Prevalence of deafness and association with coat variations in client-owned ferrets

J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2014 May 1;244(9):1047-52. doi: 10.2460/javma.244.9.1047.


Objective: To evaluate the prevalence of congenital sensorineural deafness (CSD) and its association with phenotypic markers in client-owned ferrets.

Design: Epidemiological study.

Animals: 152 healthy European pet ferrets.

Procedures: Brainstem auditory evoked response tests were recorded in ferrets during general anesthesia. Phenotypic markers such as sex, coat color and pattern, coat length (Angora or not), and premature graying trait were assessed.

Results: Overall, 44 of the 152 (29%) ferrets were affected by CSD; 10 (7%) were unilaterally deaf, and 34 (22%) were bilaterally deaf. There was no association between CSD and sex or Angora trait, but a strong association between CSD and white patterned coat or premature graying was identified. All panda, American panda, and blaze ferrets were deaf.

Conclusions and clinical relevance: The ferrets in this study had a high prevalence of CSD that was strictly associated with coat color patterns, specifically white markings and premature graying. This seemed to be an emerging congenital defect in pet ferrets because white-marked coats are a popular new coat color. Breeders should have a greater awareness and understanding of this defect to reduce its prevalence for the overall benefit of the species.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem / physiology
  • Female
  • Ferrets*
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / congenital
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / epidemiology
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / veterinary*
  • Male
  • Pigments, Biological*


  • Pigments, Biological