What is green slime disease?

We have had a number of questions recently about a relatively new disease syndrome in ferrets that has several names. It has been called "green slime disease", "ferret mystery virus" or "epizootic catarrhal enteritis". This disease is characterized primarily by a bright green, mucoid diarrhea, accompanied by other signs of illness, such as loss of appetite, inactivity and dehydration. It appears to be easily spread among ferrets and is believed to be caused by a virus.

While some research has been done to investigate this problem, much about it is still unknown. This lack of information persists despite the fact that the disease has been reported for at least a decade among ferret populations everywhere. It appears to be a world-wide problem.

Marshall Farms and all other ferret lovers are deeply concerned about this potentially serious disease of ferrets. While administration of supportive care by your ferret's veterinarian usually results in complete recovery, the illness can still be serious. Sadly, fatalities do occur, sometimes despite aggressive and diligent care and treatment.

Over the past year, we have been compiling reports from pet owners regarding how this disease appears to spread and attack. Any situation that brings ferrets together seems to have the potential for spread of disease. One important circumstance appears to be the introduction of a new, young ferret into a home where there are other ferrets already in residence. Our belief at this time is that these young ferrets have been exposed to the disease without showing any obvious symptoms. These youngsters act as a source of exposure for adults. The adults then contract the disease and become ill, although the young ferrets do not. We have been informed of enough scenarios of this nature to believe that this situation represents a significant risk for unexposed, adult ferrets. This observation seems to hold true regardless of history, source or geographic area. It also appears that once adults have been exposed, become ill and recover, they are then immune for some period.

Based on this information, we recommend caution whenever buying a new baby ferret and bringing it into a home where there are adult ferrets that have not previously been exposed to the disease. Caution should also be exercised when attending ferret shows or other such functions where groups of ferrets are co-mingled.

At Marshall Farms, we have been dedicated to ferret health and well being for over 60 years. As a result of this commitment, we are taking a leadership role in the investigation of this disease. To this end, we are currently supporting intensive research into this disease problem. The goals are to make a definitive determination of the cause; to better understand the sequence of transmission and infection; and finally, how to prevent it, for example by vaccination in a manner similar to protection against distemper. The ultimate goal is eradication. We believe that by working together with all those committed to ferret health, including owners, breeders, veterinarians and researchers, we can rise to the challenge of solving the mysteries of "the mystery virus".

If you believe you may have new information that would contribute to our collective knowledge, please do not hesitate to contact us. By communication with ferret owners and their veterinarians, we are currently attempting to identify the optimum treatment regimen that will ensure recovery of ill ferrets. In this manner, we may act as a resource for veterinarians who are unfamiliar with the disease or with treatment of ferrets in general. Together, we look forward to making progress to halt this unfortunate disease.