Exotis ISSN 2398-2985



Contributor(s): Cathy Johnson-Delaney, David Perpinan


  • Cause: deafness linked with coat color is the most common form. This is congenital sensorineural deafness (CSD). It can also be acquired following severe otitis or trauma.
  • Signs: coat color/pattern.
  • Diagnosis: history, coat color/pattern.
  • Treatment: none.



  • The most common form of deafness is CSD.
  • A European study was recently published examining the association with coat color Ferret colors and markings:
    • 7% of ferrets out of 152 examined were unilaterally deaf, 22% were bilaterally deaf.
    • The trait was not sex-linked or not found in Angora ferrets.
    • White patterned ferrets or ones exhibiting prematurely graying (ferret has sable or silver coat initially but as it ages it turns white) had an 87% prevalence of deafness.
    • The dark-eyed white (DEW) exhibited a 4% deafness rate.
    • Silver ferrets had a 4% deafness rate.
    • Mitt ferrets (white paws) without other white markings had a 31% were deaf.
    • Mitt ferrets with other white marking had a 2% incidence of deafness.
    • Panda (entirely white head, silver body, white feet), American Panda (large white areas anywhere on trunk, white feet) and Blaze (white stripe on the head that begins on the muzzle and extends to at least the level of the ears were 100% bilaterally deaf.
  • Lay public label ferret deafness as Waardenburg’s Syndrome:
    • Defined as an inherited form of deafness accompanied by characteristic markings and eye coloring.
    • Inherited as an autosomal dominant disease, although severity is variable.
    • Confirmation of the genetics of heritable coat and eye color is not possible in most cases of pet ferrets as they are not traceable back to the jill and hob.
    • Waardenburg’s Syndrome is named for the Dutch ophthalmologist Petrus Johannes Waardenburg (1886-1979) who identified it in humans in 1951.

Predisposing factors


  • Deafness has been associated with congenital peripheral vestibular syndrome in a ferret.


  • The ferret has been used extensively to study experimental deafness.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Piazza S, Abitbol M, Gnirs K et al (2014) Prevalence of deafness and association with coat variations in client-owned ferrets. J Am Vet Assoc 244 (9), 1047-1052 PubMed.
  • Moya A, Minguez J J, Martorell J et al (2014) Congenital peripheral vestibular syndrome in a domestic ferret (Mustela putorius furo). J Exotic Pet Med 23 (3), 287-293 VetMedResource.

Other sources of information

  • Church B (2007) Ferret-Polecat Domestication: Genetic, Taxonomic and Phylogenetic Relationships. In: Ferret Husbandry, Medicine and Surgery.  Ed: Lewington J H. Saunders Elsevier Ltd, UK. pp 122-150.