Ferrets: digestive system disorders

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The gastrointestinal (GI) tract of the domestic ferret has been studied extensively as a model for several human GI tract diseases, including spontaneous gastric and duodenal ulcers, gastro-oesophageal reflux, gastric carcinoma and lymphoma, the lack of acid mucosubstances (similar to humans), and infection. The clinician must also be aware of GI pain and hydration status accompanying most GI disease. The ferret has a short transit time of 148-219 minutes when fed a meat-based diet. The digestive system is under vagal and sacral innervation and is spontaneously active, even under anaesthesia. Motility can be moderated with atropine. The stomach spontaneously produces acids and proteolytic enzymes, and histamine and vagal stimulation provoke increased secretions. Histamine H2 receptor antagonists abolish the acid secretion response to exogenous histamine or exogenous stimulation with pentagastrin. This chapter observes Anatomy and physiology; Disease of the GI tract; Diagnosis of GI disease; and Treatment of GI disease.

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25.1 Gastrotomy in a ferret with a trichobezoar. Trichobezoar after surgical removal (see Chapter 23 for technique). Recovery was uneventful.
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25.3 Coccidia isolated from a ferret with diarrhoea. (Original magnification x 100.)
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25.4 Cryptosporidia from a ferret with severe chronic diarrhoea at a ferret shelter. (Original magnification x 40.)
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25.5 Diarrhoea from a ferret with inflammatory bowel disease.
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25.6 Necropsy photograph showing disseminated lymphosarcoma following inflammatory bowel disease. Note enlarged mesenteric, pyloric lymph nodes (including large mass).
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25.7 Intraoperative photograph of ulcerated intestine in a ferret. It was found to have segmental lymphoma, with several lymph nodes involved as well. The area of ulceration was not considered neoplastic.
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25.8 Rectal prolapse in a 4-month-old ferret following poor anal sacculectomy done at 4 weeks of age. The prolapse was unresponsive to repeated topical treatments. Surgical repair was required.
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25.9 Lateral radiograph of a ferret with multiple palpable foreign bodies. VD radiograph showing foreign bodies. Contrast (barium) study in the same ferret. Material removed (owners identified it as part of a favourite toy).
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