Diagnosing Diarrheal Diseases in Ferrets

Is your favorite, meat-eating friend suffering from loose, watery stool? While the cause of diarrhea in ferrets ranges greatly, one common cause can be a disruption to their gut microbiome. If your ferret seems to be suffering from prolonged gastrointestinal issues (more than 2 days), it is worthwhile to take your furry friend to a ferret veterinarian since your ferret may have a gastrointestinal infection. Diarrheal diseases are painful and if left untreated can result in dangerous complications, and so early identification and intervention is beneficial.

What Causes Diarrhea in Ferrets?

Ferrets have a unique body shape that actually predisposes them to gastrointestinal disorders [1]! Ferrets are small, carnivorous mammals that eat a high protein, low carb and sugar diet [1]. These small mammals have a short transmit time, which means they defecate the food they eat faster than other animals. Specifically, when ferrets are healthy they defecate every 148-219 minutes [2,3]. Moreover, the stool they do expel is formed but slightly soft, which can make it difficult for new pet owners to differentiate from actual diarrhea [2,3].

Diarrhea in ferrets presents as a frequent, watery type of stool. There are a variety of reasons why a ferret may develop diarrhea including intestinal parasites, dietary changes, foreign bodies, cancer, stress, and notably, infectious diseases. Common bacterial infections in ferrets include Helicobacter spp., Clostridium spp., Campylobacter spp., Lawsonia intracellularis, and Salmonella spp. [3,4]. This can cause inflammation, which in turn can help harbor infectious pathogens that can go on to cause chronic infections.

ferret feces test

The image above depicts a ferret being examined by a veterinarian.

When Should I Bring My Ferret to the Veterinarian?

Veterinarians often categorize ferrets that have diarrhea as having mild, moderate, or severe symptoms:

  • mild: diarrhea, but no other symptoms
  • moderate: diarrhea and mild additional symptoms (such as decreased appetite)
  • severe: diarrhea along with serious additional symptoms (vomiting and complete loss of appetite)

Moderate to severe presentations of diarrhea warrants a veterinary visit as soon as possible. Mild presentations lasting over two days also warrant a veterinary visit. Annual wellness checks are also recommended to help identify any lifestyle changes that can prevent illness!

Treatment of Diarrheal Disease in Ferrets

Fortunately, the prognosis for ferrets with mild or moderate diarrhea is very good, as ferrets often make a full recovery. Severe presentations require intensive interventions. If you think your ferret may have diarrhea, the best thing you can do is get a quick and accurate diagnosis from your vet as soon as you notice symptoms. Delay in care puts your furry friend at risk for severe complications, including metabolic disturbances, dehydration, organ damage, and death. An antibiotic treatment plan may also be advised if an opportunistic pathogen is found to be the source of the infection, and your veterinarian may provide dietary lifestyle changes.

Advancements in Ferret Gut Microbiome Detection

Unfortunately, antibiotic-resistant gut bacteria in ferrets is on the rise.

Prescription of broad-spectrum antibiotics has historically been guided by bacterial culture and sensitivity results, although increasing evidence suggests the diagnostic shortcomings of culture-based approaches [1]. Specifically, next-generation sequencing (NGS) and metagenomics analysis are increasingly being used to assess the ferret fecal microbiome [3,4,5,6]. Previous studies have identified Mycobacterium spp, Campylobacter jejuni, Lawsonia intracellularis, Salmonella spp., Clostridia spp., Enterococcus spp., Escherichia spp., Staphylococcus spp., Streptococcus spp., and more in ferret feces [7, 8, 9]. Moreover, researchers have identified penicillin, streptomycin, and vancomycin resistance in high percentages (>80%) of the bacterial isolates of healthy ferret feces [7]. With <1% of microorganisms able to be cultured, in addition to the alarming rate of antibiotic resistant strains of gut bacteria in ferrets, NGS technologies are becoming even more important for the clinical diagnostics of ferret gastrointestinal disorders.

