The ferret is one of the most adopted Exotic Pets. It is a sociable animal, pleasant to live with, relatively easy to raise and not very fragile. On average, the ferret can live 8 to 10 years and rarely gets sick. Nevertheless, some diseases are common in this endearing animal. Find out more about these diseases, their characteristics and the care they require.
What are the signs of disease in ferrets?
While all diseases have their own symptoms, a sick ferret can be recognized by certain clinical signs of varying severity. A diseased ferret usually has a duller, rougher coat or even hair loss. They may have soft stools such as diarrhea and wet eyes. They may also be listless, more tired and withdrawn. If on palpation you feel masses under your ferret’s skin, they may be tumors.
If these signs do not allow you to clearly identify a pathology, they should encourage you to consult your veterinarian quickly in order to provide your pet with care adapted to its needs.
What are the main ferret diseases?
If the ferret is a hardy and robust animal, it can be affected by certain diseases that are common in this species. Here are the main ones.
This disease affects unspayed females. Their bodies produce hormones during periods of heat. If they do not mate, estrogens develop in too great a number and evolve until they become toxic. They then attack the ferret’s bone marrow and weaken its immune system.
Only prevention is effective in this pathology which, once in place, is incurable. It is therefore recommended to sterilize the ferret before the first heat or as soon as the first symptoms appear, such as hair loss, fatigue and loss of appetite.
As in humans, ferret gastroenteritis can have several origins, including a virus, a draught, sunstroke or great stress. The animal suffers from diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration, but also a loss of appetite.
Gastroenteritis is a reason for emergency consultation. The ferret dehydrates very quickly and can die from it.
Influenza is a highly contagious disease in ferrets, but it is also very dangerous to their health and the animal can be contaminated if you are sick yourself. 48 hours after contamination, the ferret has a high fever that can reach 41°C. It remains listless, exhausted and no longer eats. At first, the ferret presents the symptoms of a cold with a runny nose, then the disease evolves into respiratory problems and pneumonia.
There is no cure for the flu, but if your pet is weakened, it is important to consult the veterinarian to help him fight the disease until he recovers. Some medications help relieve the symptoms of the disease and bring comfort to the animal. Don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian because the flu can kill a weakened ferret.
This disease is caused by a pancreatic tumor. The affected animal is tired, eats little, becomes thinner, salivates a lot, sleeps a lot, suffers from hypoglycemia and has difficulty walking normally.
Diagnosis of the disease is not possible without a blood test. Generally, the veterinarian will perform surgical treatment (removal of the tumour or part of the tumour) and medical treatment to maximize the ferret’s chances of survival.
This other form of cancer attacks the ferret’s lymphatic system. The sick animal is often weakened, slimmed down, eats little and may have swollen lymph nodes. It is a pathology that presents uneven forms, as some animals die suddenly without showing clinical signs.
Chemotherapy can be used to relieve the animal and reduce symptoms. However, it is not possible to treat it and death is usually unavoidable.
Aleutian disease (ADV)
A ferret with Aleutian disease has a very weakened immune system. It can contract any virus, even a mild one, and die suddenly, sometimes without any clinical signs.
Unfortunately, there is still no cure for this disease and there is no vaccine or other preventive method to avoid it.
This disease is caused by the Morbillivirus. It is an incurable and devastating pathology that causes the death of the animal within two weeks. Once contaminated, the first symptoms appear between 7 and 28 days. The sick ferret loses its appetite, its eyes and nose are runny, it presents pimples and fever.
Only vaccination protects your ferret from distemper. For it to be effective, it must be given once every two months, followed by a booster shot one month later, and again every year with a single dose.
Ferret Adrenal Disease
Adrenal disease in ferrets is due to hypersecretion of the animal’s sex hormones by the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are disturbed by the presence of a tumour. This pathology concerns sterilized animals over 3 years of age. The affected ferret loses its hair, becomes thinner and may suffer from urinary disorders.
The veterinarian often diagnoses the disease by an ultrasound scan. It can then be treated by surgery (removal of the adrenal gland) or by medication.
Skin tumours can take many forms in ferrets. The most common are cutaneous carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, cutaneous lymphoma and mastocytoma. These tumours can be identified by the red patches and small balls they form on the surface or the masses they cause under the skin.
It is imperative to consult as soon as possible. The veterinarian will remove the tumors surgically. Without prompt treatment, the ferret will die irretrievably.