Vaccinations

Just like dogs, ferrets require vaccinations as youngsters against distemper. Once a year, they also require an examination and vaccination boosters.

It is advisable to have your new ferret looked at by a vet within 48 hours of getting them home.

The vet will discuss proper diet, housing, and toys for the ferret. A vaccination program will be set up and general health advice can be offered as required.

 

Specific Health Issues with Ferrets

Ferrets do not appear to have any identifiable blood types; if needed, blood from a dog or preferably cat can be given to a ferret that needs a blood transfusion.

Ferrets are very susceptible to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). For this reason, they are only fasted for a few hours (rather than overnight) prior to surgery or blood sampling.

Learn more about what to feed your ferret and how to avoid them developing hypoglycaemia.

 

ENLARGED SPLEEN

During a physical examination, it is not uncommon for your veterinary surgeon to find an enlarged spleen, especially if your ferret is an older pet. While not a sign of any one disease, it does indicate the need for further investigation.

Several diseases that can result in splenic enlargement include inflammation of the spleen, malignant tumours, and heart disease. Obviously an enlarged spleen is a serious sign that indicates the need for complete laboratory testing to determine the cause. Occasionally, diagnostic tests are negative for a specific disease, in which case the diagnosis of “benign hypersplenism” or “benign splenomegaly” will be made.

 

PERSISTENT OESTRUS

This is one of the most frequently encountered problems of ferrets in veterinary practice. Female ferrets continue to stay in heat unless they are mated. The high levels of oestrogen in heat lead to aplastic anaemia. This refers to bone marrow suppression that results in a gradual loss of production of red blood cells (and often white blood cells and platelets) in the bone marrow. This is not seen in spayed jills.

Signs of aplastic anaemia include lethargy and pale mucus membranes in a female intact ferret that is obviously in heat (manifested by a swollen vulva, the outer lips of the female reproductive tract).

Treatment includes hormonal therapy to bring the ferret out of heat, antibiotics, iron, vitamins, and in extreme cases blood transfusions. After stabilisation, the ferret is spayed. This is a very serious and often expensive disease to treat.

It is possible that for a ferret left in heat for an extended period the condition may become so severe that euthanasia is recommended

There are three ways to prevent persistent oestrus;

  1. spaying before oestrus
  2. hormone injection to end oestrus (which would be required every year)
  3. keeping the jill with a vasectomised hob (not a castrated hob) who will bring the jill out of season by mating with her.

Spaying is the most effective prevention and is generally advisable in all jills that are not to be used for breeding.

CANINE DISTEMPER

Ferrets can contract the dog distemper virus. As in the dog, the disease can be fatal (and usually is). Ferrets should be vaccinated against this disease.

Clinical signs include loss of appetite, a thick eye and/or nasal discharge, and often a rash on the chin, abdomen, or groin. Thickening of the skin on the feet and nose may be seen.

Treatment is supportive and should be attempted as the disease mimics human influenza in many ways, the difference being that with distemper the ferret will be dead within 1-2 weeks, whereas with influenza the ferret should be better within 1-2 weeks.

HUMAN INFLUENZA

Ferrets can contract and spread human influenza, or flu. Signs are similar to people with the flu (or to ferrets with distemper).

Treatment consists of antibiotics and decongestants. Occasionally fluid therapy or force-feeding by the veterinary surgeon will need to be done.

NEVER give your ferret any over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs without checking with the veterinary surgeon first. Like dogs and cats, ferrets can be easily poisoned or killed with common human medications.

Routine Vet Care for Ferrets
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