Ferret Health and Illness Overview

The most important thing you should do before you buy a ferret (or right after you get a ferret) is to make SURE that you have a “ferret knowledgeable” veterinarian. This is crucial, because, surprisingly enough, most veterinarians aren’t the most knowledge when it comes to our favorite little cat snakes. Once you find a veterinarian that is knowledgeable on ferrets the second most important thing is to find out where they send ferrets in need of emergency care. The last thing you want to do is have a sick weasel that you can’t attend to because your main veterinarian clinic is closed due to things being outside of normal operating hours. A ferret has an incredibly fast metabolism and a few hours to a day can be the difference between life or death!!!

A lot of people are under the assumption that they can not transmit human flu to their ferret. This is absolutely false. Unlike cats and dogs, ferrets DO catch and transmit the human flu virus. This is very dangerous for your pet so you need to be sure that you avoid being around or even touching your ferret if you or anyone in your house is ill. If there is absolutely no way around handling your ferret then you need to be sure to wash your hands before and after each encounter and obviously, you should avoid breathing on them. I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to take your ferret to the vet when it seems to be under the weather or acting abnormally. Illness runs quickly through these little guys and the sooner you get them the care they need the better chances of survival and minimal issue will be.

It is extremely common for young ferrets to have a prolapsed rectum. This is usually caused by a young ferret being fed hard food which is tougher on their system than they are ready for. This can easily be cleared up within a week and you can provide assistance to your ferret by applying a very small amount of preparation H. Of course, if the rectum does not recede on it’s own or within a few days of preparation H application you will want to take your ferret to the vet as medical attention may be necessary to resolve this issue.

As previously mentioned, ferrets can take a turn for the worse when they get ill very quickly. Close attention must be paid to the ferret to ensure it is eating and drinking as it should. Dehydration can hit a ferret in a heart beat and spell disaster for you and your little one. Electrolytes can be added to their water to restore any lost nutrients and promote fluid intake. Sub fluids may become necessary if your ferret becomes dehydrated as this will quickly get them replenished.

It is a good idea to get your ferret accustomed to a mush type food before they are ill and not eating on their own. There are a wide variety of different recipes out called “Duck Soup”, but the most popular and simplest is Gerber’s Chicken stage 2 baby food. The food should be slightly warm to the touch (NOT HOT), and can be feed by finger, spoon or syringe. At first your ferret will most likely not be interested, but after a few try’s/days they will start eating it on their own and look forward to it as a treat. Do not wait until your ferret is sick first before trying the Gerber’s or Duck Soup! When they are ill, it is very important that they eat and take in the required nutrients or additional health problems will occur. You can also provide Prescription Diet AD, which can be obtained from your veterinarian. Either one can be feed for an extended period of time if necessary, as they contain all the necessary ingredients at the correct levels.

When a ferret becomes ill they will sometimes show zero interest in eating or drinking. It is your duty to ensure they take food in. Always keep feeding syringes with you on hand (no needles). Get the tip of the syringe in the ferret’s mouth and from there you can administer food. It is usually easiest to place the syringe in the side or front of their mouth. The key to getting the ferret to take the food in is the slow administration of food through the syringe. Too much at once can cause the ferret to choke and that is the last thing we want! Any ferret that is not eating on it’s own should be fed manually (25-35 CC of food) every 3 to 4 hours. This will bring the daily intake around 80-120 CC’s

Ferrets are by their own nature, very clean animals, but they can and do accumulate hairballs just like a cat would. Cats have an advantage though when this occurs as they have the natural reflux motion to cough up any hairball buildups. The best way to prevent a ferret from suffering from a hairball build up is to administer Laxatone / Petromalt on a weekly schedule. This will lessen any hairball accumulation they are experiencing. Some signs of a hairball buildup are: pencil thin poops, not pooping at all, not eating, etc! If you believe your ferret has a hairball that is causing the symptoms listed or possibly they have swallowed something else, please take them to the vet immediately. The last thing you want to do is lose a ferret due to something that was completely preventable.

Ferrets are extremely durable and sturdy animals. That being said, you should be prepared to react very quickly to your ferret. They are exceptional at hiding any illness or discomfort that they may be experiencing until it is very serious. Try to pay attention to your ferret so that you will know if they are ill before they begin showing physical symptoms. Something like slight behavior change can be a big giveaway for this. Around the age of 3 or 4 years old they are very susceptible to two very common diseases that will need attention and medical care for the rest of their lives. These are Insulinoma and Adrenal Disease. Both of these illnesses / diseases will require surgical intervention and you should be prepared for it. Place a savings back for when the event arises as it can be a financial burden that most are unable to handle.

It is incredibly saddening to know that a ferret (or any animal for that matter) was turned into a shelter or put down because the owner didn’t feel like the animal’s life was worth the expensive treatments necessary to save them. Please make sure before bringing any pet into your house, but more specifically a ferret, that you are ready for the financial investment that may be required of you in order to care for them. A small savings account specifically for health needs alleviates a lot of the issues and enables owners to take care of their weasels without the worry of debt. A ferret is a member of your family and should definitely be treated as such!

There are certain tests that you should plan on having done on a routine basis (at least annually): a blood glucose test, and Adrenal Panel. Both test will be able to assist you in identifying the early stages of Insulinoma and Adrenal Disease and perhaps provide you with more treatment options. While A CBC and Chemistry Panel does provide a wealth of information, it’s main purpose is it identifyand monitor a problem already going on. They are a snapshot of that moment in time, with several variables influencing the outcome. They really cannot be used as a means of measurement as the blood glucose and Adrenal Panel can.

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