The MiDOG All-in-One microbiome test may provide the answer to the diagnostic conundrum that diarrhea poses on your ferret. Utilizing Next-Gen Sequencing technology to detect and quantify all microbial DNA through untargeted and comprehensive sequencing and quantitative comparisons to reference databases, the MiDOG NGS technology provides a useful opportunity to shed light on the microbial makeup of your ferret’s infection for clinical application. The MiDOG microbiome test is a microbial identification test grounded on scientific research that provides veterinarians DNA evidence for the guided treatment of ferret gastrointestinal infections.


ferret fecal test


Find out if your vet uses MiDOG before you book your next appointment!

For health-related questions about your ferret or other exotic pet, reach out to a veterinarian that specializes in exotic pets.


  1. Lennox, A. (2005). Gastrointestinal Diseases of the Ferret. Veterinary Clinics Of North America: Exotic Animal Practice, 8(2), 213-225. doi: 10.1016/j.cvex.2005.01.004
  2. Johnson-Delaney C.A. A clinician’s perspective on ferret diarrhea. Exotic DVM. 2004;6(3):27–28.
  3. Hoefer, H. (2020). Gastrointestinal Diseases of Ferrets. Ferrets, Rabbits, And Rodents, 27-38. doi: 10.1016/b978-0-323-48435-0.00003-4
  4. Sun, X., Olivier, A., Yi, Y., Pope, C., Hayden, H., & Liang, B. et al. (2014). Gastrointestinal Pathology in Juvenile and Adult CFTR-Knockout Ferrets. The American Journal Of Pathology, 184(5), 1309-1322. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2014.01.035
  5. Huynh, M., & Pignon, C. (2013). Gastrointestinal Disease in Exotic Small Mammals. Journal Of Exotic Pet Medicine, 22(2), 118-131. doi: 10.1053/j.jepm.2013.05.004
  6. Dugyala, S., Ptacek, T., Simon, J., Li, Y., & Fröhlich, F. (2020). Putative modulation of the gut microbiome by probiotics enhances preference for novelty in a preliminary double-blind placebo-controlled study in ferrets. Animal Microbiome, 2(1). doi: 10.1186/s42523-020-00030-y
  7. Nizza, S., Rando, F., Fiorito, F., Pagnini, U., Iovane, G., & De Martino, L. (2014). Fecal microbiota and antibiotic resistance in ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) from two captive breeding facilities in Italy. Research In Veterinary Science, 96(3), 426-428. doi: 10.1016/j.rvsc.2014.03.015
  8. Bahl, M., Hammer, A., Clausen, T., Jakobsen, A., Skov, S., & Andresen, L. (2017). The gastrointestinal tract of farmed mink (<i>Neovison vison</i>) maintains a diverse mucosa-associated microbiota following a 3-day fasting period. Microbiologyopen, 6(3), e00434. doi: 10.1002/mbo3.434
  9. Xiang, Z., Zhu, H., Yang, B., Fan, H., Guo, J., & Liu, J. et al. (2020). A glance at the gut microbiota of five experimental animal species through fecal samples. Scientific Reports, 10(1). doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-73985-2

Categories: Exotic Pets, Ferrets, Gut Microbiome, Next-Gen DNA Sequencing Technology

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Validated by Veterinarians

“Clients expect their veterinarians to stay up to date on all matters that affect the health and well being of their non-human family members. The current technique that we have used to determine the presence and antibiotic sensitivity of organisms causing disease in our pets is over a century old.

With the emergence of dangerous antibacterial resistance, it is critical that veterinarians are able to offer laser focused diagnostics and treatment. MiDog enables us to offer care that exceeds the typical standard of care.”

Bernadine Cruz, DVM, Laguna Hills Animal Hospital Laguna Woods, CA

“I love the absolute abundance and comparing the fungal with bacterial infection. I do not worry as much about getting a false negative urinary infection reading as I do with traditional urine cultures. Several times the same urine would culture negative but MiDOG would detect pathogens.”

Michael Morgan, DVMQuail Animal Hospital, Tustin, CA

“The MiDOG All-in-One Test is amazing, I would use it instead of culture and sensitivity.  Such rapid and detailed results, I will reach for MiDOG before culture next time!

