weak ferret with vet

My Ferret is Acting Weak – What’s Going On?

Dr. Bianca Zaffarano

Nov 21, 2023

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Your ferret is normally bouncing off the walls with energy, but now your furry friend seems weak on its back legs. What’s wrong with your ferret? Generally agile (and cuddly!) creatures, when a ferret is “not right,” you get concerned. Let’s explore some ferret facts around causes for weakness in their hind legs. 

Low Blood Sugar in Ferrets

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can cause sudden back-leg weakness in ferrets. You may be asking, why does my ferret have low blood sugar, he’s been eating like a champ until today! Surprisingly, low blood sugar may not have anything to do with what your ferret eats. It could be caused by a tumor in the pancreas, called insulinoma. This leads to a release of excess insulin, which causes the blood sugar to plummet. This is a potentially dangerous situation. 

Common Signs of Insulinoma

  • Rear leg weakness
  • Difficulty waking up
  • Salivation
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Sudden collapse  


Is your ferret’s poop more runny or very dark/black or sticky? This could be a sign of anemia. It may be caused by digested blood from stomach or intestinal bleeding, possibly from chronic gut inflammation or an overgrowth of a type of stomach bacteria. 

Common signs associated with anemia

  • Back leg weakness
  • Pale gums
  • Lethargy
  • Sudden collapse  

An unspayed ferret can have anemia induced by her estrus cycle. Check for double dots–a tattoo, on the inside of the ear of your ferret. Two black dots likely means she has been spayed. 

Heart Disease

Different types of heart disease can cause weakness, both generally and in the ferret’s back end. Ferrets that have a variation of heart disease called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) can also present in congestive heart failure, which is a severe progression of their disease. 

Common Signs of Congestive Heart Failure 

  • Hind limb weakness
  • Labored breathing
  • Cough
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Distended belly 

Ferrets can also have other types of heart changes that can cause weakness. Further testing (x-rays, ultrasound, bloodwork) can distinguish what may be causing your ferret’s illness. 


Unfortunately, lymphoma is not uncommon in ferrets and could be causing weakness in the back legs. Your vet may suggest x-rays, blood work, and possibly an ultrasound or biopsy to screen for this and other diseases.  

Chordoma is another cancer that may cause similar clinical signs. These small tumors can be located in areas along the spinal cord or backbone. Some tumors are easily removed, but others can cause spinal cord compression and neurologic problems such as weakness in the hind limbs. 

Does My Ferret Need Emergency Care?

Weakness in a ferret can be a vague issue, but can be dangerous and even fatal. So don’t delay in getting your ferret checked out by a veterinarian if you notice any signs of weakness. Contact your GP veterinarian or call VEG to speak with a doctor immediately. We have locations nationwide with emergency vets who are available 24/7 to help you and your pet. Get the inside scoop on what it’s like in a VEG ER.