Aleutians Disease (ADV) Testing Information


Aleutian Mink Disease Virus, or ADV, is a parvovirus that infects mink, ferrets, raccoons, skunks, and possibly other members of the Mustilidae family. ADV is a very hardy virus and can live outside the body of a host for a long period of time. It is believed that there are multiple strains of ADV that can affect ferrets. Like different strains of the flu in humans, some strains of ADV may be more contagious and more deadly.

The greatest danger of ADV is that an animal can have the disease and be spreading it without showing any symptoms. At this time, it is unknown what the incubation period is (how long after exposure before symptoms develop) or what the shedding period is (when the infected animal can spread the disease). ADV can be either active (symptoms are apparent) or non-active (the animal tests positive for ADV, but appears clinically healthy). ADV is passed via saliva, feces, urine, and in the placenta. Some studies in Europe have indicated that the virus may also be airborne. The most likely means of spread of the disease is by contact with contaminated surfaces.

In ferrets, the symptoms of ADV can mimic many other ailments, including a chronic progressive wasting, progressive hind end paralysis, muscle wasting, tremors, urinary incontinence, lethargy, pallor, enlarged spleen, tarry feces, and death. Active ADV causes massive dysfunction of the immune system, with the accumulation of plasma cells in the various organs, and the presence of massive amounts of antibodies in the bloodstream, which cause vascular degeneration and inhibit clotting. Over time these changes will become more serious, and usually begin to affection the function of the liver and kidneys. Most ferrets with active ADV die of liver or kidney failure at the end of the disease.

There are still currently more questions about this disease than there are answers. There is no known cure for ADV, nor is there currently a vaccine against the disease. The Pennsylvania Ferret Club & Shelter believes that until more is known about this disease, the only responsible thing that we can do when inviting hundreds of ferret owners and their ferrets to our events is to require that all ferrets in attendance have been tested for this disease.


Testing is very easy to do and is not expensive. For admittance to Ferret Fandango, your ferret must have proof of negative ADV test dated within one year of the the day of the show (but since proof must be signed by the testing agent and mailed to you, be sure you allow processing and postal mail time. We recommend you mail your samples for testing at least two weeks in advance of the show to ensure you will receive your signed test results in time for the show.You will NOT be allowed in the show hall without proof of negative test.) The only acceptable form of proof of testing is listed below. Please note that testing through your veterinarian will generally not provide you with the proof of testing that we require; if you intend to test through your vet instead of at home, please share these instructions with your vet.

We cannot make an exception to our testing requirement, please don’t ask. 

Blue Cross CEP Test: The CEP test is a blood test. You can obtain the sample yourself without having to see a veterinarian, or if you feel more comfortable, you can have the blood drawn by your vet. (Please note: if you have your vet draw the blood for you, you should still send the sample to Blue Cross yourself. If your vet submits the sample, you may not be able to obtain the original lab result certificate from your vet, AND, vets tend to charge much more than you will pay if you send the sample in.) If you choose to collect your own sample, it can be achieved by clipping your ferret’s claw through the ‘quick,’ causing it to bleed. For testing instructions, call Blue Cross at (208) 678-5553 or see instructions courtesy of the American Ferret Association. You must bring the original results from Blue Cross to the show for admittance; photocopies and faxes are not acceptable!

It should be noted that neither of these tests can predict whether or not your ferret will actually become sick with ADV or if it will even spread the disease. The tests only show the presence of antibodies to ADV, which indicates only exposure to the disease. In fact, studies have shown that only a small percentage of ferrets that have tested positive for ADV will actually become clinically sick from the disease.

A few ways to help keep your ferret safe from ADV

Do not turn your ferrets loose around the other ferrets you do not know are negative for ADV. Do not allow strangers to handle your ferrets, and do not handle stranger’s ferrets. When attending ferret shows or frolics with your ferrets, make sure the organizers are following sensible sanitation procedures. When purchasing or adopting a new ferret, find out if it has been tested for ADV. If possible, request testing by the seller before purchasing; if that is not possible, we advise temporarily housing your ferret separate from your other ferrets (preferably at a friend or relative’s home) until you receive your testing results. By taking a few precautions, you keep your ferret safe, happy, and healthy.

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