Blockages – All it Takes

So your ferret chewed on something it shouldn’t have – what’s the big deal? They should just poop it out right? Wrong. Many ferret owners don’t realize just how little it takes to obstruct a ferret’s narrow intestinal tract. To give an idea, the diameter of a ferret’s large intestine is ~0.6cmIt does not take much for a blockage (foreign body intestinal obstruction) to occur, and when it does it is a true emergency.

When a ferret has a blockage, the GI tract around the blockage begins to die. This death of intestinal tissue (called necrosis) spreads. The longer surgery is delayed, more damage and death of the intestines will occur. The more tissue that dies, the higher the risk of death of the ferret and the higher the risk of complications post-op as the dead tissue will all have to be removed (resected) during surgery. Also during this time, the ferret will become more dehydrated, blood glucose will drop, and their chances of surviving the surgery will SIGNIFICANTLY decrease. This is why getting to a vet ASAP is so important. Blockages happen, it doesn’t take much to cause a blockage, they happen FAST, and every minute you wait your ferret is a minute closer to death, every minute could mean the life of your ferret.

Below is a real life example to help demonstrate just how very little it takes to block a ferret’s very narrow digestive tract. 

Blockages KILL .

And they do not take much….

“The number one cause of premature death in ferrets is intestinal obstruction.”

 – Westfield Vet Hospital

Both of these were foreign bodies removed from Koda on two separate occasions, both via emergency surgery. Blockages this size are LIFE THREATENING – if Koda had not had surgery, he would have died. I cannot express strongly enough how important it is to take any ferret with a suspected blockage to the vet immediately, and how important it is to ensure their play areas are ferret proofed.

It happens FAST. Koda was completely fine when I put him in his cage for the night. It was MAYBE 2 hours later when he started to claw at his face and projectile vomit. He threw up part of a toy rubber lizard, passed some pieces of tinfoil candy wrapper (thank goodness on those two), but the erasers were still in there. He went from happy and playful to squinty-eyed and lethargic in 1-2 hours.

Some eraser bits he ate (don’t know where or how he got them to this day):

The end of a drawstring from one of my shirts. (aka the infamous “Tiger Tail”) We used to let them play in the laundry pile and snuggle in the clean clothes. Not anymore…

Barium X-Ray of Koda’s first blockage:

IV line

Shaved IV site and surgery site

Surgery site (blockage 1)

Surgery site (blockage 2)

Sources:

Pignon, C., Huynh, M., Jekl, V. (2015). Flexible gastrointestinal endoscopy in ferrets (Mustela putorius furo).  Veterinary Clinics of North America Exotic Animal Practice. 18 (2015): 369-400.