Presenting problem: Pallor and Anemia in the Ferret

Key Points

  • When compared to dogs and cats, red blood cell parameters can be higher in the normal ferret.
  • An important cause of non-regenerative anemia in the ferret is hyperestrogenism secondary to persistent estrus in the intact female and ovarian remnants in the spayed ones.
  • Although adrenocortical disease can also be associated with hyperestrogenism, anemia tends to be relatively mild.
  • Regenerative anemia caused by blood loss can develop secondary to trauma, heavy flea infestations, heavy coccidian loads in young ferrets, and even from bleeding gastrointestinal lesions.
  • Always collect a blood sample in any patient suspected to be anemic. At minimum, collect enough blood to fill two microhematocrit tubes and make a fresh blood smear.
  • Ferrets anesthetized with isoflurane or sevoflurane exhibit a rapid decrease in red blood cell parameters that do not return to pre-anesthetic levels for 45 minutes.
  • The decision to perform a whole blood transfusion must always rely on clinical judgment, however indications can include worsening of clinical status or when acute blood loss is associated with a PCV less than 25%.
  • Ferrets lack blood types, so transfusion reactions are extremely rare.

Although the medical approach to anemia is the same as in dogs & cats, some red cell parameters and some differentials differ in the ferret.

The ferret with moderate to severe anemia will exhibit pallor of the mucous membranes, nasal planum and skin. If a clotting disorder exists, petechial, ecchymotic and purpural hemorrhages can also be observed. The owner may complain of lethargy and reduced activity . . .

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