Ferret Leg Weakness, Ataxia & Paresis

Updated November 30th, 2020

Ferret hind limb weakness is badly misunderstood and most information online is highly inaccurate.

It is not a symptom of a single disease. Instead, it is a common response of ferrets to any serious illness. Therefore, to treat back leg problems in ferrets you need to investigate the problem thoroughly first.

This is the odd thing that all experienced ferret vets know…

What Causes Hind Limb Weakness In Ferrets?

Dragging the hind leg is a sign of many, many systemic illnesses. Many of these have no direct or obvious effect on the hind legs. Leg weakness in ferrets is a general sign of illness, and very rarely tells you what is actually wrong.

We have seen hind limb weakness caused by all of the following:

  • Adrenal disease
  • Cancer of any type
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Serious infections
  • Heart disease
  • Insulinoma (a pancreatic tumour- click to read more)

and more rarely:

  • Spinal disease
  • Arthritis
  • Aleutian disease

Diagnosis of Hind Leg Problems

If your ferret is not walking well on his or her back legs, see an experienced ferret vet straight away. Here’s how the vet will get the answer:

  • A thorough history of the problem
  • A full physical exam including heart auscultation and abdominal palpation
  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound examination
  • Xrays

The order of these tests will depend on what your vet finds in the exam room. For example, if the abdomen is enlarged, we’ll do the ultrasound exam first, whereas if it is an episodic weakness with no physical findings we’ll do the blood tests first.

Once we find the answer we won’t need to do the other tests if funds are limited.

Treatment of Leg Weakness, Ataxia or Paresis

As you can imagine, identifying the cause allows us to choose the right treatment. All of the diseases listed above (except cancer) have good treatment options available.