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Did You Know?

- Ferrets lack a cecum to digest/ process fuits and vegetables.

- A ferrets left lung has 2 lobes, while the right has 4.

- A ferrets body contains 14 or 15 pairs of ribs.

- A kit has 30 baby teeth, while an adult has 34.

- Food fully travels throughout their system in 3 hours.

Ferret Health/ Illness Overview



The first and most important thing you can do for your ferret is to ensure you have a "ferret knowledgeable"veterinarian. For after hours emergencies, you should find out where they refer their clients, that has ferret-savy veterinarians present. When your ferret is ill, they can turn for the worse very quickly, and you CANNOT afford to wait a day or so or even hours in some circumstances. You should have a vet that is close by (even if they are just a back-up) where you could bring your ferret at any time; their life could depend on it!

It is important to note that unlike cats and dogs, ferrets DO catch and transmit the human flu. You should avoid being around (close) and touching your ferret if either of you is ill. If you must handle your ferret you should wash your hands before and after handling, and avoid breathing on them. It cannot be stressed enough that whenever your ferret is under the weather, not acting normal, looks funny etc., you should ALWAYS take them to the vet for a check-up! The longer you wait the worse the illness can get and very quickly.

If you acquire a young ferret, it is very common for them to have a prolapsed rectum. This usually is caused by young ferrets being fed hard food at an early age, which is a little rough on their system. This condition will usually clear up on it's own within a week, but you can help comfort your ferret by applying a small amount of Preparation-H. If the rectum does not recede on it's own within a few days or appears to be getting infected, you should take the ferret to the vet, as medical attention might be necessary in order to correct.

As previously mentioned, when our ferrets get ill, they can get worse very quickly. It is important to keep a close eye on them, and ensure they are eating and drinking to avoid dehydration and loss of nutrients/electrolytes. You can also add electrolytes to their water in order to restore any that are lost and promote fluid intake. If your ferret does become dehydrated, they will most likely need to be administered sub fluids to restore the loss quickly.

It is a good idea to get your ferret accustomed to a mush type food before they are ill and not eating on their own. There are a wide variety of different recipes out called "Duck Soup", but the most popular and simplest is Gerber's Chicken stage 2 baby food. The food should be slightly warm to the touch (NOT HOT), and can be feed by finger, spoon or syringe. At first your ferret will most likely not be interested, but after a few try's/days they will start eating it on their own and look forward to it as a treat. Do not wait until your ferret is sick first before trying the Gerber's or Duck Soup! When they are ill, it is very important that they eat and take in the required nutrients or additional health problems will occur. You can also provide Prescription Diet AD, which can be obtained from your veterinarian. Either one can be feed for an extended period of time if necessary, as they contain all the necessary ingredients at the correct levels.

Ill ferrets may not be interested in eating any food (even if finger fed), so it is up to you to ensure they do. You should always have feeding syringes (NO NEEDLES) on hand; 35cc catheter tip. Getting the tip into the side or front of their mouth, you will need to SLOWLY push the food through the syringe, giving them time to swallow. Too much at once could lead into choking and/or aspiration, so take your time. A ferret not eating on their own should be fed aprox 25-35cc of food every 3-4 hours, for a daily intake of about 80 - 120 cc's.

Ferrets are by nature very clean animals, and do accumulate hairball's like cats do. Unlike cats however, ferrets do not generally posses the reflux motion to cough up any hairball accumulations (though some have been know to do so). The best prevention is to provide them with Laxatone/Petromalt on a weekly basis in order to lessen any accumulations from developing in their system. Some of the signs can be pencil thin poops, not pooping at all, refusing to eat, etc. If you suspect that your ferret might have a hairball or swallowed something they shouldn't have that is not being passed, take him to the vet immediately, as an operation might be warranted for it's removal. This situation can be life threatening to your ferret, so please do not wait.

While for the most parts, ferrets are sturdy animals, you should be prepared to react quickly. They are very good at hiding their illness/discomfort until it is very bad, challenging us to know they are ill prior to physical symptoms sometimes. Beginning at the age of 3 - 4, they are susceptible to two very common diseases that will need your attention and medical care for the rest of their lives, Insulinoma and Adrenal Disease. Both, at some point, will require surgical intervention, and you should be prepared for it financially if/when needed.

The most heartbreaking/heart wrenching thing to hear, is that a ferret (or any animal) was turned into a shelter or put down because their owner felt their life wasn't worth the expense of saving. When they need us the most, some folks find it easy to turn their back on them leaving the burden many times up to a shelter to pay the expense. Please make sure before bringing any pet into your home that you have the resources to tend to their needs emotionally and financially. If you cannot supply both, please reconsider bringing any pet into your home. They are a member of your family, and deserve to be treated as such.

There are certain tests that you should plan on having done on a routine basis (at least annually): a blood glucose test, and Adrenal Panel. Both test will be able to assist you in identifying the early stages of Insulinoma and Adrenal Disease and perhaps provide you with more treatment options. While A CBC and Chemistry Panel does provide a wealth of information, it's main purpose is it identifyand monitor a problem already going on. They are a snapshot of that moment in time, with several variables influencing the outcome. They really cannot be used as a means of measurement as the blood glucose and Adrenal Panel can.

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Health Tid Bits

- Ferret's normal rectal temperature is between 100 - 104 with 101.9 being the average.

- Heart rate is 180 - 250 bpm with 225 being average.

- Respiration is 33-36 per minute.

- Normal urine pH is 6.5 - 7.5

- Blood volume is 60-80 ml/ kg.

- Ferrets do possess toxoplasmosis in their systems. However, unlike cats they cannot release/ shed the infected eggs back into the environment, they hit a dead end, so humans cannot catch the disease.

All content on this site has been researched and authored by Brenda (webmaster).

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