Bleeding Under the Skin of Ferrets

Petechia Ecchymosis Bruising in Ferrets

Petechia and ecchymosis refer to a disorder of primary hemostasis, the first step in the process by which blood loss from the body’s blood vessels is prevented. This results in uncharacteristic bleeding into the skin or mucous membranes, which causes bruising.

Petechia and ecchymosis are most commonly seen in female ferrets with hyperestrogenism, a condition characterized by a heightened level of estrogen hormone. Usually, they are caused by thrombocytopenia, a medical condition where blood platelets responsible for forming blood clots, among other things, become too low.

Symptoms and Types

Both of these disorders are evident by unnaturally severe bruises on the body that are more serious than would be expected with any level of trauma experienced. Symptoms include symmetric hair loss (that usually begins at the base of the tail and progresses towards the head), ferret adrenal disease (a condition affecting the adrenal glands located by the kidneys), and splenomegaly (an enlargement of the spleen). Hyperestrogenism in females is considered a risk factor for petechia or ecchymosis. Symptoms of hyperestrogenism include a large vulva and purulent vaginal discharge.


The primary cause of patechia and ecchymosis is thrombocytopenia, which reduces the ferret’s platelet count. Other causes include low levels of blood platelet production, or an increased use or destruction of platelets (known as consumptive coagulopathy). Additional causes of petechia and ecchymosis have been identified in other animals but not yet reported in ferrets; still, they should be considered. These include acquired platelet function disorders such as liver disease, and immune-mediated disease.

Hyperestrogenism, or a heightened level of estrogen hormone, is considered to be a risk factor in female ferrets. Additional risk factors include former administration of aspirin or other Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs).


Measuring the mucosa bleeding time — checking how long it takes for the bleeding of mucous membranes to desist — is one procedure that can be used to diagnose petechia or ecchymosis. Other diagnostic tests may include a bone marrow examination, abdominal ultrasounds to check for splenomegaly, urine analysis, and coagulation studies to test the body’s blood clotting capabilities.

It is imperative that the condition be diagnosed properly and treated accordingly; untreated, a condition such as thrombocytopenia may lead to death caused by hemorrhage to the brain or other vital organs.


Anything that contains pus


A condition in which the spleen becomes enlarged


The genitalia of a female; found on the outside


A cell that aids in clotting


To control bleeding or stop it


The type of female hormone produced in the ovaries that contributes to sex drive and female characteristics


Extreme loss of blood


A patch of bleeding beneath the skin; a bruise


A small hemorrhage

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