Two new viral syndromes have been detected in domestic ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) from Spain. Unsanitary conditions in multi-species facilities and immunosuppression due to early weaning, neutering, vaccination, microchip placement and shipment to foreign countries may have played an important role in the development of these conditions.
Granulomatous Inflammatory Syndrome (GIS)
Affected ferrets were generally younger than 9 months, had a common origin in a multi-species farm, and presented 0–5 month after having been purchased by private owners. Clinical signs included diarrhea, lethargy, weight loss and hind limb weakness. Clinicopathologic findings consisted of mesenteric lymphadenopathy, splenomegaly, hypergammaglobulinemia and non-regenerative anemia. Hypergammaglobulinemia (>1.8 g/dL) and abnormal abdominal palpation were common in all affected ferrets. The condition was progressive and fatal despite several different treatments; however, temporary improvements were common during the course of the disease. Post-mortem examinations revealed disseminated granulomatous lesions in several organs, mainly lymph nodes and mesentery. Histologic lesions consisted of granulomatous inflammation similar to that characteristic of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). Tissues from affected ferrets were positive for group 1 coronavirus antigen by immunohistochemistry. The ferret is the first non-felid species in which a syndrome similar to FIP has been diagnosed.
Natural Outbreak of Canine Distemper (CD)
Affected ferrets were all younger than 6 month and had a common origin in a multi-species farm. Clinical signs included anorexia, lethargy, dyspnea, cough, sneezing, mucopurulent ocular and nasal discharge, and facial and perineal dermatitis. Diarrhea, splenomegaly and fever were occasionally seen. General desquamation and pruritus, and crusting dermatitis in lips, eyes, nasal area, footpads, and perineal area were seen late in the disease. None of the ferrets developed neurologic signs. Non-regenerative anemia and increased α and β-globulins were the most common laboratory findings. Most animals died or were euthanatized due to respiratory complications. Necropsy revealed lack of lung collapse in all ferrets. Distemper was diagnosed ante-mortem by direct immunofluorescence of conjunctival swabs or post-mortem by histopathology of several organs. Minimum incubation periods calculated for 6 ferrets ranged 11–56 days. In addition, Enterobacter cloacae was isolated from the lung of one ferret, and inclusion bodies compatible with infection by herpesvirus were found in the lung of another ferret. This report demonstrates that strains causing natural CD may differ from those used to describe experimental or vaccine induced CD, and therefore other courses with signs such as generalized pruritus, long incubation periods, lack of neurologic signs and pneumonia as a main cause of death may be expected.