Urethral Catheterization in Ferrets (Disease Investigation & Management - Treatment and Care)

Summary Information

Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords  
Urethral catheterization in a male ferret
  • Anaesthetise the ferret. (B232.13.w13, J29.6.w3, J34.28.w1, P120.2006.w6) 
  • Appropriate catheters include:
    • 3.5 French red rubber feeding tube; (P120.2006.w6)
    • 3.0 French ferret catheter (Slippery Sam, Global veterinary products). (B602.2.w2, P120.2006.w6)
    • Tomcat catheter (P120.2006.w6)
    • 20-22 gauge eight inch long jugular catheter without stylet. (P120.2006.w6)
    • Catheters manufactured by Cooks veterinary products (B630.11.w11) 
    • 3.5 French red rubber catheter. (B630.11.w11) 
    • 3.5 French silicone urethral catheter (B602.4.w4)
    • 20 to 22 gauge 8 inch jugular catheter. (B602.4.w4)
    • A 3.5 French rubber feeding catheter can be used (J34.28.w1) 
    • Note: 
      • Use a stylet to stiffen the catheter, or use a 20 to 22 gauge, 8 inch jugular catheter with the stylet removed. (B602.2.w2, J34.28.w1)
      • Consider stiffening the catheter by placing a sterile guitar string inside it. (P120.2006.w6)
  • Measure from the prepuce to the bladder to estimate the length needed to reach the bladder, before attempting to insert the catheter (B602.2.w2, P120.2006.w6) and pre-mark the catheter to indicate this length. (P120.2006.w6)
  • Place the ferret in dorsal recumbency. (J29.6.w3)
  • Aseptically prepare the end of the prepuce. (J29.6.w3)
  • Exteriorise the penis. (P120.2006.w6)
    • With one hand, push the prepuce caudally; with the other hand, push on the distal end of the os penis. (J29.6.w3)
    • It may take a few minutes before the penis is exteriorised. (J29.6.w3)
    • If necessary (e.g. penis and prepuce very swollen), make a small incision in the preputial opening to exteriorise the penis. (B602.2.w2, J29.6.w3)
  • Note: The urethral opening is located on the ventral surface of the penis, below the hook in the end of the os penis. (B602.2.w2)
    • Express a small amount ofurine to identify the uretheral opening. (J29.6.w3)
    • Magnification (e.g. a surgical loupe) is useful for this procedure and aids in visualisation of the penile urethral opening. A small incision can be made if there is swelling and catheterisation is difficult. (B602.2.w2, J34.28.w1)
  • Use fine-tipped forceps (gently) to enter and spread the urethral opening. (J29.6.w3)
  • Using a 24-gauge intravenous catheter, flush the urethral opening with saline to dilate it. (B602.2.w2, P120.2006.w6)
  • Lubricate the catheter. (B602.2.w2, P120.2006.w6)
  • Place the urinary catheter alongside the intravenous catheter. (B602.2.w2)
  • Pass the catheter into the urethral opening and through the urethra into the bladder. (P120.2006.w6)
    • Constantly flush with saline. (B602.2.w2, P120.2006.w6)
      • Small amounts of warm saline will assist in passing the catheter. (J29.6.w3)
    • Do not force the catheter as this may result in urethral rupture. The risk is greatest at the pelvic flexure. (P120.2006.w6)
  • Suture the catheter to the skin using butterfly sutures. (J34.28.w1, P120.2006.w6)
    • Suture the catheter to the prepuce and to the skin of the abdomen about 5 cm distally, to stabilise it. (P120.2006.w6)
  • Tape the catheter to the tail. (P120.2006.w6)
  • Tape the administrator port to a tongue depressor to stop kinking of the catheter. (J34.28.w1)
  • Place a padded bandage to hold the catheter in place. (J34.28.w1)
  • Attach a closed urinary collection system. (J34.28.w1, P120.2006.w6)
  • Fit an Elizabethan collar to the ferret to prevent chewing. (P120.2006.w6)
  • If the ferret is very active, bandage the catheter to the abdomen. (P120.2006.w6)
  • Give a broad spectrum antibiotic. (J34.28.w1)
  • Monitor the ferret closely while the catheter is in place. (J34.28.w1)
  • Monitor urine output, serum electrolytes, kidney function. (P120.2006.w6)
Urethral catheterization in a female ferret
  • Anaesthetise the ferret. (J29.6.w3, P120.2006.w6)
  • Place the ferret in ventral recumbency. (B602.2.w2, J29.6.w3, J34.28.w1, P120.2006.w6)
  • Elevate the hind end of the ferret on a towel. (B602.2.w2, J34.28.w1, P120.2006.w6)
  • Aseptically prepare the vulva/perivulval region. (J29.6.w3)
  • Use a vaginal speculum or an otoscope to visualise the urethral opening, which is found on the floor of the urethral vestibule,1.0 - 1.5 cm cranial to the clitoral fossa. (B602.2.w2, J29.6.w3, J34.28.w1, P120.2006.w6)
  • Pass a 3- to 5-French red rubber tube, stiffened with a wire stylet, through the urethral opening and into the bladder. (P120.2006.w6)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • In male ferrets with urethral obstruction due to prostatic enlargement (secondary to adrenal disease). (P120.2006.w6)
  • In male or female ferrets with urethral obstruction due to uroliths. (J29.6.w3, P120.2006.w6)
  • To collect a clean urine sample. (B232.17.w17, J29.6.w3)
  • To introduce radio-opaque dye into the bladder for radiographic studies. (J29.6.w3)
Notes --
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Swelling of the prepuce can make it difficult to see the urethral opening on the ventral side of the penis. (P120.2006.w6)
  • Excessive force on the catheter can rupture the urethra. (P120.2006.w6)
  • Avoid using ketamine in the anaesthetic protocol as this is excreted by the kidneys. (B602.4.w4)
  • The ferret may show poor tolerance for a catheter. (J29.6.w3)
  • There is a risk of the ferret chewing off and swallowing the cap of the catheter or parts of the catheter; these may then become gastro-intestinal foreign bodies. (J29.6.w3)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • 24-gauge intravenous catheter and saline for flushing the urethral opening. (P120.2006.w6)

  • Catheter of an appropriate size: (P120.2006.w6)

    • 3.5 French red rubber feeding tube;
    • 3.0-Franch urinary catheter
    • Tomcat catheter
    • 20-22 gauge eight inch long jugular catheter without stylet.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • This procedure should only be carried out by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical experience.
Cost/ Availability
  • Costs are those associated with anaesthetic, personnel time and consumables.
Legal and Ethical Considerations In some countries there may be legislation restricting the use of this type of technique to licensed veterinarians. For example in the UK: "The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practice veterinary surgery." (see: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Treatment of Animals by Non-Veterinary Surgeons).
Author Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
References B232.17.w17, B602.2.w2, J29.6.w3, J34.28.w1, P120.2006.w6

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