disease do occur, any combination of the following may be encountered: diarrhea (with or without blood), weight loss, dehydration, decreased activity, dull hair coat, straining to defecate, prolapse of the ferret’s rectum, and even death.

How do I know whether or not my ferret has intestinal parasites?

Your veterinarian can diagnose intestinal parasites in ferrets via microscopic examination of a fresh sample of your ferret’s stool.

What types of intestinal parasites do ferrets get?

Coccidiosis is the most common intestinal parasitic disease of ferrets. Coccidia are one-celled organisms called protozoa. Infections can potentially pass between ferrets, puppies, and kittens. Infection with intestinal helminths, or worms, is rare but can occur. A type of helminth called a roundworm, can potentially pass between ferrets, puppies, and kittens. They should also be considered a potential source of human infection.

Cryptosporidiosis, a protozoal disease, is occasionally seen in very young ferrets. Infections rarely cause signs of illness in ferrets, although serious disease can result when other species are infected. Cryptosporidiosis can potentially pass between ferrets, puppies, and kittens. It should also be considered a potential source of human infection.

Giardiasis, another protozoal disease capable of causing diarrhea in ferrets, can potentially pass between ferrets, puppies, and kittens. It should also be considered a potential source of human infection.

Can intestinal parasites be treated?

Most intestinal parasites of ferrets can be effectively treated with various antiparasitic drugs. Hospitalization may be required in severe cases, especially those causing dehydration or prolapse of the rectum.