Whenever your ferret undergoes an
operation they will be administered an anesthetic
to put them under. There are two forms Gas (isoflurane)
and injectable. Most vets prefer the gas anesthetic
as they have full control of how much is being given,
and the ferret generally tolerates this form much
better. Injectable anesthetics can not be controlled
once administered, you have to wait it out, and ferrets
generally have a harder time recovering. Vets who
typically utilize this form do so for convenience
sake and lower price. Isoflurane (gas) is the form
Gum disease in all animals including
ferrets can lead into additional health problems
such as heart disease and respiratory diseases like
pneumonia. Ferrets 3 years of age or older should
have their teeth cleaned annually by a professional
to remove plaque and prevent periodontal disease
and teeth loss. During the procedure your ferret
is administered a general anesthetic and the vet
will use a steel scraper or ultrasonic scaler to
DISSEMINATED IDIOPATHIC MYOSITIS
Usually affects ferrets younger than a year old and
carries a high mortality rate. The disease does
not appear to be contagious or related to food
or specific breeders. The onset of DIMS has been
reported as a very quick (fine one day, sick the
next). Initial signs are severe persistent fluctuating
fever, lethargy, weakness, masses under the skin,
abnormal stools and decreased appetite. Additional
signs (especially as the disease progresses) includes
increased breathing rate, clear discharge from
nose/ eyes, pain/ discomfort, depression and skin
changes. Increased heart rate and murmurs may also
While signs come on quickly, duration can be days
to weeks to months before death. Almost every suspected/
confirmed case has a very elevated WBC, neutrophils
usually the predominate type. Often the ferret will
become anemic, have increased glucose levels and
blood protein. Albumin is usually decreased. Despite
severe muscle damage and inflammation, the creatine
kinase (CR) which is usually elevated in these conditions,
is not. To date, the cause of disease cannot be identified,
nor is it understood; there is no treatment and supportive
care has not been effective.
Click here to download the AFA
Medical alert on DIMS.
Currently research is underway to try and understand
this new ferret disease. If you and your vet suspect
DIMS, you can complete the case report form and send
in with biopsy samples. Click
here to download the order form in PDF.
This disease generally seen in male
ferrets. There is a large accumulation of eosinophils
(type of white blood cells usually found with allergic
reactions to parasites) found in the walls of the
GI. The eosinophils contain granules in their cytoplasm
which are released upon contact of parasites causing
damage to the tissue. EE is usually determined by
the rule out of other illnesses, and a CBC should
show elevated eosinophils in the peripheral blood.
Treatment is usually life-long and
consists of Prednisone (allergy treatment) and if
parasites are confirmed, Ivermectin. Once Prednisone
is stopped, the symptoms will once again return,
so the goal is to find the lowest dosage to administer
that will still be effective.
Frontline, Advantage and Revolution
are all safe and effective flea control on ferrets
and lasts about one month
fleas, ticks and works on ear mites as well. The
spray form which should be used 1 spray per pound,
is the most effective and most economical. You can
also use the cat monthly top spot or cat size Frontline
Plus. For ear mites, you should apply 1 spray into
each ear and 1 spray on top of the neck.
- Advantage kills
fleas only. You can use the cat size tube (1/2
to 1 tube per ferret). This application can wash
off in baths.
- Revolution kills
fleas, ticks, ear mites and skin mites and
can be used for heartworm prevention. You
can use the 5-15 lb cat size.
Ear mites: You
can use either Frontline, Revolution (as mentioned
above), Acarexx, Tresaderm or Ivomec.
- Acarexx is
actually diluted Ivermectin ear drops. You should
use 1 tube per ear and repeat after 3 weeks.
- Ivomec: This
is an injectable or topical form of Ivermectin,
and should be repeated in 3 weeks.
- Tresaderm: Ear
Drops. 3 drops per ear twice daily for 10 days,
stop 10 days and repeat another 10 days.
Interceptor, Revolution (as mentioned above) or Ivomec
can be used as a preventative measure
(treatment is different once infected).