Thank you very much MiDOG, for sharing the opportunity to try your technology.”

Martha Smith-Blackmore, DVM, President of Forensic Veterinary Investigations, LLC – Boston, MA

The MiDOG All-in-One Microbial Test is our new gold standard of pathogen identification. The results are so accurate and valuable – especially with assessing both bacterial and fungal infections with the same sample.

Thank you MiDOG!”

Kathy Wentworth, DVM, Diplomate ABVP Canine and Feline Practice – PetPoint Medical Center, Irvine, CA

“The MiDOG staff was extremely helpful and supportive.”

Cathy Curtis, DVM – London, UK

“I have had great results using the MiDOG® Test. Compared to traditional culture tests, I am better able to target the treatment for dogs because the MiDOG® Test is so sensitive that it identifies all pathogens including bacteria and fungi, as well as antibiotic sensitivity.

The cost and turnaround time are about the same as a culture test, but I get much more data. The test has great performance and I believe the NGS technology will be a game changer for veterinarians treating dogs with lesions or other infections.”

Michael Kavanagh, DVM, Practice owner – Saddleback Animal Hospital, Tustin, CA

“It’s helpful to have an NGS spectrum because it gives you a broader insight of what’s happening and what might be going on.”

Richard Harvey BVSc DVD DipECVD PhD FRSB FRCVS – European Specialist in Veterinary Dermatology – Head of Dermatology, Willows Veterinary Centre & Referral Service – Solihull, England UK

“I have been using MiDog for over 4 years now and exclusively as my test of choice for all cultures for 3 years.  It is so great to submit a culture and feel confident there will be a result when it comes back, especially for urine cultures.  The reports were intimidating at first because they contain so much information.  After the first few, I am now quickly able to glance over it and pick out the highlights.  I can then come back later and pour over all the details.  I have been extremely pleased with my patients’ results using the test as well.  I don’t envision ever going back to traditional culture and susceptibilities again.”

Brian M. Urmson, DVM, Columbiana Veterinary Associates

“As an exotic veterinarian, there are numerous tests we have to consider to check specific bacterial and fungal organisms based on the species. MiDOG eliminates the need for many of these separate samples and provides definitive results quickly to help us treat our patients more efficiently and effectively. The lab is wonderful to work with and has never rejected our samples- they even processed a lizard toe we amputated and determined the cause of skin infection.”

Dr. Melissa Giese, Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital

“MiDOG’s diagnostic approach offers the unique ability to identify pathogens that evade traditional culture and sensitivity testing. I have found that adding a molecular based testing approach in the form of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) from MiDOG to my routine diagnostic cultures can be extremely helpful in the identification and diagnosis of uncommon pathogens in veterinary medicine.”

Dr. Wayne Rosenkrantz, Animal Dermatology Clinic – Tustin

“She [Dr. Krumbeck] really did a great job of making complicated concepts accessible and demonstrating the value of your services. I’m really looking forward to working with MiDOG on my research project!”

Dr. Yaicha Peters, Animal Dermatology Clinic – San Diego

“As a proud collaborator with MiDOG, I deeply appreciate their dedication to fostering partnerships between industry and veterinary experts. Their commitment to enhancing diagnostic quality for veterinarians is commendable. In my experience, their support has been invaluable, earning them a ‘Double A+, Triple Star’ rating. Their assistance has been faultless, contributing significantly to the success of my projects and studies. I eagerly anticipate our continued collaboration.”

Dr. Richard Harvey, BVSc DVD DipECVD PhD FRSB FRCVS; European Specialist in Veterinary Dermatology

“We’re seeing that, if we prescribe too many antibiotics or they’re taken too frequently, animals are developing inappropriate or pathogenic strains of bacteria. We’re also seeing that our antibiotics are just not working against them anymore… It’s a good example of why we need better diagnostic testing, like MiDOG, so that we’re selecting the correct antibiotic every time our patients have an infection.”

Dr. Alissa Rexo, DVM, CVA, DACVD, Mid-Atlantic Veterinary Dermatology