Pet ferrets defecate very regularly and their owners typically know what normal feces looks like. To non-ferret owners this might sound pretty strange, even quite gross, but ferret owners understand the importance of monitoring stool character. Epizootic catarrhal enteritis is one disease that is easy to be aware of by monitoring your ferret's stool character.
What is Epizootic Catarrhal Enteritis?
Ferret Epizootic catarrhal enteritis is also known as greenies, green slime, and ECE. It is thought to be a viral disease that causes green or yellow diarrhea. It is most likely a type of coronavirus that is shed in the feces of ferrets and is highly contagious to other ferrets and humans.
Greenish, slimy diarrhea will be the initial symptom of ECE but it may stop after a few days. Weight loss, a decrease or lack of appetite, vomiting and dehydration may follow the diarrhea and your ferret will become very sick, or even potentially die, if he does not receive supportive care.
The coronavirus affects the gastrointestinal tract of your ferret and can occur in young or old ferrets. Younger ferrets typically recover more quickly than older ferrets and the virus can be shed for several months in their feces.
How Is ECE Treated?
The symptoms of ECE are treated as needed. Usually the disease runs it's course over the period of a couple of weeks but more serious or chronic cases can last weeks to over six months. Sometimes multiple ferret households will seem to pass the virus back and forth from each other, creating a vicious viral cycle where all the ferrets in the household must be treated simultaneously.
Epizootic catarrhal enteritis is typically treated with supportive care. Fluids, either subcutaneously or intraveneously, are administered if your ferret is dehydrated, nutritional support is given by syringe feeding, and medication is prescribed depending on the symptoms exhibited. Anti-diarrheals, anti-vomiting medications, and antibiotics may all be prescribed by your exotics vet along with assisted feeding if he is not eating. Oxbow Carnivore Care is a common option for syringe feeding ferrets, as is chicken baby food or Emeraid Carnivore food. Sometimes ferret owners are able to get their pets to eat homemade ferret duk soup or the pre-packaged Uncle Jim's Original Duk Soup Mix for Ferrets and don't need to syringe feed them but it is important to get them eating something nutritious.
If your ferret is diagnosed with green slime then you should expect to be medicating your ferret twice a day or more and possibly assisting in making sure he is eating. Adding Pedialyte to his drinking water may also be recommended to add some electrolytes to his system.
What is the Outcome for My Ferret with ECE?
If left untreated, your ferret will most likely die of dehydration and/or starvation. Secondary illnesses such as bacterial infections can also cause life threatening problems. Keeping the living areas clean and washing your hands are vital to a quick recovery, in addition to keeping your ferret eating, hydrated, and medicated as needed.
While some ferrets will exhibit symptoms for months and months, younger and more resilient ferrets may only show symptoms for a week or two. It is also important to remember that other ferrets and humans can get this virus and pass it back and forth.
If you are diligent in sanitation and follow your vet's instructions for the at home care of your ferret, he should make a full recovery.
How Can I Prevent My Ferret From Getting ECE?
Always wash your hands! If you handle ferrets at a pet store, rescue, or even your friend's ferrets, wash your hands. You never know who is a carrier of ECE.
If you bring a new ferret into your home where ferrets already reside, make sure you isolate the new ferret to make sure he isn't showing any symptoms of ECE for a week.
If you already have a ferret who has been diagnosed with ECE, isolate him from the others, wash your hands and consider even changing your clothes when handling the other ferrets. Keep all the cages as clean as possible and get your ferret to the vet if he starts showing symptoms of ECE.