Ataxia in Ferrets
Ataxia is a condition relating to sensory dysfunction, which mainly affects the neurological and motor systems, particularly movements of the limbs, head, and neck among ferrets.
Symptoms and Types
The signs and symptoms associated with ataxia are dependent on the underlying cause. Some of the more common ones include:
- Weakness of the limbs (one, two, or all four limbs)
- Head tilting
- Stumbling, tipping over, swaying
- Abnormal eye movements
Often, problems with coordination occur because of blocks in neurological pathways in the spinal cord or compression along nerve channels in pathways between the spinal cord and brain. Muscle weakness, toxic exposure, and certain inflammatory conditions, including those affecting the brain, can also cause problems with coordination. In addition, poor nutrition that leads to low blood sugar or anemia may affect the ferret’s muscles and lead to ataxia.
To diagnose an animal often a veterinarian will want to rule out other causes for uncoordination first. This may involve a wide range of testing, including metabolic testing to rule out low blood sugar, anemia, and other conditions that may be the cause for weakness and lethargy.
Treatment varies depending on the underlying cause for ataxia or lack of coordination. However, it mostly involves outpatient care and may range from therapy to prescription medication. Often, exercise proves helpful in cases where the spinal cord is involved.
Living and Management
Long-term monitoring and care may be necessary for ferrets that demonstrate neurological or spinal cord involvement. If the underlying cause involves a systemic disease, your veterinarian may recommend euthanizing the animal to prevent widespread pain or discomfort that may not be treatable using conventional methods. In other cases, dietary changes may relieve many of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with ataxia.
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