The Ferret Owners Manual

Ear-Cleaning The ferret’s ears will build up a reddish wax that should be removed about once a month. One of the best ways of cleaning the ears is to let the ferret do most of the work. Drop some ear cleaning solution (such as Chlorhexi-Derm Flush – available from your vet) or similar solution) deep into the ear and massage for a few moments. Then let the ferret shake. Much of the ear wax will be shaken out. What’s left on the surface can be cleaned out with a cotton swab.

If the wax is a dark gray and the ear has an unpleasant odor, it is likely that ear mites are

present. If your eyesight is keen and you have a magnifying glass you may be able to see the white mite if you rub the ear wax on a piece of dark paper. Look for a slowly moving white dot. (Make sure that the diagnosis for ear mites is confirmed by a microscopic examination of a swab.) Commercially available ear mite medicine will work eventually, but your veterinarian has medications (in particular a very dilute solution of ivermectin) that will work much faster and with more positive results. Clean the ears thoroughly before using any of the ear mite medicines.

Teeth Cleaning Like human teeth, ferret’s teeth will build up a layer of tarter which, left untreated, may lead to teeth and gum disease. If you feed your ferret a dry ferret food and keep the treats to a minimum, the rate of tarter build-up should be low. Eventually though, the teeth will take on a yellowish hue, sometimes with brown spots near the gum line, and it will be time for a through cleaning.

Some people claim to have great success doing this at home. I’m not one of them. This I leave in the skilled hands of our veterinarian. There is no way I want to try to hold a squirming, wriggling, unhappy ferret while I attempt to scrape his teeth up under the gum line with a sharp dental tool. Our ferrets get their annual dental check-up along with their annual vaccinations. Much easier on everyone.

The vet checks for cracked or broken teeth (especially canines) and for indications of gum abscesses and, of course, tarter build-up. The teeth should be scaled well up under the gum line where tartar may cause serious gum diseases. Such a deep cleaning is usually done under a general anesthetic. Our vet also polishes the teeth after he is done scaling them in order to seal the surface of the teeth against decay.

Odor Control A healthy ferret should only have a very slight, musky odor. If you notice a strong unpleasant odor, it could be do to a number of things:

  • Don’t bath the ferret unless it’s absolutely necessary (remove mud, syrup, etc.). Think of bathing them about as often as you would a cat. It’s usually not necessary, and will greatly increase the odor. The more you bathe the ferret, the more oil their skin will produce. The more oil, the greater the odor.
  • Check the package label on the ferret food. If fish or fish product is listed in the first 1 – 5 places on the ingredient list, it may be the source of the odor. Fish based food smells bad in the food bowl and coming out the other end.
  • Be sure to change the ferret’s bedding at least once a week. The bedding will pick up and hold the oil from their skin, and over time will begin to develop a strong odor.
  • Dip/change (depending on the type of litter you use) the litter daily. Empty and scrub the litter box at least once a week. Wipe out the cage floor with an animal-safe cleaner such Simple Green.
  • Check the ferret’s ears for ear mites. As mentioned above, ear mites can produce a strong, unpleasant odor around the ears. Your vet can check for and treat these if necessary.
  • If the urine smells unusually strong, have the vet check for kidney disease.

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