Why Do Ferrets Lose Hair?

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If your ferret never experiences hair loss, consider yourself lucky. It's a common condition, caused by various factors. Also known as alopecia, hair loss in your ferret can indicate a minor or major issue.

Adrenal Disease

Ferrets are prone to adrenal gland disease, with symptoms usually appearing about the age of 3 or 4. Hair loss is the initial symptom, especially on your ferret's back end or his chest. Sometimes a ferret loses hair only to have it grow back again within six months. That cycle might repeat itself, but generally after two years the hair doesn't come back. Other symptoms include itchiness and lethargy. Since adrenal gland disease relates to excessive sex hormone production, female ferrets develop swollen vulvas, possibly accompanied by discharge, while males suffer from enlarged prostates, which can cause urination difficulties.

Treatment

Your vet might recommend surgical removal of your ferret's adrenal gland or Lupron injections each month. This drug treats symptoms, but doesn't cure adrenal gland disease. While surgery offers a cure, older ferrets are often sensitive to anesthesia. The best choice also depends on the severity of the disease. If hair loss is the only symptom, you might want to forgo treatment entirely.

Parasites

Fleas and mites infest ferrets just as they do dogs and cats. If your ferret experiences a heavy flea infestation, not only will he itch like crazy but all the scratching will likely lead to hair loss, especially around his tail and back. Mange mites can also infest your ferret, resulting in scabies, or sarcoptic mange. Along with hair loss, crusty, itchy patches occur, especially on the feet. Ask your vet about products to get rid of fleas and mites on your pet. While some of the same products marketed for dogs and cats can be used on ferrets, they can't be used at the same strength. For that reason, don't use an over-the-counter flea treatment or miticide on your ferret without veterinary approval. Remember that none of these products are tested on ferrets. Your veterinarian uses them off-label.

Ringworm

Ferrets might also come down with ringworm, a fungal condition that doesn't involve actual worms. Ringworm gets it name from the circular appearance of its lesions, which also involve hair loss. The affected area becomes inflamed and crusty. While ringworm might resolve on its own after a few weeks, you should take your pet to the vet for treatment. Be careful when handling your ferret, as ringworm is contagious.

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Author

Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.