Epizootic Catarrhal Enteritis (ECE)
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"Epizootic" refers to a disease which is epidemic in animals, "catarrhal" means containing mucous, and "enteritis" means it affects the intestine.


ECE is a viral diarrhea that is often called the "Green Slime" disease or simply "The Greenies." Its first widespread appearance was in the U.S. Northeast, circa 1993. Since then it has spread across the U.S. and into Canada. Recent reports claim it has appeared in Europe, though this is unverified.


Symptoms can vary from ferret to ferret. The ferret can have anywhere from projectile diarrhea to slimy green stools that are mostly mucous and very soft but not liquid. Sometimes, the stools are yellow and full of mucous, and may often have an appearance like birdseed is in the stool. Some ferrets will vomit the first day or two, others don't. They will want to do nothing but sleep and when awake, look obviously ill with eyes narrowed and watery. The ferret usually will not eat or drink and if not force fed and hydrated, could die in a short amount of time.

These symptoms usually appear within 48-72 hours of introducing a new ferret into the household. Baby ferrets bought at the pet store seem to be responsible for many of these cases and these babies rarely have symptoms themselves. Also, the simple act of holding a ferret carrying the virus and then going home to your ferret can bring the infection into your home.


There is NO test for ECE. There are one or two researchers in the U.S. that can identify the virus, but in general, diagnosis is done by clinical signs, by knowing the history of the ferret or owner's contact with other possible carriers and by elimination of other possible causes of illness. There are many causes of diarrhea and if the owner or the ferret has not been in contact with any other ferrets for a few weeks prior to the onset of diarrhea, it's unlikely that a ferret with diarrhea has ECE. 


There is no medicine or drug that will treat ECE directly. Many vets will prescribe antibiotics to control any secondary infections made possible by the ferret's stressed immune system. ECE has only recently been positively determined to be viral in origin, and as such, antibiotics will have no effect on the virus. Prednisone is often used to reduce inflammation and this will often help to get the ferret eating again.
Treatment is primarily supportive in nature. The ferret MUST eat and drink. If it won't eat on its own, then it must be force fed both food and water. A ferret will die from dehydration long before it starves to death, and diarrhea causes severe dehydration, so fluids are essential.

There are many Duck Soup Recipes that can be fed to your ferret to support him or her during the onslaught of ECE; however, Gerber's chicken baby food is probably the simplest and at the same time, the best. It can't be stressed enough that your ferret has to eat and drink, no matter how much it doesn't feel like doing so. Feed at least 4 times a day, more if the ferret can only be made to eat small amounts. The bare minimum required for survival is 20cc's (1 teaspoon = 5 cc's) three times a day.