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Ferrets are often much misaligned in popular culture, but as anyone who has ever spent some time around one will know, they make for excellent pets with really lovely personalities! Within veterinary practices in the UK, ferrets are classed as exotic pets, which means that not every veterinary clinic will be well equipped to deal with any health problems, and you may need to find a specialist vet that can help you if something goes wrong.
In this article, we will look at how to identify good health and condition in the ferret, and some of the signs that something may be amiss, so that you can find your ferret the right help if it should be needed. Read on to learn how to check your ferret over, and identify the normal signs of good health.
The inside of your ferret’s mouth should be moist and dark pink, and the gums should not be tacky to the touch. Your ferret’s breath may not be minty fresh, but neither should it smell foul or rancid.
When you press a finger lightly against your ferret’s gum, the area should refill with blood and turn pink again within a second or two of removing your finger.
Keep an eye out for yellowy gums, bad breath or sticky gums, all of which can be potential signs of problems.
Your ferret’s eyes should be all the way open, moist but not weepy or sticky, and should have clear whites, albeit with a few blood vessels visible. If your ferret is squinting, has glassy eyes or look dull, this may be a sign that something is amiss.
If your pet’s eyes are weepy, inflamed or sore, this too may be a sign of an infection or another problem, which you should speak to your vet about.
When your ferret is dehydrated, they will display a range of symptoms such as a loss of moisture within the mouth, and loss of elasticity of the skin too. You can check your ferret’s hydration level simply by lightly pinching a piece of loose skin between your thumb and finger. In the hydrated ferret, the skin will spring right back into place as soon as you release it, but if your ferret is dehydrated, it will be slower to return to normal.
One thing to note is that even if your ferret’s water bottle is full, the ball in the end of the tube may have got trapped or stuck, and so you should check water bottles carefully to make sure that your ferret is actually able to get to their water.
Ferrets are relatively hardy little animals, and they are also fairly adept at masking pain and discomfort. This means that often, a problem must be quite pronounced before their owners will notice it. Keep an eye out for the following signs of problems:
If your normally calm and affectionate ferret seems to be going through a personality change that makes them irritable, unfriendly or even aggressive, this is one indication that something may be amiss. Tame ferrets rarely become aggressive for no reason, and particularly if they are apt to snap when you touch a certain part of their body, you will need to get them checked out.
Limping or lameness in one or more legs may of course indicate that there is a problem with the limb itself, but it may also indicate a problem with the spine or the nerves as well. If your ferret favours a leg, limps, and winces when you touch a leg or otherwise seems to show signs of discomfort with one of their legs, it is important to get them checked out by the vet as soon as possible.
The abdomen of the ferret is usually relaxed and elastic, and can be freely palpated. However, if something in this region is causing them pain or discomfort, they may take on a hunched up posture, have a taut, tense abdomen, or show signs of pain when you touch them around the belly.
Pain of any sort can lead to rapid, shallow breathing, and so this of course merits further investigation. Changes to the breathing or discomfort, coughing or noisy breathing can all of course be symptoms of something in and of themselves.
The normal body temperature of the healthy ferret is between 100.5-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature over 103 degrees Fahrenheit is a sign that something is wrong, and so it is wise to learn how to take your ferret’s temperature, and get them used to the procedure as part of their normal health checks.
If your ferret is running a fever, get them checked out by your vet ASAP, as this may be the sign of a systemic illness or some form of infection.
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