A QUICK FACT SHEET

Ferrets

BY: JILL M. PATT, DVM

WHAT ARE THEY? Ferrets are considered domestic animals that are thought to descend from the European polecat and are related to weasels, skunks and otters

LIFESPAN: 6+ years

SEXING: Ferrets are typically sold to the pet trade already neutered and descented. Males have a penis at the mid-abdominal area.

HOUSING: Ferrets should be caged when not directly supervised. Ferrets love to explore and will ingest items that can become stuck in their intestines and require surgical removal. The cage should be large enough for the ferret to freely move around, should contain a hammock bed and a litter pan. Most frequently a metal mesh cage is used.

VACCINES: Ferrets less then 1 year old:

Should receive 3 vaccines 2-3 weeks apart for distemper and 1 rabies vaccine at 3 months of age. Than a yearly booster should be given for distemper, every 3 years for rabies.

Ferrets greater then 1 year old:

Should receive 2 distemper boosters 3 weeks apart and then yearly distemper, with the rabies vaccine only every 3 years.

Allergic Reactions:

Ferrets have a higher then average incidence of severe allergic reactions to vaccines. We therefore, will only give one vaccine at a time and request that the owner wait 15 minutes prior to departing the hospital and a technician will assess the pet prior to departure.

DIET: A commercial diet labeled for ferrets should be fed. Cat food is often not high enough in protein and dog food is deficient in the amino acid taurine which can lead to heart disease.

WATER: Fresh/clean water should be available at all times.

SUPPLEMENTS: If on a good ferret diet, supplementation is not necessary.

MEDICAL CONCERNS: Ferrets have many medical concerns and it is therefore important to establish a good relationship with your veterinarian. Some of the more common problems are: adrenal gland disease, foreign body ingestion, pancreatic tumors, dental disease, GI disease, Cardiac disease, and viruses. Ferrets can get canine distemper from dogs and can get and give the flu to us.

FURTHER INFORMATION: Jill M. Patt’s web site at: www.littlecrittersvet.com

American Ferret Association: http://www.ferret.org/

Ferret Owners Manual Online: http://www.thechipster.com/fert-man.html

2 Responses to Ferret Care Sheet

  • Great advice. I think a lot more people would enjoy keeping ferrets if they found out more about them and realised how biddable they are. One thing I’d recommend though and that’s telling your readers that its always better to get a rescue ferret than one from a breeder. There’s a chronic over breeding problem and it’s not nice when you realise what happens to the ferrets that are overbred in this process.

  • Jane Kreuter says:

    What a great introduction/quick reference sheet. It is important for people to understand their pet choice rather than pick something blindly! Thank you.

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By: Jill M. Patt, DVM


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