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
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
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.