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Why is My Ferret Losing Hair? Causes and Treatments

why is my ferret losing hairWhy is My Ferret Losing Hair?

Causes and Treatments

 

Ferret Alopecia

Alopecia is the complete or partial loss of hair in areas where it normally grows. This is a common disorder in ferrets.  Ferrets between the ages of 3 and 7, and ferrets that are neutered or spayed are most prone to hair loss.

There are many possible causes and treatments of hair loss in ferrets. It is best to take your ferret to a vet experienced with ferrets when you first notice your ferret’s hair loss. The earlier the cause is diagnosed, the sooner the treatment can begin and help prevent the condition from getting worse.

Why is My Ferret Losing Hair?

Symptoms and Types

The primary sign of alopecia is unusual hair loss. Symptoms may progress suddenly or slowly. But the exact pattern and degree of hair loss may help determine the cause of alopecia.

Some ferrets have hair loss over much of their bodies. Other ferrets have hair loss only on their tails–commonly referred to as Rat Tail. Still others may have patches of hair loss or hair loss that starts on the tail and progresses up thee body.

For example, large and diffuse areas of hair loss is a common sign of metabolic conditions. However, patchy sections of hair loss typically indicate parasites and may occur suddenly or progress slowly over time.

Why is My Ferret Losing Hair?

Causes

There are 6 primary causes for hair loss in ferrets:why is my ferret loosing hair

  1. Poor Nutrition
  2. Parasites
  3. Dry Skin
  4. Seasonal Shedding
  5. Allergic Reactions
  6. Adrenal Disease

 

Poor Nutrition

Poor nutrition could be the cause of your ferret losing hair.  Are you feeding your ferret an appropriate, healthy diet? If you have more than one ferret, you may notice that they all suffer from hair loss. This may be a sign of poor nutrition. However, it could be a parasite infestation. If you are not sure you are giving your ferret the proper nutrition she needs, read What is The Best Ferret Food.

Parasites

Parasites could be the cause of hair loss in your ferret. Fleas and ear mites are common parasites that may be infecting your ferret. See Flea Treatment For Ferrets for info on how to treat flea infestation and Ear Mites and Ferrets for how to treat ear mites.

Allergic Reaction

Your ferret could be losing hair due to an allergic reaction. Your ferret could be allergic to anything from cleaning supplies to bedding to your hand lotion. Have you switched to another brand of something? Given your ferret new bedding? It could also be a food allergy. Have you just started feeding your fuzzy a new brand of food or introduced something new to her diet?

Dry Skin

Dry skin is another possible cause of hair loss.  If you give your ferret a bath too often for example, she can get dry and itchy skin. A daily dose of Ferretone  may help to return her skin and fur back to normal. For information on bathing your ferret see How to Bathe a Ferret.

Seasonal Shedding

Ferrets go through 2 seasonal sheds, or hormonal hair loss, each year. In Spring, ferrets shed their winter coat and replace it with their thinner summer coat. In Fall, ferrets shed their summer coat and put on their thick winter coat. Some ferrets shed more than others. This normal shedding usually takes about 2 to 3 weeks to accomplish and is controlled by the photoperiod–the length of time your ferret is exposed to light–and the changing levels of the hormone melatonin.

Adrenal diseasewhy is my ferret losing hair

Unfortunately, the most most common cause for ferrets losing their hair is adrenal disease, a disorder affecting the adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands are 2 small organs near the kidneys. This adrenal disease, called hyperadrenocorticism, is caused by the over-production of the sex hormones secreted by the adrenal glands. Other signs may include anemia, weight loss, muscle loss, enlargement of the vulva in spayed females and the prostate in neutered males. The enlarged prostate may cause frequent, painful urination and even urinary obstruction. Some ferrets with adrenal disease exhibit increased sexual behavior and aggression.

Why is My Ferret Losing Hair?

Diagnosis

To diagnose why your ferret is losing hair,  your veterinarian will conduct an examination. If the initial examination doesn’t provide a conclusive diagnosis, your vet may conduct additional tests. These tests may include an abdominal ultrasound and/or blood tests to look for elevated hormone levels.

