Abdominal Exploratory in Ferrets

Abdominal Exploratory in Ferrets

An abdominal exploratory surgery refers to almost every non-specific surgery of the abdomen. More specific surgeries of the abdomen include spaying (ovariohysterectomy) and cystotomy, the removal of bladder stones. All other abdominal surgeries are defined as exploratory, referring to the fact that every organ in the abdomen is inspected for abnormalities and treated if necessary.

Some ferrets need abdominal exploratory surgery to collect tissue for biopsy, remove a foreign body from the stomach or intestine, remove a tumor, repair a hernia, or evaluate bite wounds to see if organs were penetrated and injured.

Any ferret that has a problem related to an abdominal organ may require exploratory surgery of the abdomen.

Possible Candidates

  • Ferrets that are vomiting or have diarrhea.
  • Ferrets that have ingested a foreign body.
  • Ferrets with tumors present in any abdominal organ.
  • Bite wounds that penetrate the abdomen which may have caused injury to internal organs and/or a hernia
  • Ferrets that have other nonspecific signs of illness in combination with other test results that may indicate a problem with an abdominal organ.


    Your veterinarian will ask you many questions to develop a complete history of the progression of the problem. These questions will include:

  • What symptoms have you noticed?
  • How long have they been going on?
  • What treatments have you tried and with what results?
  • What does your ferret eat?
  • How are your ferret's appetite and drinking habits?
  • Has your ferret been vomiting or having diarrhea
  • Has your ferret ingested anything he shouldn't have?
  • Has your ferret been bright and alert or depressed and lethargic?

    Your veterinarian will also examine your ferret completely, including checking for a fever, listening to his heart and lungs, and palpating (feeling) the abdomen to check for pain, masses, or fluid accumulation. Some other diagnostic tests may include:

  • Blood tests to look for anemia and abnormal white cell counts, which could indicate the presence of an infection. These tests will also identify abnormalities in kidney or liver function, which may help identify which organ is causing your pet's illness. Electrolyte levels are also checked, since they can become abnormal during times of illness and may need to be fixed using intravenous fluids. The urine is tested for signs of infection and to check the function of the kidneys.
  • An abdominal tap. This test involves inserting a needle and drawing fluid out of the abdomen for analysis, if any fluid is present. Saline can be injected into the abdomen and then drawn out if there isn't any fluid already in the abdomen – this is a diagnostic abdominal lavage.
  • X-rays of the abdomen, or an abdominal ultrasound
  • More advanced tests, such as computed tomography (CT scan or "CAT" scan), MRI or endoscopy, which uses a fiberoptic scope to examine the inside of the stomach and intestinal tract.


    After your veterinarian has finished the diagnostic testing, he/she may recommend an abdominal exploratory surgery. This can be for therapeutic reasons to remove a foreign body or tumor or for diagnostic purposes to obtain tissue for biopsy of organs that are suspected to be abnormal.

    If your veterinarian was expecting to find a foreign body in the intestines but did not, then the surgery is often termed a "negative exploratory," meaning nothing obviously abnormal was found. However, the disease can be microscopic and not readily apparent, so a biopsy is taken to try to identify the disease.
    Home Care and Prevention

  • After abdominal exploratory surgery, the pet should have plenty of rest and should be restricted from activity for about two weeks to allow the incision to heal.
  • If your ferret licks or chews at his incision, an Elizabethan collar may be necessary to keep him from opening or infecting the incision.
  • Depending on what was found at surgery or in the biopsy results, your veterinarian may recommend more specific treatment.
  • Be familiar with your pet's normal eating, drinking, and elimination habits. If you notice any abnormal behavior, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, or anything that concerns you, contact your veterinarian.

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