Ferret Health 101

I’m not a vet, so everything you read here about ferret health are just basic guidelines. Always make an appointment with your vet when you think your fuzzbutt is a bit “off”.

The most important thing you should do is find a vet who has some detailed knowledge on ferret health.  There are some specific ferret diseases that not every regular cat and dog vet will know about. Don’t forget to ask who the backup is in case your vet is on a holiday.

Fuzzies don’t show that they’re ill right away. So as soon as you see any ferret illness symptoms, go see a vet and isolate him from your other fuzzies.

Especially around the age of 3 or 4 years old, fuzzies are susceptible to several ferret diseases like insulinoma and adrenal disease. Caring for a sick ferret can be quite expensive. So make sure you have enough money to take care of medical bills before you buy or adopt a ferret.

Ferret Vaccinations

Proper ferret health care involves shots. I know, I know, those shots look mighty big for such a small fuzzy, but they are necessary.

If there is one vaccination your fuzzy absolutely should get, it’s the one for canine distemper. Canine distemper is always fatal in ferret. The first shot is given at 8 weeks, then a booster at 11 weeks and another shot at 14 weeks. After that, an annual vaccination will keep your fuzzy safe from this illness. The vaccination should be pure (a lot of the shots used for dogs prevent other illnesses as well and can end up making your fuzzy seriously ill). If your vet doesn’t have a pure vaccination ask for FerVac-D. Wait 15 to 20 minutes in your vet’s office after your fuzzy has been vaccinated. Should he get an allergic reaction, you don’t have to rush back to your vet.

Depending on where you live, your fuzzbutt will also need a shot for rabies. Check the law, some counties require a ferret to be put down after he has bitten and his rabies shots weren’t in order. The first shot is given at 16 weeks, after that it’s one shot a year. Try not to give the rabies and distemper shots too close together, some fuzzies can have a bad reaction.
Most ferrets like nothing better than to curl up in a ball in sleep after receiving a shot.

Common Ferret Illnesses

Hairballs are a pretty common ferret health problem. Unlike cats though, most fuzzies are unable to cough them up on their own. So it’s important to prevent hairballs from forming in the first place. You can help your fuzzy by giving him some Laxatone or Petromalt on a weekly basis. If your fuzzbutt is suffering from a blockage, you can recognize it by the following symptoms: not eating or pooping, pencil thin poops. If this is the case, make an appointment with your vet as he or she may have to remove the blockage surgically.

If you live an area with a lot of mosquitoes, heart worm disease is a serious ferret health problem. Check with your vet to see what kind of preventive medicine you can give. This kind of medication usually needs to be given monthly.

If you get a young kit, it might be suffering from a prolapsed rectum. This is caused when the ferret was fed hard kibble too soon. This can usually be cured in about 5 days by applying some Preparation-H. If it doesn’t seem to improve, check with your vet.

Ferrets can catch the flu from their minions, I mean owners. So if you’re stuck with the flu, try to limit the contact with your fuzzy. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after touching your ferret, and try not to breath, cough or sneeze on him. Should he catch the flu despite your precautions, you’ll notice the symptoms are the same as in humans. A healthy ferret shouldn’t have too much trouble recovering, but be extra careful with young or old furballs.

Dehydration is something you need to pay extra attention to. It can be caused by diarrhea or vomiting. Make sure your furball has clean water at room temperature and a dish with a mix of ½ water and ½ Pedialyte. If your fuzzy refuses to drink the Pedialyte, try ¼ Gatorade and ¾ water. This will help replenish the nutrients and electrolytes your fuzzy has lost by being sick. If he absolutely refuses to drink, use a syringe. Don’t put it in the back of his mouth as he might get the water in his lungs. Put one drop at a time in the front of his mouth. Repeat this every 3 to 4 hours and check with your vet.

If your furball stopped eating, try feeding him mushy, wet food. Duck Soup, Gerber's Chicken stage 2 baby food or Prescription Diet AD are all good. Add a little Ferretvite as well to make sure he ingests enough taurine. As ferrets are picky eaters, it’s a good idea to feed this to your fuzzy before he’s actually ill so he’s used to the taste. Try feeding him by hand, let him lick the food of your fingers or a spoon. If that doesn’t work, use a 35cc catheter tip syringe. Be patient and gentle. Place the tip of the syringe in the front or side of his mouth and give your fuzzy time to swallow.

Make sure he eats 25 to 35cc of food every 3 to 4 hours (about 80-120cc on a daily basis). Once your ferret’s health is improving, you can mix in some crushed dry kibble.

Is your furball losing his fur? Then read all about hair loss in ferrets here.

Ferret ear mites are most likely the only ear related problem your fuzzy will ever encounter. It takes some time and patience to treat though. Not to mention your fuzzbutt will hate it...

How To Care For A Sick Ferret

There are a few things you can do help improve your ferret’s health.

  • Clean and wash all the toys, bedding, dishes and the cage thoroughly.
  • Keep him warm. Don’t give him a heating pad though, just make sure he has something to snuggle up against.
  • Isolate him from the other fuzzies. Keep his cage close so you can keep a good eye on him. And so he can see you.
  • Give him extra love and attention. Not just to see how he’s doing, but also to prevent him from getting too lonely without his furball friends.
  • Make sure he’s hydrated enough. Pull his skin up a little, it should snap back quickly. Or check his tongue and gums, they should be moist.
  • Check that he eats enough.
  • Don’t give him medication for people unless your vet gives you the ok and the right dosage.

Proper ferret health care can significantly extend and improve your fuzzies life. So take your time to get to know your fuzzball’s normal behavior, so you can spot problems quickly.