CASE REPORT: Thoracolumbar disc herniation in a ferret

7 October 2019 – News

A two-year-old neutered male ferret was diagnosed with disc prolapse with imaging tools (myelography followed by computed tomography) and taking into account his three-day history of acute onset paraplegia and lack of urination and defecation control.

Neurological examination indicated a lesion in the thoracolumbar spinal cord segments causing an upper motor neuron lesion of the pelvic limbs. This, together with blood analysis interpretation, was consistent with a primary neurological disorder – a condition rarely seen in ferrets.

Following a week of intravenous methylprednisolone sodium succinate, the ferret went home for three weeks of cage rest. During this time, passive range of motion (PROM) and manual urinary bladder draining out were performed. The ferret restored full voluntary movement and was referred to a rehabilitation facility for a two-week program which included PROM, short walks with support and acupuncture. Hydrotherapy and walking an uphill track for reinforcement of the pelvic muscles were added for the second week. The ferret recovered ambulation but still had some weakness and proprioceptive deficits in the pelvic limbs following this regime.

Two months following diagnosis, the animal was totally ambulatory and had no detectable neurological deficits. A follow up a year later showed no return of symptoms.

The conclusion of this case report is that conservative management may be beneficial in ferrets with clinical signs caused by disc herniation but the preferred approach for these animals remains undefined. Nevertheless, as muscle atrophy rapidly develops in ferrets, progressive exercise and intensive physiotherapy seem to be directly related to better outcomes.

Srugo I. et al. Successful medical management of lumbar intervertebral disc prolapse in a ferret. Journal of Small Animal Practice (2010) 51, 447–450. DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-5827.2010.00964.