Message Number: YG1827 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Bruce Williams, DVM
Date: 2001-03-28 22:58:00 UTC
Subject: Re: For Dr. Williams or any vet

--- In Ferret-Health-list@y..., luvri@h... wrote:
> I have a 2 1/2 year old male who has always been extremely healthy.
> couple of weeks ago he started to exhibit some strange habits. He
> seems to grind his teeth often when eating, which I understand
> usually means the ferret is experiencing some discomfort or pain.
> also makes frequent, urgent trips to the litter pan. He pushes and
> pushes but only small amounts of his stool come out sometimes, and
> sometimes nothing at all.

Two possibilities immediately come to mind with this particular
scenario. Bruxism (grining teeth) is indeed a sign of abdominal
pain, and is most commonly seen with gastric ulcers, but it should
not be always assumed to be due to problems with the stomach.
Bruxism may be seen with pain anywhere in the gastrointestinal
tract. This sign, plus increased urgency and diminished fecal output
always makes me think of a gastrointestinal foreign body. I have
seen this over and over. Foreign bodies may be lodged in the
intestine or colon as well as in the stomach. Gastrointestinal
foreign bodies often result in partial blockages, around which food
can pass. These animals show intermittent pain and the passage
of "pencil-lead-thin" stools.

If you bear in mind that tooth grinding might be the result of pain
other than the stomach, and that increased urgency and straining with
no production is generally referrable to the colon, then acutely
painful colonic disease should also be considered.

He is eating in much smaller amounts, so I
> can understand not as much coming out, but this is starting to get
> very worried.

You raise a very good point that many owners miss. Quite often,
diminished stool production is not due to blockage and inability to
pass stool, but simply due to diminished intake. The body is very
simple - nothing in, nothing out.

> We have seen our vet twice over the past couple of weeks and have
> yet been able to figure this out. (Our vet specializes in ferrets,
> reptiles and birds and has always been very good, caring and
> knowledgable. He saved our female ferret's life last year, when he
> removed one of her adrenals. She was very bad and when he did the
> surgery, it scattered into many pieces and he had to remove it
> On both visits with our boy, he gave him a shot of Dexamethasone.

Interesting choice - did he mention why?

> the first visit he put him on Clavamox, but it really didn't agree
> with him, or do anything for him after 5 days. There was no
> temperature or signs of any lumps in the abdominal area. I have not
> called the vet back yet, as I do not know what I should do next. I
> have gotten much input from ferret owners as to possibilites, but I
> would really like to have an expert opinion.

At this point, I would suggest at least another good palpation,
bloodwork, and an abdominal X-ray. Remember, however, that only
about 10% of foreign bodies are visible on survey rads, and only 20-
30% show up with contrast (barium) studies. Bloodwork may show
evidence of inflammation, or hypoproteinemia (which indirectly
incriminates the gastrointestinal tract) as a possible source of
problems. More importantly, it may identify other problems in other
organ systems that may superficially resemble GI distress. A guiac
(fecal occult blood test) may also be helpful in ruling out a GI

I know that this is a lot to do at once, but my main concern here is
the possibility of a foreign body. Most of the other conditions of
the gut are those that only slowly cause problems, but a foreign body
is one that can go south in a heck of a hurry.

With kindest regards,

Bruce H. Williams, DVM, DACVP
Join the Ferret Health List at