Pneumonia (Bacterial) in Ferrets
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith

The most common cause of pneumonia in ferrets is viral infections with either canine distemper virus or influenza virus. Bacterial pneumonia can also occasionally occur in ferrets.

Which bacteria cause pneumonia in ferrets?

The most common bacteria causing pneumonia in ferrets include:

  • Streptococcus zooepidemicus
  • S. pneumoniae
  • E. coli
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Listeria monocytogenes

Bacterial pneumonia is most likely to occur secondary to another condition such as viral pneumonia, Aleutian disease, cardiomyopathy, immunosuppression, and lymphoma.

What are the signs of bacterial pneumonia?

Ferrets with bacterial pneumonia may have:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
  • Increased respiratory rate (tachypnea)
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Lethargy
  • Cyanosis (blue discoloration of the mucous membranes, such as the gums)
  • Fever

How is bacterial pneumonia in ferrets diagnosed?

Diagnosis is based upon the clinical signs listed above, an increase in respiratory sounds upon auscultation with a stethoscope, a complete blood count (CBC), bacterial culture, microscopic examination of secretions from the bronchi, and radiographic changes (x-rays).

How is bacterial pneumonia treated?

Optimally, a culture and sensitivity will help to determine which antibiotic, or combination of antibiotics, will be most effective. A ferret with pneumonia may also need fluid therapy, a warm environment (incubator), and possibly supplemental oxygen. Many ferrets with bacterial pneumonia will not eat on their own and need to be fed special diets or force-fed. Any underlying condition, such as cardiomyopathy, needs to be treated, as well.

What is the prognosis for a ferret with bacterial pneumonia?

Most ferrets with bacterial pneumonia respond well to antibiotic therapy. The presence of an underlying condition will affect the prognosis.

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