VCA Animal Hospitals

Ferrets - Problems

General Information

Ferrets have several unique problems; understanding these problems will allow you to better care for your pet and minimize future health care problems.

Enlarged Spleen

ferrets-problems-1During a physical examination, your veterinarian may palpate or feel an enlarged spleen, especially if your ferret is an older pet. While not a specific sign of any one disease, it does indicate the need for further investigation.

"An enlarged spleen is a serious finding that indicates the need for complete laboratory testing to determine the cause."

Several diseases that can result in enlargement of the spleen include inflammation, viral or bacterial infections, tumors, and heart disease. An enlarged spleen is a serious finding that indicates the need for complete laboratory testing to determine the cause. Occasionally, diagnostic tests are negative for any specific disease, in which case the diagnosis of "benign hypersplenism" or "benign splenomegaly" will be made.

Aplastic anemia

Aplastic anemia is a condition in which the bone marrow is completely suppressed, resulting in a shutdown in production of new red blood cells. Bone marrow suppression will also result in a shutdown in production of white blood cells and platelets. The condition occurs in female ferrets that are not spayed and not bred when they are "in heat". Sexually mature female ferrets that are not bred will stay in heat indefinitely. While in heat, the ferret's estrogen levels remain high. High doses of estrogen suppress bone marrow function. This condition is rarely seen now, due to early (pre-purchase) spaying of female ferrets.

Signs of aplastic anemia include lethargy and pale mucous membranes, most readily observed by looking at the gums. When the intact female ferret is examined, her vulva will usually be found to be swollen and enlarged, indicating persistent estrus or heat.

Initial treatment to stabilize the ferret includes hormonal therapy to bring the ferret out of heat, antibiotics, iron, and vitamins. A ferret with an extremely low packed cell volume (which measures the red blood cell mass in the blood) may need a blood transfusion or she can die. Once she has been stabilized, the ferret is spayed. This is a very serious and often expensive disease to treat. All female ferrets that will not be bred at every heat cycle should be spayed by 4-6 months of age.

"All female ferrets that will not be bred at every heat cycle should be spayed by 4-6 months of age."

Heat Stroke

Ferrets, like dogs and cats, don't sweat in the way that humans do. Therefore, ferrets are very susceptible to extreme heat. They should be maintained at an environmental temperature below 80o F (26 o C).

"Heat stroke is a true, life-threatening emergency."

Heat stroke is manifested by open mouth breathing and an elevated rectal temperature (normal temperature is between 100 o -104 o F (38 o - 40 o C), and averages about the same as dog and cats (101 o F or 38 o C). Heat stroke is a true, life-threatening emergency. First aid involves rapidly cooling the ferret; this can be done by running cold water over its body, fanning it, or using whatever means is available to reduce its body temperature. Be careful not to chill the ferret too much; if the ferret begins to shiver, stop the cooling process. Do not delay taking your ferret to the veterinarian if you suspect that it suffering from heat stroke. During the trip to the veterinarian, wrap the ferret in cool, wet towels, or transport it in an air-conditioned vehicle. Your veterinarian will stabilize the ferret and reduce its temperature using cold-water enemas or cold fluids instilled into its abdominal cavity. Hospitalization is required after the temperature has been normalized, to monitor vital signs and ensure that the ferret is stable.

Canine Distemper

ferrets-problems-2Ferrets can become infected with canine distemper virus. This disease is usually fatal to ferrets. Clinical signs include loss of appetite, a thick, purulent ocular (eye) and/or nasal discharge, fever, thickened and hard skin on the footpads and often a rash on the chin, abdomen, or groin. Treatment is supportive, with fluids, antibiotics (for secondary bacterial infections), nutrition, and oxygen therapy. Since the symptoms of distemper and influenza are similar, treatment should always be attempted. The difference is that with distemper, the ferret will be dead within 1-2 weeks, whereas with influenza the ferret should be better within 1-2 weeks. To prevent this fatal disease, all ferrets that are at risk of exposure should be vaccinated against this disease. Discuss the risks of this disease with your veterinarian.

Human Influenza

Ferrets can both contract and spread human influenza, or flu. Symptoms are similar to those of people with the flu (or to ferrets with distemper). Treatment consists of antibiotics (to prevent secondary bacterial infections), decongestants, and other supportive therapy.

"Ferrets can both contract and spread human influenza, or flu."

Occasionally hospitalization for supportive care such as fluid therapy or force-feeding by your veterinarian will be required. NEVER give your ferret any over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs without checking with your veterinarian first. Like dogs and cats, ferrets can be easily poisoned or killed with common human medications.

Related Tags

ferrets, ferret, heat, disease, veterinarian, temperature, female, spleen, distemper, stroke, care, enlarged, influenza, therapy, treatment, bred, spayed, bacterial, infections, marrow, aplastic, bone, anemia, antibiotics, cats, life-threatening, symptoms, emergency, reduce, cells, cold, dogs, cycle, hospitalization, canine, shutdown, fatal, secondary, fluids, cell, stabilize, estrogen, laboratory, medications, specific, minimize, health, future, contract, occasionally, prevent, weeks, unique, benign, understanding, cold-water, prescription, instilled, cavity

Looking to learn more?

We also offer free, instant access to over 1,500 related articles on your pet's health including preventive medicine, common and not so common diseases, and even informative case studies. We encourage you to read any of these popular articles below or search our extensive pet health library.

Most Popular Articles

About our approach to exceptional pet health care

At VCA Animal Hospitals, our veterinarians take you and your pet's health seriously. With over 600 hospitals and 1,800 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, we strive to give your pet the very best in medical care. We understand your pet is an extension of you, and appreciate the opportunity to share in providing exceptional pet care and quality of life.

* Free initial health exam for new clients only. Not to be combined with any other offer. Not good toward boarding, grooming, prescription and non-prescription medication, and retail items. Not good toward emergency and/or specialty veterinary services. Coupon good for up to two pets (dogs or cats only) per household. Redeemable only at a general practice VCA Animal Hospital. For pet owners who are aged 18 and older.

If you are a new client, you can get a free first exam* on your first visit.

Free First Exam

Get to know us by visiting one of our neighborhood hospitals.

Locate a Hospital
CLOSE CLOSE

General Practice

Page not found in Database

Find a VCA General Care Animal Hospital near you:

 

See all VCA Animal Hospitals >

CLOSE CLOSE

Specialty Care

Page not found in Database

Find a VCA Specialty Care Animal Hospital near you:

 

See all VCA Animal Hospitals >

CLOSE CLOSE

Emergency Care

Page not found in Database

CLOSE CLOSE