- Heartgard: You
can use the 0-25 lb dog or 0-5 lb cat once a month
- Interceptor: You
can use the 0-10 lb dog once a month
- Revolution: 5-15
lb cat once a month
- Ivomec: diluted
once per month
Usually causes upper respiratory symptoms with possible
fever that may diminish within 48 hours. They may
exhibit bouts of sneezing, congestion, watery eyes,
nasal discharge, lethargic, loss of appetite and
rub their face often. While not common, it is possible
for the flu to turn into pneumonia. Treatment consists
of supportive care with nutrition and hydration being
key. In severe cases, antihistamines and antibiotics
might be prescribed.
Lower respiratory problems may also be present consisting
of coughing, labored breathing, wheezing and respiratory
crackles. Ferrets can NOT catch
the human cold (Rhinovirus). often what we commonly
call the cold, is not a true cold but rather a respiratory
infection, sinus infection, etc.
Yes, ferrets do get hairballs and intestinal blockages,
but unfortunately they do lack the natural reflux
ability of coughing it up. You can cut down and/or
eliminate any/all accumulations by providing your
ferret Laxatone/Petromalt on a weekly basis. If an
accumulation or blockage does accumulate it might
be necessary to have the substance removed surgically.
If you notice your ferret cutting down on its food
intake or not eating at all, different looking poops,
hind leg motor weakness, coughing, etc you should
take them to the vet immediately for testing, as
this usually signifies a blockage either in their
stomach or intestines. All of the above signs are
not just indicative of blockages, but also can be
signs of other illness, and a medical exam is certainly
warranted as soon as possible. If a hairball accumulation/blockage
is left untreated, in time it could result in serious
complications including death.
Your ferret can also exhibit these signs due to
other types of blockages caused by swallowing pieces
of their toys, styrofoam peanuts, rubber objects
(pencil erasers), foam, strings, fabrics, towels,
cigarette butts, gum, etc. Depending on the size
of the blockage surgical removal might be necessary.
It is important to check all new and used toys and
bedding items constantly to ensure no lose pieces,
they are not chewed through, as well as nothing is
around they can chew/swallow that can cause them
If you own multiple ferrets, which most owners do,
and have other animals in the house, your best safeguard
is to weekly provide them with a lubricant such as
Laxatone/Petromalt. This becomes more important during
the shedding season due the increased amount of fur,
as well as the additional fur from other animals
your ferret can ingest from grooming.
Composed of lymphocytes and affects
the blood. The tumor cells circulate in the blood
and can affect the bone marrow. Ferrets often develop
anemia and prognosis is very poor.
This is the second most common tumor of the skin
in ferrets. Mast cell tumors are almost always benign
(non-cancerous) and pose no significant health risk.
They appear as flat scaly areas on the skin with
many associated with hair loss at the site. Usually
appears as an itchy scab. Mast cells usually are
near blood vessels and full of histamines. When stimulated,
the histamines are released causing blood vessels
nearby to dilate and leak fluid, which makes the
ferret very itchy. They may cause hive like appearance,
congestion, swelling, itching and general irritation.
Frequency usually increases with age and several
can be present at the same time. As they rarely invade
below the skin surface, they can easily be surgically
removed. If excision is complete, they won't return,
it not, they will return.
This condition is characterized by the dilation
of the esophagus due to lack of muscular motility.
The ferret may have problems breathing or regurgitate
its food as the food does not get passed into the
stomach, but rather swells in the esophagus. Immediate
vet care is essential as the ferret is not getting
to the stomach, it can dehydrate and waste away in
a few days time. This condition can be diagnosed
by first giving a barium, then feeding the ferret
and immediately taking an X-ray (food will show up
in the esophagus).
Though prognosis is poor, you can certainly
help the ferret live with this condition. Zantac,
Pepcid or Tagament is usually prescribed to reduce
reflux of the stomach acids, and should be given
prior to eating. Proper feeding and hydration is
key to survival, a bland diet should be given 3-5
times a day; the ferret should never go more than
8-10 hours without food. You should massage the ferrets
throat to chest area to stimulate them to swallow.
As the ferret is able to take in and hold down the
food, slightly increase its thickness. Cisapride
or Metaclopromide may increase motility.
