How to Spot Ferret Illness Symptoms

Getting to know ferret illness symptoms is a top priority for responsible ferret owners. You first need to know what your ferret's behavior and appearance look like when she is healthy, so you know the difference between a healthy ferret and one that's sick.

Smell
A slight odor or "ferret smell" is a sign of good ferret health, unless the ferret's odor changes. If your ferret has released her musk a number of times, she may be stressed and you should check for other signs of ferret illness. Here are some of the symptoms of a sick ferret that you should watch for.

Appearance
A ferret's nose and gums should be pink. If there is a loss of color, or the nose is hot, she may be ill or anemic.

The ferret's hair should be glossy rather than dry. It should not be falling out in clumps anywhere, although seasonal shedding is not unusual. If the ferret's hair is dry, give her some vegetable oil or an egg in her food. Always be sure she has enough water.

A female ferret must be bred or be spayed before she goes into heat. Going into heat causes swelling of the vulva; she will die if she doesn't get spayed or mate.

The ears should be clean and free of excess wax or dirt. Ferrets should be checked for ear mites, which require treatment.

Behavior
The most important factor in determining ferret health and illness is the way your ferret behaves. Observe your ferret for these warning signs:

  • Lethargy
  • Bloody stool
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drooling or pawing at the mouth
  • Runny or injured eyes
  • Limping or dragging a foot
  • Decreased appetite or disinterest in food or water
  • Any bleeding

Ferret Diseases
Ferrets should receive vaccinations. Distemper, rabies and feline vaccinations are commonly given to ferrets.

Ferrets are susceptible to these diseases:

  • Aleutian Disease (viral, causes tremors and convulsions)
  • Adrenal-Associated Endocrinopathy (hair loss and aggression)
  • Chordomas (tumors)
  • Green Slime Disease (intestinal, diarrhea)
  • Gastric Ulcers (stressed, loss of appetite)
  • Heartworms (rare)
  • Mast Cell Tumors (itching scabs)
  • Lymphosarcoma (common and incurable)
  • Distemper
  • Rabies (rare, but ferrets should be vaccinated)
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