The Ferret Owners Manual

Heat Stroke Ferrets do not do well in excessive heat. Prolonged temperatures above 85 –

90 degrees F, can be fatal to a ferret. If the weather is hot, and if you see your ferret panting, he is in extreme stress and needs immediate attention. Dip him into tepid (not cool or cold) water to bring down his temperature. Cold water may put him into shock, so use tepid water only to lower his body temperature, then get him to a vet immediately. At this point he may be seriously dehydrated and only your vet can quickly rehydrate him. Heat stroke will usually lead to organ shut-down and death.

Fans are not effective in keeping a ferret cool. Fans feel cool to humans because humans perspire. The moving air stirred up by the fan aids in evaporation of the perspiration. It’s the evaporation that cools your skin. Since ferrets don’t perspire, the moving air will not cool them to any significant degree.

If you don’t have air conditioning in your home and the temperature is approaching 85+, you might try filling several, large, plastic soda bottles about 3/4 full of water and freeze them. Once the water is frozen, wrap the bottle in a thin towel and place it on the floor, perhaps in a shallow box, where your ferret can wrap themselves around them. As the ice melts, replace the bottle with a frozen one.

Heartworm Ferrets are susceptible to heartworm. The heartworm larva is transmitted by mosquito to the ferret. Once inside the ferret it migrates to the heart where it grows to the point that it interferes with the functioning of the heart. Treatment is very difficult, usually involving treatment with ivermectin and other drugs over at least a six month period. Survival from heartworm is estimated at about 50/50.

During the mosquito season, in those parts of the country where heartworm is prevalent, the ferret should receive a monthly dose of a heartworm preventative, which is available through your veterinarian in several different forms. Some ferrets prefer the chewable tablet. Some will only take it if you mash up the pill form and mix it with Ferretone. If your vet has the necessary equipment, he can formulate a very dilute solution of ivermectin and glycol which you can give your ferret once a month. Heartworm is much more easily prevented than cured.

Cardiomyopathy – Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart. It is usually seen only in older ferrets. The heart muscle becomes progressively weaker to the point that it can no longer efficiently pump. This results in the heart becoming enlarged and the tissue, thinner and weaker. Fluid will build up in the abdomen. As the fluid expands it begins to put pressure on the nearby lungs, causing a persistent cough. Fluid may also build up in the abdomen to the point that it has to be withdrawn by needle and syringe. A ferret that seems to tire quickly and has a chronic cough should be examined for this ailment. The earlier the treatment is started, the greater the probability that the ferret will live a relatively longer life.

Although not scientifically proven to be effective, some ferret owners believe that a combination of vitamin E (5 IU per kg of ferret weight) and Coenzyme Q-10 (0.3 mg per kg) once a day in a “Duck Soup” (less the Ensure and Ferretvite) may help stabilize the condition. Never administer such supplements in place of prescribed medications, and never without approval from your vet.

The disease is usually progressive, but its course can be slowed through the oral administration of diuretics.


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