Michael M. Garner, DVM, DACVP
In the last 6 years, several ferrets from Europe and the United States have been diagnosed with systemic pyogranulomatous inflammation resembling feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).1 Most ferrets are young adults and have a clinical course of approximately 2 months duration. Common clinical findings can include anorexia, weight loss, diarrhea, and large palpable intra-abdominal masses; less frequent findings include hind limb paresis, CNS signs, vomiting, and dyspnea. Hematologic findings are not specific, and most often include mild anemia, thrombocytopenia and hypergammaglobulinemia. Grossly, whitish nodules are found in numerous tissues, most frequently in the mesenteric adipose tissue and lymph nodes, visceral peritoneum, liver, kidneys, spleen, and lungs. Rarely, a serous abdominal effusion may be present. This condition is diagnosed histologically, and lesions include pyogranulomatous inflammation in the visceral peritoneum, mesenteric adipose tissue, thoracic and abdominal viscera, and blood vessels. In tissue sections, viral antigen cross reacts with FIP antibody using monoclonal antibody FIPV3-70. Electron microscopic examination has confirmed the presence of viral particles with coronavirus morphology in the cytoplasm of macrophages. Partial sequencing of the coronavirus spike gene indicates that the virus is most closely related to ferret enteric coronavirus.
The author thanks K. Ramsell, N. Morera, C. Juan-Sallés, J. Jiménez, M. Ardiaca, A. Montesinos, J.P. Teifke, C.V. Löhr, J.F. Evermann, T.V. Baszler, R.W. Nordhausen, A.G. Wise, R.K. Maes, M. Kiupel for their fine work on the original manuscript. The author also thanks the following U.S. clinics for submission of cases: A&A Animal Hospital, Franklin Square, NY; All Creatures Animal Hospital, Bremerton, WA; Animal Clinic of Farmers Branch, Dallas, TX; Belle Forest Animal Hospital, Nashville, TN; Foothills Animal Hospital and Franklin Animal Hospital, Beaverton, OR; Old Bridge Veterinary Hospital, Woodbridge, VA; Old Country Animal Clinic, Plainview, NY; and Sno-Wood Veterinary Hospital, Woodinville, WA. The authors are also indebted to Histology Consulting Service for superb preparation of histology slides; Jamie Kinion, Susan Hinton and Tera Thompson-Garner for data retrieval; and Christie Buie for photo editing.
1. Garner, M. M., K. Ramsell, N. Morera, C. Juan-Sallés, J. Jiménez, M. Ardiaca, A. Montesinos, J.P. Teifke, C., V. Löhr, J.F. Evermann, T.V. Baszler, R.W. Nordhausen, A.G. Wise, R.K. Maes, and M. Kiupel. 2008. Clinico-pathologic features of a systemic coronavirus-associated disease resembling feline infectious peritonitis in the domestic ferret (Mustela putorius). Vet Pathol. 45: 236–246.