The Ferret Owners Manual

Flu – The ferret is one of the few animals that can catch a human flu virus. Conversely if he has the flu, he can pass it on to humans. (Yes, first hand experience.) If you have a cold or flu (some flu cases are so mild that they seem to be just a cold), try not to handle your ferret until you are well over your symptoms. If you must handle him, do not put him next to your face, or cough of sneeze directly on him. Wash your hands before handling the ferret. Do not allow anyone else who has a cold or flu to handle your ferret.

The flu symptoms in a ferret are similar to those in a human – runny nose, fever and sneezing. As long as the ferret is breathing properly just see that he stays warm and gets plenty of liquids and food, and rest. If the congestion is heavy, a 1/4 ec of pediatric Robitussin or Benadryl, or similar product, may relieve some of the symptoms (always check with your vet first.) NEVER give your ferret any product containing Acetaminophen (Tylenol and similar products) or Ibuprofen (Advil and similar products). Both can be toxic to ferrets, causing fatal liver failure. If the flu symptoms persist for more than 5 days, or the ferret seems especially listless and does not eat or drink, or the ferret’s breathing becomes raspy, see your veterinarian at once. Flu is more serious in the ferret than in humans and can quickly develop into pneumonia.

Another thing to consider if you observe flu-like symptoms is a sinus infection, which may be bacterial.  Have your vet check, since bacterial infections can be serious, cause significant damage, but can be treated with antibiotics, while viral infections can not.

Intestinal Blockage I have previously mentioned the dangers of intestinal blockage in the ferret. If your ferret develops a persistent “cough” or choking that is not accompanied by a runny nose and watery eyes, or he begins vomiting, monitor his food intake and waste elimination closely. Put him in a separate cage with measured amounts of food and water, and a clean litter box. If, after half of a day (and waiting that long is taking a chance), you find that your ferret has not eaten or eliminated, or if the stool is very thin and almost hairlike, rush him to a vet. Do so earlier if the ferret seems to be in pain and bloated. Some blockages move in the stomach and only intermittently block the opening to the intestine; causing intermittent symptoms. An intestinal blockage is fatal if not treated in time, and it is an all too common cause of death.

Protruding Rectum The normal ferret rectum should be flush with the skin. A slightly protruding rectum is not uncommon and may correct itself if the cause can be determined and corrected. Most often it is caused by: feeding a very young ferret hard food too early, a continued feeding of moistened food for too long of a time, causing prolonged diarrhea, or a prolonged period of straining during bowel movement, or some intestinal virus or parasite. If it does not clear up by itself in a few days, if the rectum is bleeding, or the protrusion is very pronounced, take your ferret to a veterinarian as soon as possible. If the protrusion is minor, a human hemorrhoid treatment such as Tuck or Preparation H, may be recommended by your vet.

Falling  –  Many of the injuries suffered by ferrets are the result of a fall. Being extremely nearsighted, they can mistake a major height for a short jump. The results can be anything from sprains, to broken bones, to internal injuries. If your ferret has suffered a fall, examine him carefully. Obviously bent or disjointed limbs require immediate medical attention. If nothing is immediately obvious, observe his movements. If he limps or has trouble coordinating his back leg movements, seek medical attention immediately. If he seems normal, monitor his bowel movements. A tarry-looking stool is a sign of internal injuries and requires medical attention. Lethargy is also a sign of potential internal injury, as is abdominal tenderness.


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