The Ferret Owners Manual

Hypothyroid – Another possibility that may be seen in older ferrets which mimic some of the signs of an adrenal tumor is caused by a decreased secretion of the thyroid gland. Signs of hypothyroid may include lethargy, thin and brittle hair, and weight gain. The hair near the rear end may be thinner than the rest of the body leading some to think of an adrenal tumor. A simple blood test can check the thyroid levels. What once was considered “low-normal”, a 1.5 result is now being considered “abnormal-low.” Medication can improve the thyroid functioning, although the ferret’s thyroid level should be checked monthly.

Ulcers Prolonged stress (such as from adding a new ferret to an established ferret home) or changing foods, and/or an infection by Helicobacter mustelae bacteria may eventually lead to a stomach ulcer. Symptoms are usually, but not always, a black tarry stool. Sometimes the pain of the ulcer may cause the ferret to grind his teeth. He may show loss of appetite and lethargy. Your vet will usually prescribe a combination of treatments. Sulcrafate, made into a suspension in water, will coat and protect the raw stomach tissue. Amoxicillin combined with Metronidazole (Flagyl) will often be prescribed to kill the bacteria. Pepto Bismol may also be suggested both to sooth the stomach and, due to the bismuth in it, help kill the heliobactor. Generally such treatment works best if continued for at least a month.  An alternate treatment consists of a combination of Clarithromycin and Ranitidine bismuth citrate. Both of these treatments must be administered for at least 14 days or longer.

Fleas and Ticks – fleas and even ticks seem to be a normal part of summer in many parts of the country. They may come in on pant legs, other animals or perhaps be picked up by the ferret during a walk outside. A large flea infestation can, if left untreated, lead to anemia in a ferret. A high quality, kitten safe flea spray such as VetChem, available from your veterinarian, is a good quick-fix for fleas. Begin at the neck then work down to the tail. Finally spray some on your hands and rub it thoroughly over the neck, head, ears, and muzzle. You will also have to treat the rugs, carpets and upholstered furniture to make sure you have all of the newly hatched fleas.

A good preventative for fleas are the newer products such as Frontline or Advantage. Although not tested on ferrets it does seem to be safe and effective. I use Frontline spray at our shelter, simply spraying one squirt down the ferret’s back, then rubbing it well until it dries. It is bath proof and is effective for at least a month.


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