YOUR FERRETS' HEALTH
Keeping your ferrets fit and healthy
You should check your ferrets regularly for any signs of ill health. Take young ferrets to the vet once a year for a check-up. Once they reach the age of 3 or older, take them twice a year to your vet. If you notice one of your ferrets is showing a change in behaviour or has changed their eating or drinking patterns, seek the advice of a vet as soon as possible.
Vaccinate your ferrets once a year. They should be vaccinated against canine distemper and, if you’re travelling abroad, rabies. Both can be fatal so it’s really important to keep on top of your ferrets’ vaccinations.
Common health problems
Canine distemper is a contagious virus that appears mainly in dogs. It’s easily spread between dogs, but can also be passed onto ferrets and foxes. Due to vaccinations, outbreaks are rare here in the UK. However, canine distemper does still appear in Europe and it can be brought over. Symptoms in ferrets include discharge from the eyes and ears, diarrhoea and skin rashes. To prevent your ferrets from catching the virus, make sure to vaccinate them when they’re young and then every year. Talk to your vet for more information.
Fleas affect ferrets in the same way they affect dogs and cats. However, when treating fleas on ferrets it’s important to use a product that is ferret safe. Ask your vet for more information on a ferret friendly flea treatment. You also need to treat your ferret’s environment and your other ferrets. If your ferret is itching intensely, it may be due to flea allergy dermatitis. This is when your ferret has a reaction to a flea’s saliva when it bites your ferret. If you have any concerns, contact your vet.
Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease)
Cushing’s disease is a condition that can develop when a ferret’s adrenal glands (located near their kidneys) become overactive and produce too much steroid. This can result in alopecia, or hair loss. Additionally, the vulva can become enlarged in female ferrets, even if they’re neutered. Male ferrets can experience difficulty passing urine as their prostate becomes enlarged. If you notice any of these symptoms, take your ferret to a vet as soon as possible.
Ear wax and ear mites
Ferrets are prone to mites and ear mites. The signs to look out for are dirty, waxy ears, your ferrets scratching around their head or ears and your ferrets shaking their heads. If one of your ferrets has mites, take all of your ferrets to the vet for a check-up and treatment.
Diarrhoea is a serious issue in ferrets. It can be fatal in ferrets, so make sure you are following a strict hygiene regime to help prevent it. Ferrets can also become dehydrated very quickly, so make sure they are drinking plenty of fresh, clean water. If your ferret is producing green or black diarrhoea, take them to the vet immediately. This is could be a sign of Green Slime Virus which is very serious and potentially fatal. It is also highly contagious.
Ferret health check
You know your ferret best. If you think one of your ferrets isn’t behaving as normal or seems unwell, it is best to contact your vet as soon as possible and get them checked over.
Behaviour: Your ferrets are most active at dawn and dusk, so that’s the best time to see them having fun! When your ferrets are up and about, keep an eye on how they’re behaving. Check if they seem to have less energy than normal, if they’re sleeping more and whether they are eating and drinking as usual
Body: When handling your ferrets, take note if they’re sensitive to touch or seem to be in pain. Also keep an eye on any lumps or bumps
Eyes: Check regularly for any signs of discharge from your ferret’s eyes
Mobility: When your ferrets are alert and having fun playing around, keep an eye on how well they’re moving and if they are limping
Nose: Check your ferret’s nose regularly for any signs of discharge
Skin and coat: Keep an eye on your ferrets’ coat for any signs of fur loss and check their skin for any open wounds
Neutering your ferrets
If a jill isn’t mated or neutered, she will continue to cycle in oestrus, or season. This results in high circulating oestrogen levels which can lead to hair loss or anaemia. This can be very dangerous and even life-threatening. It is a good idea to seek advice from your vet to understand the different options available for neutering or using medication to stop the season.
Neutering hobs is ideal for avoiding unwanted pregnancies and can decrease ferret odour. There are various options so please seek the advice of your vet for more information.
DO YOU NEED MORE ADVICE?
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If you should have any concerns about the health of your pet, always consult a vet.