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Abscesses in Ferrets

By: Dr. Branson Ritchie

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An abscess is a focal accumulation of degenerating and dying cells. It forms when infectious agents such as bacteria, fungi or parasites or foreign bodies like splinters, lodge in tissue and cause a persistent inflammatory response.

Abscesses are typically filled with a creamy material called pus and can form in any tissue in the body. Clinical changes that may occur vary with the location of the abscess.

What to Watch For

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Signs of focal irritation
  • Pain
  • Excessive grooming
  • Itchiness
  • Discharge
  • Moistened fur
  • Firm, painful mass
  • Drooling
  • Persistent malodorous breath
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

    Seek veterinary care immediately if a mass is noted, the mass suddenly disappears, and the ferret becomes acutely depressed or lethargic.


  • History and physical examination
  • Complete blood count
  • Blood chemistries
  • Cytology (microscopic evaluation of cells)
  • Biopsy and microscopic evaluation of affected tissues
  • Culture and antimicrobial sensitivity testing
  • Radiographs (X-rays)
  • Ultrasound


  • Surgical drainage or removal of affected tissues
  • Surgically opening and flushing the abscess
  • Systemic and local antimicrobial agents
  • Fluids and supportive nutrition

    Home Care and Prevention

    Keep infected ferrets in isolation during treatment. For skin abscesses, make certain that the abscess stays open so it will heal from the inside to the outside.

    On a daily basis, monitor fecal and urine output to assure proper food and water consumption and digestion and monitor weight daily.

    Keep sharp objects away from your ferret and keep his living area clean and sanitized.

    Avoid contact between ferrets and other animals that may result in puncture wounds from teeth or nails. Prevent your companion ferret from chewing on sharp or fibrous objects that may cut the gums or inside of the mouth or that may splinter and cause penetrating wounds in the mouth.

    If your ferret is scratched or cut, see your veterinarian as soon as possible, so the wound can be properly cleaned and treated.

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