Ferrets make great pets; they are cheeky, intrepid and utterly lovable... they are though prone to certain health issues and in order to keep your ferret in tip top condition you need to understand what exactly these are. Some health problems need to be guarded against as they are particular weaknesses. This article sets out to alert you to what these are and what you may do about them.
Whilst ferrets do not have a problem with dogs on a social level, they are however highly susceptible to canine distemper. This disease falls into the ‘guard against’ category as it is fatal. So what are the symptoms?
There is no treatment for this disease and the ferret will die within 3 to 3 ½ weeks if there is no intervention. So you need to vaccinate to gain immunity when the ferret is young. It is recommended that this happens at about the age of 6 to 8 weeks - you should speak to your veterinary about this for further clarification.
Female ferrets, unless intended for breeding, should be spayed at around 6 to 8 months. The reason for this is because when a ferret comes into heat they can remain in that state for as long as 160 days approx. Sustained sexual heat is dangerous to the female ferret and can bring about bone marrow suppression. In turn this can induce severe anaemia.
Take your female ferret to the veterinary – they can be taken out of heat by the use of an injected hormone. After this you need to wait for signs of genitalia regressing before you can have the female safely spayed.
Ferrets are susceptible to several strains of human influenza. For this reason it is best, if you can, to keep away from your ferret if you are ill. Always arrange for someone else to feed them and take care of other needs until you are better. Alternatively you can wear a mask whilst handling them.
Ferrets can be affected by almost all of the usual external parasites that affect dogs and cats. Fleas, mange and ear mites can cause disease in ferrets. If you keep ferrets alongside cats and dogs then you need to be extra careful.
Most commonly passed on by infected cats. Look out for dry scaly patches on the skin. You can use cat treatments for this excluding cat collars.
Commonly enter the blood stream through bites and other injuries where the skin is broken. Check your ferret regularly for signs of wounds and clean the area thoroughly. You may need to speak to a veterinary if the site looks inflamed or your ferret appears unwell.
Both male and female ferrets are prone to urinary stones. They can form within the kidneys and the bladder. This is potentially fatal and is always very painful so treatment is an absolute must. Look out for:
Whilst this is mainly a summer problem it can also happen in the winter – the better insulated your home is the more likely you will be to come across a prostrate ferret... The problem arises because ferrets do not have sweat glands. This compromises their ability to maintain a ‘safe’ body temperature.
Cataracts are a particular weakness in ferrets. They make no distinction between male or female ferrets. Neither do they affect the old more than the young. Behaviour may change as eyesight begins to fail. The ferret may display a lack of confidence or become more nervous than normal, speak to your veterinary about this. try to maintain things in an order that the ferret can become used to as often they adjust very well to being non-sighted.
Finally you should treat your ferret to a regular manicure. Their claws grow long and sharp. Apart from anything else they can become painful for the ferret and occasionally they can catch in furniture and tear. It is possible to learn how to do this yourself but always in the first instance visit your veterinary for help and advice on how best to carry out the procedure.