Why is My Ferret Losing Hair?

Treatments

Treatment is dependent on the underlying cause of the ferret’s hair loss. For example, a diagnosis of Ear Mites or Fleas require treatment of all pets and their surroundings, due to the contagiousness and infestive nature of these parasites. 

If your little fuzzy is diagnosed with adrenal disease, treatment options include surgical removal of the affected adrenal gland or injections of a long-acting drug such as Lupron. Lupron is a once-a-month injectable medication that lowers the adrenal hormones and controls the clinical signs of the disease. It is not a cure.

The adrenal gland can also be surgically removed to lower the adrenal hormones and control the clinical signs. Unfortunately surgery is not always a cure, either. The remaining adrenal gland may start overproducing hormones in the future. It is usually not possible to remove both adrenal glands due to the location of the right gland. The left adrenal gland is embedded in fat in front of the kidney; the right one is located deeper in the abdomen and under one of the liver lobes. The left adrenal gland is the one affected in almost all cases. This is advantageous from a surgical standpoint because it is much easier to remove.

Many of my ferrets developed adrenal disease. A few died from from the disease because not enough vets were knowledgeable about ferrets when ferrets were just becoming popular pets. Several had one of their adrenal glands removed. One of them was on the Lupron monthly injection. Both treatments extended my ferrets’ lives for several years.

As you can see, there are many possible answers to the question: Why is my ferret losing hair?

Because there are many possible causes and treatments, it is recommended that you take your ferret to a vet experienced with ferrets when you first notice your ferret’s hair loss. The earlier the cause is diagnosed, the sooner the treatment can begin and help prevent the condition from getting worse.

Your comments are welcome.

10 thoughts on “Why is My Ferret Losing Hair? Causes and Treatments

  1. I’m very protective of my pets and have once or twice gotten very distraught at my little guy’s hair loss. Both times were luckily as a result of the seasons or as you mentioned, seasonal shedding.
    It is for that reason I can relate to any pet owner becoming a little nervous about hair falling out.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jean. I’m glad that the hair loss your pet experienced was related to seasonal shedding and nothing serious.

  2. My friend said that her ferret started losing hair I think it happened after she moved to a new place. So I think this can be an allergic reaction to something. I will definitely let her know.

    1. Yes, Furkan, your friend’s ferret may be allergic to something in the new environment or it may be a coincidence that the ferret started losing hair when your friend moved. Please refer your friend to this article or have your friend visit a vet.

  3. Very good information. As with a lot of pets, people have them but really have not researched what they are getting themselves into. This information is going to be helpful to a lot of Ferret owners I guarantee it. Kepp them aware of these things. I do know how people have pets and don’t know everything it takes to keep them healthy.

    1. Thanks for visiting, Ronnie. I hope I can reach many ferret owners and those considering bringing a ferret into their homes. A ferret losing hair can be a sign of serious illness. Many people don’t know how important it is for their ferrets to have annual exams and to consult a knowledgeable vet when their is any change in a ferret’s appearance or behavior.

  4. Thanks for all of the detailed information here Sandra, what a wonderful article. I’ve had some hair loss issues in the past with my ferret and I never really knew that the adrenal glands could cause so many issues until I ended up at the vet for a checkup and he let me know, I had thought he was just shedding more than normal.

    Thanks for sharing this information, I hope other ferret owners can find it useful and get their ferret to the vet sooner than later!

    1. Thanks, Craig. Unfortunately hair loss in ferrets can be a sign of adrenal disease and is common. It’s so important to take your ferret to the vet when you see hair loss. There is no benefit in waiting a month to see if it gets better.

  5. Wow, it was really interesting, reading about the different causes for ferrets losing hair. I enjoyed reading it. Look forward to reading more good materials on the subject of ferret. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Daniel.If you are interested in ferrets, Ferret Lovers is the place for All Things Ferret!

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