Exotis ISSN 2398-2985

Ferrets

Bacterial gastroenteritis

Contributor(s): Cathy Johnson-Delaney, Sarah Pellett

Introduction

  • Cause: gastroenteritis (most commonly enteritis) caused by gram-negative bacteria, mainly Campylobacter, Escherichia coli and Salmonella spp. 
  • Signs: diarrhea, anorexia, lethargy, dehydration, soiled perineum, abdominal pain, abortion, septicemia.
  • Diagnosis: culture and sensitivity, hematology/serum chemistries.
  • Treatment: antibiotics.

Pathogenesis

Etiology

  • Bacteria diagnosed include Campylobacter spp, Escherichia spp, Salmonella spp, Staphylococcus delphini.
  • Stress, crowding, poor husbandry and sanitation can predispose to infection and disease.
  • Uncooked or raw meat, including raw commercial diets are frequently the source.
  • There may be asymptomatic carriers of the listed pathogenic bacteria.
  • Up to 80% of ferrets in some populations may be carriers of Campylobacter jejuni. Staphylococcus delphini induced a hypersecretory diarrhea with colonization of the small intestine.
  • The in vitro culture produced an enterotoxin E which may have contributed to the clinical symptoms.
  • Campylobacter spp diarrheal disease may be self-limiting in kits with appropriate maternal antibodies:
    • It is most common in kits younger than 6 months of age.
    • Campylobacteriosis is rare in adult ferrets.
  • Adequate antibodies (immunity) does not prevent infection but does prevent development of clinical disease.
  • Colibacillosis is more common in young ferrets.
  • With E. coli or Salmonella: duration, severity, consistency of the diarrhea and presence/degree of hematochezia in the diarrhea is strain-dependent.

Timecourse

Transmission/duration of disease

  • Fecal-oral.
  • Food-borne source is one of the most common routes of exposure.
  • Incubation period is less than 24 h with Campylobacter.
  • Other bacteria may be several days.
  • Diarrhea can persist for more than 4 weeks and can be intermittent with campylobacteriosis.
  • Diarrhea caused by Salmonella or E. coli can progressed quickly to severe dehydration, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis and septicemia/toxemia, and animals may die just 24 h from the start of clinical signs.
  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) can be seen in some cases of E. coli or Salmonella septicemia.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Gary J M, Langohr I M et al (2014) Enteric colonization by Staphylococcus delphini in four ferret kits with diarrhoea. J Comp Pathol 151 (4), 314-317 PubMed.
  • Johnson-Delaney C A (2005) The ferret gastrointestinal tract and Helicobacter mustelae infection. Vet Clin North Am Exotic Anim Pract 8 (2), 197-212 PubMed.
  • Lennox A M (2005) Gastrointestinal diseases of the ferret. Vet Clin North Am Exotic Anim Pract 8 (2), 213-225 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Perpiñán D & Johnson-Delaney C A (2017) Disorders of the Digestive System and Liver. In: Ferret Medicine and Surgery. CRC Press, USA. pp 159-190.
  • Maurer K J & Fox J G (2014) Diseases of the Gastrointestinal System. In: Biology and Diseases of the Ferret. 3rd edn. Eds: Fox J G & Marini R P. Wiley & Sons, Ames, USA. pp 363-375.
  • Hoefer H L, Fox J G & Bell J A (2012) Gastrointestinal Diseases. In: Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents. 3rd edn. Eds: Quesenberry K E & Carpenter J W. Elsevier, St. Louis, USA. pp 27-45.


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