On this page we are going to be adding information on some of the Medical Issues that will occur with you ferret at some point in his/her life. We will list the issues and any links and information that we feel will be of interest and help to you as a Ferrant.
IMPORTANT- Ferrets that are sick should be seen by a qualified and experienced "ferret vet" immediately. Ferrets often don't display signs of illness until it has become very serious and they can go downhill very fast. Inappropriate treatment and "do-it-yourself" diagnosis can be life threatening to your ferret.
ADV- ADV is a highly contagious Parvovirus (composed mainly of protein DNA) with differing strains and strengths characterized by a persistent viral infection which causes a huge increase in antibodies found in the blood known as hypergammaglobulinemia, and has been around since the late 1960's.
There is currently "NO" cure or vaccine for this deadly disease!
INSULINOMA - Insulinoma is the result of tumors on the pancreas and resulting low blood sugar. Insulinomic ferrets may just act a little tired, lethargic, increased flattening. Their back legs may wobble. They may seem "out of it" and stare at nothing. They may feel nauseous. Some let you know by pawing at their mouths. More severe symptoms include seizures or comas, which are life threatening, of course.
* And here is a quote from a study by Dr. Williams and others that concludes that the most effective treatment is surgery to get rid of visible nodules AND part of the pancreas:
J Am Anim Hosp Assoc. 1998 Nov-Dec;34(6):471-5.
Insulinoma in the ferret: clinical findings and treatment
comparison of 66 cases.
Potomac Animal Hospital, Maryland 20854, USA.
The clinical signs and surgical findings were reported for 66 ferrets
with insulinomas confirmed histologically. All of the ferrets were
treated with one of three modalities, and disease-free intervals and
survival times were gathered to determine the most effective treatment.
The three treatment groups included 10 ferrets treated medically, 27
ferrets treated with pancreatic nodulectomy, and 29 ferrets treated
with pancreatic nodulectomy combined with a partial pancreatectomy. The
mean disease-free intervals for each group were 22, 234, and 365 days,
respectively. The mean survival times for each group were 186, 456, and
668 days, respectively. Based upon the data, recommendations were made
for treating insulinoma in the ferret.
PMID: 9826281 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Adrenal Disease - In the ferret, most adrenal tumors involve the area of the adrenal gland that produces sex hormones, for this reason, most of the clinical signs of adrenal disease are related to either estrogen or testosterone overproduction. The most common sign of adrenal disease is hair loss.
Canine Distemper - Canine distemper is virtually 100% fatal in ferrets within 12 to 42 days after exposure. PLEASE vaccinate your ferret against this disease.
Contrary to popular opinion, ferrets cannot get the common cold. The ailment humans get that we call a "cold" is caused by rhinoviruses which are species specific viruses. Ferrets simply cannot catch colds. On the other hand, ferrets are susceptible to influenza and are used in research of the flu because Influenza infections in ferrets closely resembles infection in humans. Ferrets are also susceptible to upper respiratory infections and these can also be confused with a common cold.
Absolutely do not give any over the counter cold medications to your ferret regardless of what anyone may tell you. As long as your ferret continues to eat and drink normally, medication is generally not needed. In some cases, a vaporizer to help a stuffy nose may help since a ferret that can't smell sometimes will not eat (since it can't smell the food).
In cases of influenza, your ferret should see a veterinarian. In most cases, ferrets are not as severely affected by the flu as a person might be
There are many causes of diarrhea in ferrets. Listed below are several links to various articles about conditions that may result in occasional or chronic diarrhea.
PROLAPSED RECTUM -
Often seen in very young ferrets that are on a hard kibble diet too soon. Usually caused by diarrhea. When there is nothing firm for the colon to push against (such as firm stool), the rectum may be pushed out. If the ferret checks out medically, then treat symptomatically by applying a cream of Preparation H and 0.5% cortisone three times daily and after every bowel movement. One vet recommends Anusol HC-1. It combines the cortisone into the meds. In severe, recurring cases, a purse string suture may be needed.
References and Sources: miamiferret.org (Mike Janke's site), Dr. Bruce Williams