Cardiomyopathy is a common cause of heart disease in the ferret. Cardiomyopathy is a silent disease exhibiting clinical signs only after major damage has occurred to the heart. As cardiomyopathy advances, the damaged heart muscle is replaced with scar tissue resulting in a weak heart unable to pump blood properly. This results in signs of congestative heart failure because of an enlarged heart with sluggish movement of blood due to the heart pump failure. The blood may back up into the lungs or chest creating a cough or breathing difficulties. In addition, the blood may back up into the abdomen causing a belly full of fluid placing additonal pressure on the chest and lungs.
Early detection is difficult and requires diagnostic tools. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment is two-fold:
While there have not been clinical studies to confirm that early detection and treatment increases survival, it is generally accepted that the earlier the disease is diagnosed and treated, the better quality of life and survival time.