Proliferative Colitis (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)

    Related Articles

    What Is Proliferative Colitis?

    Proliferative colitis (inflammatory bowel disease) is an intestinal disorder of a variety of domestic animals associated with the presence of an intracellular Campylobacter-like organism (ICLO). In ferrets, this is a relatively uncommon disease that affects young male ferrets under 1 year of age. The infection can spread to lymph nodes and liver.


    This inflammatory bowel disease, sometimes called “fading ferret syndrome”, probably has multiple causes and may have an underlying genetic trigger, particularly considering its progression to neoplasia in many ferrets. Food allergies and the grain carbohydrates used in commercial food formulations may be a problem.

    Signs & Symptoms

    Clinical signs of proliferative colitis include frequent painful defecation, blood in the green stool, weight loss and diarrhea. Diarrhea may persist for over 6 weeks. Affected ferrets are dehydrated, thin, and may have a partial prolapse of the rectum. The rectal area and tail become smeared with scats, and the affected animals cry and moan when straining to defecate. The ferret loses its weight rapidly and can lose half of its weight in 2 weeks if not treated.

    Clinical signs of proliferative colitis are seen in ferrets that are less than 10 months of age. The animals have green to bloody diarrhea that may persist intermittently for over 6 weeks. Affected ferrets have poor appetite, dehydrated, thin, and have a partial rectal prolapse.


    Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and biopsy from the colon tissues.


    Supportive care with antimicrobial therapy are typical treatments of proliferative colitis in ferrets. However, antimicrobial therapy may not change the course of the disease if improvements are not observed after 48 hours of drug therapy. Metronidazole or chloramphenicol treatments for 2 weeks have been reported to be effective.


    This condition is subject to periodic periods of recurrence, often during times of stress. Severe cases develop neurological signs such as poor movement coordination, head tilt, and tremors. If untreated, the condition may be fatal.

    Video Credits: Armando Hasudungan
    Image Credits: The Gut Microbiome And Beyond


    1. Shayne C. Gad – Animal Models In Toxicology
    2. MU College of Veterinary Medicine, Ferret Diseases
    3. Bernard E. Rollin – The Experimental Animal In Biomedical Research
    4. John Henry Lewington – Ferret Husbandry, Medicine And Surgery


    Other Topics

    Propagating Perennials: Cuttings

    Overview Taking a cut from the tip of the stem, called the terminal, is a common method of...

    Spotted Turtle

    Overview All of North America's four kinds of pond turtle spend some time on land. The Spotted Turtle...

    True Frogs (Rana)

    Overview These the typical pond frogs, once almost unbelievably abundant but now much less common because of widespread...

    Great White Pelican

    Appearance Pelicans are huge, heavy-bodied, short-tailed water birds with a long neck, large head, and enormous bill with...

    Vegetable Weevil

    Weevils are a very large group of beetles containing more than 60,000 species. Their larvae are fat-bodied, sluggish, legless, whitish, with a...