It is extremely important to keep in mind that one
or two irregular poops does not make for a sick ferret.....do
not become a poop watcher. The following has been
provided by Dr. Bruce Williams:
- Green: Generally
represents food moving through the system too quickly.
- Black Tarry : Very
suggestive of gastric bleeding and usually associated
with gastric ulcers. The black color is the result
of blood digestion taking place in the stomach.
- Bloody: In
small amounts, usually from the large bowel or
rectum. If a lot of blood, could be from the entire
length of the GI tract. Massive hemorrhage is from
severe gastric fluids or shock.
- Birdseed appearance: Represents
maldigestion/malabsorption - undigested fat and
starches (can be seen with any disease/illness).
If continues, you should remove hard kibble for
a few days and feed a bland diet (ie; Gerbers baby
food-chicken or Duck Soup).
- Pencil Thin: You
should start thinking about a partial obstruction,
usually a foreign body.
Proliferative Colitis is caused by
a non-contagious bacteria. Visible signs include
dark stools containing large amounts of clear or
green mucous. ferrets often strain to defecate and
may act as if it is painful to go, which can lead
into a prolapse rectum.
The bacteria causes the intestinal
lining to become very thick, which interferes with
absorption of nutrients and water. While they might
still continue to eat in smaller amounts, they are
often inactive and lethargic.
Preliminary diagnosis is usually made
by x-rays or Ultra Sound. A definitive diagnosis
can only be done by performing a biopsy.
If not treated, ferrets can rapidly
lose much of their body weight, which will result
in death. Treatment is providing Chloramphenical
25mg/lb twice a day. Supportive care is also very
Usually found in older ferrets when the kidneys
lose the ability to perform their function due to
the continual lose of renal tissue. As the disease
progresses, it becomes chronic as the kidneys can
no longer excrete substances, and therefore it builds
up into the blood.
Renal failure can by measured by measuring certain
blood and urine parameters. When 65% of the kidney
function is lost, they will lose the ability to concentrate
urine. When 90% of the kidney is lost, certain substances
back up in the kidneys and can be found in increased
levels in the blood which can be found on a chemistry
panel (urea, creatinine, phosphorus). When the BUN
level is severely increased, they may have an ammonia
smell on their breath and have mouth ulcers. As the
tissues never heal or replace, there is no cure,
you can only provide supportive treatment to decrease
levels of toxic substances in the blood, including
providing a low protein diet. Regular administration
of Sub-Q fluids are key to maintaining their health.
This is more commonly known as en enlarged spleen,
and may be attributable to proliferative lesions,
reactive processes or compensatory mechanisms. Common
causes induce neoplasia (mostly lymphoma), Adrenal
disease, anemia or pancytopenia, bacteria sepsis,
generalized chronic debilitating illnesses or EMH
(Extramedullary Hemotopoiesis). Use of certain anesthetics
can cause enlargements dramatically, which is why
important to evaluate by palpation, radiography or
ultrasound "before" anesthesia.
Diagnostic tests include palpation
and X-rays for size and aspirate or biopsy to determine
cytology or histology. EMH is a common feature in
spleens and is believed to be a common and benign
cause. Causes are not yet fully known, and a tentative
diagnosis can be made on an aspirate.
Can be asymptomatic or accompanied by some signs
of abdominal distress. Some ferrets may vomit and
have bad breath as well. Diagnosis is usually made
on signs and symptoms, most notably grinding teeth
(from abdominal pain), pawing at the mouth, and/or
black tarry stools. Other vague signs include loss
of appetite, occasional vomiting, loose stools, etc.
A response to Carafate is also a good indicator.
Carafate (Sucralfate) is key in healing
this condition which can last months. It acts as
a patch during acid secretions by the stomach. It
is important to give the medication 15-30 minutes "prior" to "each"
feeding of a bland non-kibble diet (Duck
Soup or Gerber's Chicken stage 2), or it will
defeat its purpose.
Other medications you can try are Pepto-Bismol
or Biaxin (which they hate the taste of), Tagament,
Pepcid, or Cimitidine (inj Tagament). Attention must
be given to ensure the ferret continues taking in
food and water, and does not become dehydrated.