Ferrets are intelligent, playful and interactive creatures that can make good pets.
Ferrets are inquisitive pets that explore the world with their mouths. Commonly, they chew off pieces of toys or furniture as they play. In some cases, they may swallow a chunk of these objects and it goes on to cause problems. They are also amazing furry vacuum cleaners and it is a wonder at the sorts of things they find and swallow even in a household that is meticulous about cleaning!
Ferrets are susceptible to a variety of viral diseases that can cause serious illness and death.
Distemper, the same virus that causes the disease in dogs, is a very serious disease that almost always causes death in unvaccinated ferrets. Even ferrets that never go outside should have distemper vaccinations. Contact with an infected dog or ferret is not the only way your ferret can be infected. You can bring the deadly virus into your home indirectly on clothes, shoes, or other items after being in close proximity to where an infected animal has been.
Ferrets can develop plaque and tartar on their teeth as they age. As the tartar accumulates, it starts to irritate the gums and eventually progresses to gingivitis (bleeding and irritated gums). Left untreated, a ferret will develop infections of the mouth and may have bad breath, drooling, and difficulty eating. Over time, this can lead to painful abscesses and loss of the teeth.
Lymphoma is a cancer of a kind of white blood cell known as a lymphocyte. Since white blood cells are part of the immune system, they circulate in the blood to every part of the body and are in particularly high concentrations in the bone marrow and lymph nodes. Due to the widespread occurence of lymphocytes, lymphoma can occur in every organ of the body. Frustratingly, lymphoma is one of the more common causes of illness in ferrets. It is also a very tricky disease to diagnose as it can mimic so many other diseases depending on where in the body it manifests. Anytime a ferret is ill,
Older ferrets often develop a condition where they collapse suddenly and act very weak or disoriented. Many times they may start to grind their teeth or chatter and may develop full blown seizures. These signs are most commonly caused by low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Hypoglycemia if ferrets is typically caused by a tumor called an insulinoma that overproduces the hormone insulin. Insulinomas are diagnosed in ferrets by blood tests that are performed within a few hours of eating. In some cases, the ferret has to stay at the hospital a few hours so we can obtain a accurate results to m
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a very common condition in ferrets. It often starts out as a few days of soft stool or diarrhea about once a month. Most people don't think that this is a cause for concern because the diarrhea clears up without treatment and the ferret continues to act healthy. Over time, the episodes of diarrhea become longer in duration and more frequent. At this point, the ferret starts to lose weight and may develop a rough dull hair coat.
Gastric ulcers (stomach ulcers) due to an infection by the bacteria Helicobacter mustelae are relatively common in ferrets.
Ferrets commonly come down with sneezing and coughing due to a variety of viral diseases such as influenza (also known as "the flu"). Flu viruses can be passed from ferrets to people and people to ferrets so it is important to practice good hygiene when working around a sick ferret (or around a sick human).