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Did You Know?

- Ferrets lack a cecum to digest/ process fuits and vegetables.

- A ferrets left lung has 2 lobes, while the right has 4.

- A ferrets body contains 14 or 15 pairs of ribs.

- A kit has 30 baby teeth, while an adult has 34.

- Food fully travels throughout their system in 3 hours.

Aleutian's Disease (ADV)




What is ADV

ADV is a highly contagious Parvovirus (composed mainly of protein DNA) with differing strains and strengths characterized by a persistent viral infection which causes a huge increase in antibodies found in the blood known as hypergammaglobulinemia, and has been around since the late 1960's. The antibodies combine with ADV and are deposited within tissues of multiple organs in the body causing inflammation. Unlike other viruses, the body is not able to initiate an effective immune response to fight the virus. The virus can very be spread through feces, urine, saliva and other body fluids as well as transmitted by human contact. Once clinical signs are present (renal failure, weight loss, splenomegaly, neurological symptoms like seizures and clotting abnormalities), disease will progress claiming the life of the ferret, usually within a few months.

There is currently "NO" cure or vaccine for this deadly disease!

ADV can remain active in the household for up to two years or longer!

Please support research efforts in this area!

ADV attacks the immune system and may eventually kill the ferret! There is no cure, no preventive vaccine, and any ferret can be a carrier. In fact, most ferrets appear fine until they are about to die, while spreading the virus.

Very little is known about the "carrier state", how long infection can last or whether the ferret can completely rid itself of the virus. For these reasons "ANY" ADV positive ferret is assumed to be able to shed the virus at any time. There is no way to know when, or if a ferret will develop this disease, nor is there anyway to know the severity or type of clinical signs. The majority of ferrets never develop obvious clinical, rather it is diagnosed post-mortem.

Signs and Symptoms

The combined antibodies/ADV particles spread within the tissues of multiple organs (kidneys, liver, spinal cord, bladder, etc.) resulting in inflammation. Within these inflamed tissues, there are two types of white blood cells that start to take over: plasmocytes & lymphocytes. If inflammation is severe, the ferret will show signs of a disease relating to the infected organ.

The exact mechanism which ADV affects the immune system is still "NOT" understood.

Due to the immune system interference your ferret could be more susceptible to a host of other diseases.

Ferrets most frequently present with ascending weakness(back to front), hind end weakness, lethargy, blood in stool, seizures, anemia, weight loss, enlargement of liver or spleen, etc. It's important to point out that all of these signs/symptoms are also found in other common illnesses as well, making the diagnosis very difficult.


A diagnosis of ADV is usually made on clinical signs with a positive test result to rule out other possible diseases. To confirm diagnosis, tissue from multi-organs (kidney, liver, intestines, spinal cord, bladder) should be submitted for exam post-mortem, which will greatly aid in the research and hopefully cure for this debilitating disease. The antibody can usually be detecting two weeks post infection. Elevated total protein (>7.5g/dL) and a gammaglobulin monoclonal fraction >20% is indicative of chronic ADV infection (not reliable if other globulins are also elevated).

There are currently four formal tests to confirm diagnosis of ADV: DNA in situ Hybridization, Blood Sample by the University of Georgia, ELISA, and CEP.

  • DNA in situ Hybridization Test by the University of Georgia
    This test is very accurate and detects DNA in tissues. Your veterinarian can obtain the needed submission forms by clicking here.

  • Blood Test by the University of Georgia
    Tests if the viral DNA is found the blood. If this test is positive, it is a good indicator that the ferrets is in the shedding stage.

  • Counterelectrophoresis(CEP) Test by Blue Cross Animal Hospital
    Counterelectrophoresis (CEP) is a lab test for the detection of antibodies in the blood. Recent vaccinations, can alter accurate test results, and all results are subject to human interpretation. The CEP tests can produce both false-positive and false-negatives, so retesting should be done.

    .Click here for additional information on the CEP test (please note you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view, which can be downloaded by clicking the link at the bottom of the page).

    Special note for Shelters: You can contact SOS for special SOS Shelter pricing for the CEP Test. Contact Sharon at sharon@supportourshelters.org for additional information.

  • ELISA Test by Avecon Diagnostics
    The ADV Antibody ELISA Test from Avecon Diagnostics, Inc. is a sensitive, specific Immunoassay for the detection of ferret antibody caused exclusively by exposure to ADV. In this test, ADV Antibody in ferret saliva or blood (serum/plasma) irreversibly binds to a single ADV protein (identical to protein from the replicating form of ADV, but noninfectious) coated onto a plastic surface. A labeled Immuno-chemical is added which binds ONLY to FERRET ADV ANTIBODY present in the reaction mixture. The label is detected by a sensitive laboratory instrument called a spectrophotometer and is directly proportional to the quantity of Ferret ADV Antibody in the sample.

    • Detects ADV Antibody only from virus that has replicated; No False Positives from reactivity with other ADV proteins

    • No cross-reactivity with ADV Antibody from other mustelids (mink) or other species

    • No False Positives caused by antibodies to vaccine-derived cellular debris

    • Instrument-based measurement technique negates judgment errors of visual detection that lead to False Negatives

    • Use of Saliva eliminates contamination from toenail clippers


The use of a single, specific ADV non-viral protein exclusively identifies those specimens in which ADV replication has occurred and prevents the occurrence of false positives such as may happen when proteins from whole ADV-derived viral lysate cross-react with non-ADV antibodies in Ferret specimens. It is recommended that testing for ADV Antibody be performed a minimum of 4 times per year on each ferret. Testing is especially important before attempting to breed, and prior to transferring a ferret from one household to another.

Special note for Shelters: You can contact SOS for special SOS Shelter pricing for the Elisa Test. Contact Sharon at sharon@supportourshelters.org for additional information.

Click here for ordering instructions and pricing

Click here for sample collection instructions



There are currently no treatment options available for this disease. The only things you can do is treat the clinical signs and provide the best supportive care to the ferret including: syringe feeding, fluid therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, etc.


There are a number of things you can do to reduce the chances of your ferret from contracting this disease:

  • Test all ferrets in the household, especially any new ones coming in, and retest in 6 months to be sure of negative results.

  • Do not allow your ferret to come into contact with any other ferret if you do not know their ADV status.

  • When handling other ferrets (shows, pet stores, breeders, shelters, friends, etc.), do NOT come into contact with your ferret until your hands are thoroughly sanitized, and all clothing is removed and washed with Parvocide.

Visit Ferret ADV for additional information

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Health Tid Bits

- Ferret's normal rectal temperature is between 100 - 104 with 101.9 being the average.

- Heart rate is 180 - 250 bpm with 225 being average.

- Respiration is 33-36 per minute.

- Normal urine pH is 6.5 - 7.5

- Blood volume is 60-80 ml/ kg.

- Ferrets do possess toxoplasmosis in their systems. However, unlike cats they cannot release/ shed the infected eggs back into the environment, they hit a dead end, so humans cannot catch the disease.

All content on this site has been researched and authored by Brenda (webmaster).

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