ISSN 2398-2985      

Melena

4ferrets
Contributor(s):

Agata Witkowska

Joanne Sheen


Introduction

  • Cause: gastritis (bacterial/viral/parasitic, eg coccidiosis), gastric ulcers, gastroenteritis, foreign body, Helicobacter associated ulceration, pancreatitis, dysbiosis, long term use of ulcerogenic medication, rodenticide poisoning.
  • Signs: lethargy, anorexia, abdominal distension, bruxism, bloating, dark, digested blood originating from the small intestine.
  • Diagnosis: clinical history, fecal examination.
  • Treatment: dependent on the cause, can range from antibiotics, fluid, and nutritional support to euthanasia.
  • Prognosis: guarded.

Pathogenesis

Etiology

Predisposing factors

General

  • Poor husbandry with an inappropriate diet.
  • Access to inappropriate toys and objects increasing the likelihood of foreign body ingestion Gastrointestinal foreign bodies.
  • Animals housed outdoor may be checked less frequently and presented later on in disease process.

Specific

  • H. mustelae infection Helicobacter mustelae gastritis in ferrets.
  • Long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as meloxicam Meloxicam without the use of gastroprotectants and whilst using higher doses.
  • Chronic azotemia due to kidney disease.
  • Raw feeding predisposing to bacterial infections Bacterial gastroenteritis.

Pathophysiology

  • Infection of H. mustelae Helicobacter mustelae gastritis leading to chronic hypergastrinemia:
    • Koch’s postulates have been fulfilled, and the oral administration of H. mustelae to ferrets free of this bacterium produces colonization, chronic gastritis and a rise in anti-H. mustelae antibody titer.
    • Histologic changes consist of superficial mononuclear gastritis in the body of the stomach and diffuse mononuclear gastritis in the pyloric antrum.
    • The highest number of bacteria are usually found in the pyloric antrum.
    • Ferrets free of H. mustelae do not have these lesions.
    • Severity of gastritis is correlated with the number of organisms.
    • In addition, some authors state that disease is more frequently seen in older animals, while other authors believe stressed young (3-5 months old) animals are more susceptible to the disease.
    • Infection by H. mustelae produce auto-antibodies, which can contribute to the development of gastritis. Severity of gastritis is correlated with the number of organisms.
    • It is possible that these auto-antibodies could also be implicated in the reactivity of spleen and mesenteric lymph nodes, although lymphoid tissue (particularly mesenteric) reacts significantly in ferrets with any inflammation.
    • The infection is also associated with hypochlorhydria and hypergastrinemia, and it has been observed that the hypochlorhydria caused by the administration of omeprazole increases fecal excretion of the bacteria.
    • Hypergastrinemia is linked to the development of gastric ulcers. This in turn may result in intermittent or ongoing bleeding.
  • Long-term use of anti-inflammatory medication and inhibition of cyclo-oxygenase-1 (COX-1) receptors in the gastrointestinal tract reduces prostaglandin secretion. Prostaglandins have a cytoprotective effect on the gastric mucosa. This increases the risk of mucosal injury and development of ulceration.

Timecourse

  • Ulceration takes time to develop, but any signs of gastrointestinal disease should be investigated thoroughly.
  • Ulceration may develop acutely following rodenticide toxicity or gastrointestinal surgery.

Epidemiology

  • Female ferrets may be overrepresented in gastric ulceration Gastric ulceration.
  • Young, stressed, and immunocompromised animals will be more predisposed to infectious causes of gastrointestinal ulceration.
  • Geriatric animals will be more predisposed to gastrointestinal ulceration as they will often have coexisting conditions such as kidney and heart disease as well as neoplasia.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Lennox A M (2005) Gastrointestinal diseases of the ferret. Vet Clin North Am Exotic Anim Pract (2), 213-225 VetClinics.
  • Aligiuri R, Bellah J R, Collins B R & Ackerman N (1989) Medical and surgical management of esophageal foreign body in a ferret. JAVMA 195 (7), 969-971 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Perpinan D & Johnson-Delaney C A (2017) Disorders of the Digestive System and Liver. In: Ferret Medicine and Surgery. Ed: Johnson-Delaney C A. CRC Press, USA. pp 159-190.
  • Maurer K J & Fox J G (2014) Diseases of the Gastrointestinal System. In: Biology and Diseases of the Ferret. 3rd edn. Eds: Fox J G & Marini R P. Wiley & Sons, USA. pp 363-375.
  • Hoefer H L, Fox J G & Bell J A (2012) Gastrointestinal Diseases. In: Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents. 3rd edn. Eds: Quesenberry K E & Carpenter J W. Elsevier, USA. pp 27-45.
  • Burgess M E (2007) Ferret Gastrointestinal and Hepatic Diseases. In: Ferret Husbandry, Medicine and Surgery. 2nd edn. Ed: Lewington J H. Saunders, USA. pp 203-223.

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