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Vomiting in Ferrets

Vomiting is the forceful expulsion of stomach contents through the mouth. Vomiting may be triggered by irritation of the intestinal tract or by irritation of receptors in the nervous system. Vomiting can be seen with disease of the intestinal tract, organ system diseases such as liver or kidney disease, toxins, or neurologic disorders. In ferrets, vomiting is not a common symptom when compared to similar diseases in dogs and cats. For example, vomiting is the most common symptom of gastric foreign bodies in dogs. Although ferrets with gastric foreign bodies may occasionally vomit, they rarely do so.

There are many causes of vomiting in ferrets. A few of the more common causes include:

If your ferret vomits only once and has no other symptoms, veterinary attention may not be immediately required. If, however, the vomiting continues, if he vomits more than once, the vomiting lasts more than a day, returns frequently or other symptoms occur, medical attention is needed. Vomiting in ferrets usually is a sign of serious disease. Continued vomiting can cause a loss of fluid and electrolytes, leading to dehydration.

What to Watch For


Your veterinarian may recommend specific diagnostic tests depending on the severity and duration of the vomiting. Chronic vomiting – vomiting lasting for several days to weeks – or vomiting along with other symptoms usually requires extensive diagnostic testing.

A complete history is extremely helpful in reaching a diagnosis. Be prepared to tell your veterinarian when the vomiting began, if the feces have changed or have been varied in consistency or color, the type of diet your ferret is on, and of any potential exposure to other ferrets.

Diagnostic testing your veterinarian may perform include:


Treatment for vomiting may include any combination of:

Home Care

Your veterinarian should be contacted if your ferret vomits or has an abrupt decrease in appetite. Give all medication as directed, for as long as directed, even after the symptoms appear to be gone.

Watch for a change in the stools, and report any changes to your veterinarian. If improvement is not seen, if the vomiting returns, or the ferret develops other symptoms, alert your veterinarian immediately.

Vomiting is a complex reflex in which the stomach contents are forcibly expelled through the mouth. Vomiting in ferrets is usually preceded by symptoms of nausea such as salivating excessively, pawing at the mouth, licking the lips and walking backwards. Vomiting can be triggered by irritation of the lining of the stomach or intestinal tract because of inflammation, infection or foreign bodies.

Vomiting receptors are located in nerves supplying the intestinal tract and in the central nervous system. Irritation of these receptors by chemical mediators like toxins or drugs will also trigger vomiting. Disorders that affect your ferret’s balance center (vestibular system) located in the brainstem and inner ear, such as motion sickness or inner ear infections, may trigger violent episodes of vomiting.

Vomiting is seen less frequently in ferrets with gastrointestinal disease as compared to other pet mammals. Many conditions, such as gastric ulcers or foreign bodies, readily cause vomiting in dogs and cats. Ferrets with these conditions usually show other symptoms, such as decreased appetite and weight loss, and will only occasionally vomit.

The appearance of the vomitus can be helpful in discovering which disease process is causing the vomiting. Foreign objects, tumors or other masses in the stomach often obstruct the opening from the stomach to the intestines. This prevents food from emptying from the stomach and often causes vomiting. In these cases, the vomitus will appear as undigested or partially digested food. Food that is liquid in consistency, digested and stained with bile suggests vomiting caused by diseases of the intestinal tract, toxins or metabolic diseases. Fresh blood in the vomitus, or digested blood that has the appearance of coffee grounds is seen with ulceration of the lining of the stomach or intestines.


There are many causes of vomiting in ferrets. The cause may be very simple, such as a dietary change, or may be due to a number of complex disease processes. There are many contagious diseases that cause diarrhea, so it is important to inform your veterinarian of any potential contact – direct or indirect – with other ferrets. Possible causes of vomiting in ferrets include:

Diagnosis In-depth

A thorough history is extremely important in the diagnosis of vomiting. Be prepared to answer the following questions:

The veterinarian will recommend specific diagnostic tests depending on how severe the vomiting is, if other symptoms are present, or how long the problem has been going on. Ferrets that have other symptoms or have had chronic or recurrent vomiting may require extensive diagnostic testing. Any combination of the following may be recommended:

Therapy In-depth

Your veterinarian may recommend one or more of the diagnostic tests described above. In the meantime, treatment of the symptoms might be needed, especially of the problem is severe. The following treatments may be applicable to some, but not all ferrets that are vomiting. Theses treatments may reduce the severity of symptoms, or provide relief for your ferret. However, nonspecific therapy is not a substitute for definite treatment of the underlying disease responsible for your ferret’s condition.

Ferrets with moderate to severe vomiting and other symptoms such as lethargy and anorexia usually require hospitalization and 24-hour care.