My Ferret is Losing Hair – Causes and Prevention of Ferret Baldness

Q: What are common causes of hair loss in ferrets?


Answer: It depends on the area of hair loss. The most common cause of hair loss in ferrets is adrenal disease. Adrenal disease is fatal, and common in ferrets over 2 years old.

Essentially, if the hair loss occurs in large bald patches and you can clearly view their body, it’s time to bring the ferret to the vet. Do so soon, as in particular for male ferrets, adrenal disease is fatal.

Other possibilities that cause hair loss in ferrets:

  • Blackheads. If it’s just hair loss on the tail, it could possibly be less serious – blackheads, or ferret acne for example.
  • Poor nourishment. If a ferret does have poor diet often times their coat is actually drier and will probably shed off easier.
  • Fleas. Fleas cause hair loss with a “hot spots” appearance, due to itching.
  • A serious mite plague. Causes itching, hair loss all over the body.
  • A bacterial or fungal infection. Causes dry, patchy skin, and fur loss in patches on the abdomen.
  • Dry skin. Often times the skin dries out, and the tail really gets clogged with the ferret’s oils to compensate.
  • Allergic itching due to food, detergents, or cleaning products.
  • Stress. It is in many cases strain from a sudden switch in diet, over-crowding, an excessive amount of time in the crate without having enough run time, or even stress from a past infection or the treatment for ferret illness.

AGD Problems

Adrenal related hair loss is symmetrical, and spreads out from the tail. The hair loss will usually start right at the tail and also work it’s way up the rest of the body. If the ferret has lost large chunks of hair, the hair loss is most likely ‘Adrenal’.

Apart from shedding, hair loss in ferrets of whatever age might be linked to adrenal-related endocrinopathy, a major, however treatable, infection of the adrenal glands. Even if the hair comes back at the next coat shedding, it’s probably still an adrenal issue. Adrenal disease affects 90% of all ferrets during their lifetime – especially hormone-filled male ferrets.

Typically AGD starts off with hair loss in the tail however there actually have been cases where the hair loss begins someplace else on the body. All signs or symptoms of AGD are the same as the symptoms as aging in ferrets.

Aside from the hair loss, different problems caused by AGD (adrenal gland deficiency) are:

  • thinning of the skin
  • muscle mass wastes away
  • increased aggressiveness and lethargy.
  • Gender specific signs are swollen vulva’s for females
  • increasing difficulty urinating for males.

Causes of Adrenal Gland Malfunction

My friend recently took in a ferret with sophisticated adrenal disease. Her muscle mass was nearly totally gone when my friend took her in, she only had fur remaining on her front- everywhere else was bald. My friend started her on Lupron in June and she has definitely growing back a little bit of fur, but, bare in mind that Lupron effects fluctuate in each ferret and depending on how advanced the sickness is.

As for ‘what’ causes Adrenal they have narrowed down the issue to the ‘Pituitary Gland’ in the ferret’s brain.  Here in the USA we spay and neuter our ferrets young but the pituitary keeps sending signals as it does not discern that the ferrets are not ‘whole’.

Whole ferrets are brought in and also out of estrus and the Hobs are brought out by both mating or even using hormone injections to get them from this state.  This happens to be the reason why you don’t see adrenal much in countries like for example England, since many of those ferrets are ‘whole’.

Despite the fact that I have spoken with a few individuals from Europe who do actually neuter and spay ferrets, again, it’s the pituitary gland sending the signals.  This is actually how come ‘surgery’ doesn’t cure adrenal disease, any kind of remnant of tissue and also the pituitary affects it.  This is exactly why I opt for Lupron and not a surgical procedure anymore. It won’t hurt a bald ferret to take Lupron- if he improves, it’s definitely adrenal.

Hair Loss on Tail

Hair loss on only the tail is nothing to worry about. It might end up being the consequence of stress, a shift of environment, or perhaps the arrival of a new animal in the home. The regular seasonal coat shed could cause enough stress to make your ferret’s tail go completely bald, and on occassion it will take months for the fur to grow back.

One more rationale behind the hair loss, however, happens to be rat tail. Regularly this seasonal “rat tail” shows up along with little black spots on the tail. One of my ferrets is going through this today. It is a seasonal difficulty brought on by a combination of shedding and clogged pours.

A light washing of the tail every week will bring the hair back once the winter months coat returns.
A lot of times you are going to notice little blackheads (ferret acne) around the tail too. These black spots might look ugly, and yet it’s actually harmless – they get acne for the same reasons as humans do and it can often trigger hair loss.

When your ferret is losing hair in places other than the tail, there’s something wrong.

Baldness Caused by Diet

The food switch shouldn’t actually have done it. I’ve switched my guys foods and also have never ever seen them lose hair. These are generally on a mix of 2 different cat foods and some ferret kibble. Some cat foods may very well be fed to ferrets given that they are high protein and high fat, together with low fiber. At a minimum, 4 of the foremost 6 ingredients in any food for ferrets ought to be meat.

Shedding

It is springtime and some ferrets shed by “blowing their coat” or even the hair just falls out all at at the time. On occasion ferrets will lose some hair during the course of season change and this will change her/his coat. The hair comes back in the spring.

Keep monitoring her to verify that there’s new hair growing in. Assuming you there is, then she is merely shedding. Make sure to offer the ferret a ferret laxative, Vaseline, or pumpkin to insure he cannot get blockages from hair.

Give him lots of ferret lax or even you’ll be able to use vaseline with ferrettone. In order to prevent him getting a hairball from licking himself, gently ‘pluck’ the fur from him or even use one of all those shed-ender brushes to pull up the undercoat.

If your ferret is a baby (less than a year old), he will shed quite a lot because it will probably be his first shed. You might also have a totally different colored ferret after the shed. Some ferrets completely change their coat color when immature. One of ours was a blaze with a dark grey coat on his back, now he is completely white/yellowish like a polar bear. So don’t be surprised.

And another thing, try not to worry if your ferrets don’t all shed at the same time. On occassion their seasons are off for the reason that you keep them indoors and they tend not to understand when the seasons switch.

Is Baldness in Ferrets Serious?

It’s never normal for ferret to have large ‘bald spots’.  A lot of the time the reason for balding is ‘Adrenal Gland Disease’.  When ferrets molt (shed) in the spring and fall they do lose their summertime and winter season fur coats, but they’re not really bald as they will actually have new coats showing.

If your ferret looks to be balding or is starting to get bald spots, you have something to worry about. There’s a slim chance the hair loss is actually a result of the seasonal coat shift, but if the skin is merely ‘bald’, that’s a bad sign. If you’re seeing totally bald patches, you should go to the veterinarian.

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