Kidney Failure in Ferrets

As all animals age, even human animals, kidney tissue wears out over time as a normal part of life. As we get older, the kidneys slowly lose the ability to do what they did when younger, such as to filter waste and reclaim water to keep the body hydrated. Other diseases or ailments can cause or increase damage to the kidneys including heart failure, shock, exposure to toxins, kidney or bladder disease, drugs, and diabetes. When the majority of the kidney’s functioning is lost it becomes impossible for the kidney to do its intended job and toxins begin to build up in the body leading to what is referred to as kidney failure. Kidney failure is also known as renal failure.

There are two types of kidney failure:

  • Acute Renal Failure (ARF) occurs suddenly; normally in connection to the sudden onset of disease or ailment, or introduction of toxins into the body.
  • Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) comes on slowly over time and is often unnoticed until well into the final stages.

Symptoms for acute renal failure include:

  • sudden loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting
  • fever
  • increased heart rate
  • tremors and seizures
  • depression
  • dehydration
  • poor hair coat

Chronic renal failure produces a slightly different set of symptoms including:

  • loss of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting
  • excessive salivation
  • poor hair coat
  • lethargy, seizure or coma
  • abnormally large or small kidneys

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your veterinarian will normally want to do a complete blood profile and a urinalysis and may call for X-ray or ultrasound images to look at the kidneys for abnormalities.

There is no cure for kidney failure since there is no way to replace tissue which has died. Treatment options will depend on the symptoms. Diuretics may be given to increase urine output. Drugs may be prescribed to stop vomiting, decrease blood pressure, and minimize acid production in the stomach. Intravenous fluids may be administered to help the kidneys flush toxins out of the body.

The long-term outcome for your ferret will depend on severity and progression of the disease. In general, the prognosis is normally poor. Chronic renal disease normally continues to worsen over time. Acute renal failure due to the sudden nature, typically tends to develop other complications associated with the condition. Both normally incur high medical expenses.