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Signs Your Ferret May be in Pain or Experiencing Discomfort

Signs Your Ferret May be in Pain or Experiencing Discomfort

Ferrets are glorious little creatures that can keep owners amused for hours on end. Ferrets are clever and can be taught to do certain tricks and although they do tend to sleep a lot during the day when they wake up there's no stopping them which is why they make such wonderful house pets and why more people than ever choose to share their homes and lives with these energetic fur balls.

However, when they are not quite themselves you need to recognise there may be a problem because the earlier your pet is treated, the less discomfort they have to go through and the more chance they have of making a full recovery. Below are just a few signs that a ferret might be experiencing some discomfort and would therefore need to go to the vet. Once their condition is correctly diagnosed and then treated with the right medication, they will soon be back on the road to recovery and their old playful selves again.

Scratching Themselves Incessantly

When your pet starts scratching incessantly, it could be because they have picked up a few fleas, lice or parasites. You would need to invest in a specifically formulated treatment for use on ferrets which you should be able to get from your vet. Never use any treatments that have been formulated for other animals because it could prove fatal to ferrets. If they are scratching at their ears this could be because of ear mites and again you should get a treatment from your vet to alleviate the scratching and get rid of the parasites that are attacking their ears.

Lumps Around Their Bottoms

You also need to keep an eye on your pet's anal glands which occasionally become blocked. Should this be the case, you may find your pet dragging their bottoms across the floor or there may be lumps around their back ends. It is really important you take them to the vet because if your pet ruptures a gland, it can lead to a very serious and painful infection.

Inflamed & Swollen Vulva

Female ferrets which are called Jills, may well suffer from inflamed and swollen vulvas especially if they have not been spayed. Your pet may well show the following symptoms if this is the case:

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • No appetite
  • Loss of hair

The reason this condition flares up is because your pet is producing too much oestrogen when they are on heat which then stops the production red and white blood cells which in turn could lead to a condition known as aplastic anaemia. If caught early enough, the condition can be reversed but only by having a female spayed. However, if the condition goes on for too long, your pet may need to have blood transfusions and if in it's extreme advanced stage, your pet may need to be put to sleep. This is why it is so very important to have ferrets spayed.

Lethargy, No Energy & Collapse

Ferrets are typically busy little creatures when they are awake and there's nothing they like more than running around and investigating all that's going on. So when you find your pet is listless and showing no signs of being interested with things that are going on around them – it could be a sure sign things are not quite right.

When ferrets have no energy, lethargic or if they collapse, these could be symptoms of a heart problem known as cardiomyopathy. Other symptoms which may be apparent include coughing excessively, a build-up of fluids and difficulty in staying awake or even waking up. Cardiomyopathy in ferrets can be a hereditary disorder for which there is no known cure. However, on the upside there are treatments available which help manage the condition very effectively.

If you have any concerns that your ferret may be suffering from the condition, a trip to the vet would be in order for a correct diagnosis to be made followed up by a recommended treatment.

Excessive Panting

Excessive panting could a sign your ferret is suffering from heat stroke which has to be taken very seriously. Ferrets don't have the ability to sweat which means when the temperature rises, the core temperature of their bodies rises too which then means they overheat. If air temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you need to keep a close eye on your pet and make sure they are cool and comfortable.

If you find your ferret is panting a lot and they then pass out, you need to try to cool them down by using damp towels making absolutely sure they are not too cold and then get your pet to the vet as a matter of urgency taking them there wrapped in cool, wet towels.

Crusty Eyes and/or Rashes

Both crusty eyes and rashes are two symptoms that a ferret may be suffering from a serious condition known as distemper. Other symptoms to watch out for which are often apparent include the following:

  • Hard paw pads
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures

Sadly, ferrets are prone to contracting distemper and there is no known treatment for the condition which means they need to be put to sleep to prevent them from suffering unnecessarily.

The good news is there is a vaccine against distemper which your ferret must have in order to keep this nasty and fatal condition at bay. The vaccine consists of a series of injections which a qualified vet must administer and then give you a record of your pet's vaccination dates and when they are next due.

Loss of Muscle, Muscle Wastage, Loss of Skin Tone

When it comes to the different forms of cancer that affect ferrets, there are many symptoms to watch out for. However, obvious signs that cancer may be an issue include the following:

  • Hair loss
  • Poor coat condition
  • Itchy, flaky skin
  • Red patches on the body
  • Fat deposits on the abdomen
  • A strong, musky odour

Although there are no cures available for cancer, certain conditions can be kept under control through some effective treatments which are readily available through vets. With this said, it is very important for all pets both ferrets and others, to have regular health checks not only to keep their vaccinations up to date but also to undergo a thorough examination to make sure nothing untoward is going on. A cancer that's caught early is much more likely to be treatable and therefore kept under control through the right type of medication and treatment than if it is caught further down the line.


Ferrets like all pets can go through their entire lives without getting sick. However, knowing and recognising any early signs that something is not quite right, means catching an illness or disease early. Not only does this make the condition more treatable but it also helps your pet from having to go through a lot of unnecessary pain and discomfort. Early detection of an illness increases the chances of your ferret making a full recovery so they are back to their playful selves as soon as possible.