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.
Topics: the ferret manual