Ferrets are carnivorous animals. Their relatives include the weasel, mink and otter. They have a life expectancy of 5-9 years and an adult body weight of 0.5-2kg, with males larger than females. They are very inquisitive and love to explore. Their sociable nature means they enjoy human companionship. They display many of their instinctive traits such as play and hunting and can provide endless appeal in their frolicking behaviour. There are many different coloured varieties available.
Vaccination is the only protection for the potentially fatal disease Distemper. Kittens require vaccination at 6 to 8 weeks of age and then again at 12 weeks. Annual vaccination boosters are essential to maintain protective immunity.
Ferrets are susceptible to all the internal parasites of the dog. Ferrets are easily wormed using Revolution Topspot, applied monthly. Worming is particularly important in ferrets that go outside or have contact with other pets.
Ferrets are susceptible to heartworm infection. Heartworm is spread by mosquitoes, not by direct animal-to-animal contact. Revolution Topspot is an effective treatment against heartworm, applied monthly. Heartgard chews are an oral alternative.
Ferrets can catch fleas from dogs, cats and the environment. Monthly treatment with Revolution Topspot will prevent infestations. Revolution Topspot is an ideal product as it prevents worms, heartworm and fleas in one easy to apply once a month treatment.
Ferrets need to be neutered. This is a well-established and important fact. In male ferrets neutering reduced aggressiveness and odour from the glands in the skin. In female ferrets neutering will reduce odour but is even more important as it prevents the poor little girl from being stuck ‘in season’. Ferrets are also at risk of adrenal disease. For some time it’s been speculated that there may be a link between neutering ferrets and adrenal disease. Finally, research done overseas gives vets enough information to say that yes, there is a link.
Traditionally ferrets have been surgically neutered. In males this means removing the testicles and in females the ovaries and the uterus are removed. New research has shown that using Suprelorin®(a chemical castration implant registered for use in dogs) to chemically neuter male and female ferrets, results in a neutered ferret that is not at risk of developing adrenal disease! Fantastic. The implant lasts a variable time in ferrets but can be effective for up to three years. This means that most ferrets will require re-implantation once or twice in their life. Implantation is quick and easy. Done under light anaesthesia (because it’s a big needle) it takes about 5 minutes in total!
In summary, now we can neuter ferrets and prevent adrenal disease in one simple step!
If you have a ferret that is due for neutering or even an older, already neutered ferret come in and discuss your options with us.
De-scenting or removal of the anal glands is not recommended, as the musky body odour of ferrets is not produced by the anal glands. Rather, it is the sebaceous secretions of the skin that produces the odour. The smell may be more prominent during the breeding season in entire animals. Regular bathing reduces the general body odour.
Veterinary health checks
A veterinary health check within the first week helps the new ferret owner get off to the right start. Annual health checks are recommended for young ferrets. For ferrets over 3-4 years of age health checks every 6 months are ideal. Older ferrets may suffer from adrenal disease and some common cancers including lymphoma. They may also develop arthritis or dental disease. These conditions may be treatable but early detection is very important.
Ferrets are obligate carnivores, meaning they must have a meat diet – ferrets cannot survive on a vegetarian diet! Science Diet Kitten® provides a well balanced meat based diet for your ferret. Raw chicken wings, necks and other raw meaty bones are important for dental care and should be fed 2-3 times a week. Hills Prescription Diet Feline t/d® can also be used to help manage dental tartar.
Ferrets are curious animals and will explore and get into EVERYTHYING. They are normally cage confined when they’re not under direct supervision. However they require daily interaction and play time in a safe area. Be careful of small objects that could be swallowed or items that might be dangerous to chew such as electrical wires.
Provide your ferret with the largest cage possible. The cage should be strong with secure latches on doors and good ventilation. They enjoy exploring so try ‘rearrange’ their cage furnishings regularly (provide boxes, plastic tunnels etc). They like to sleep snuggled up in cosy bed so provide hammocks and hidy-holes to snooze in.
Ferrets are readily ‘toilet-trained’ as they often prefer to toilet in corners. Placing litter boxes in the corners of cages & in the corners of free range areas will encourage them to toilet appropriately. Suitable litter types include shredded paper or recycled paper cat litter.
Ferrets are vulnerable to heat stress so ensure the area they’re kept in won’t become too hot. This is extremely important in our warm Canberra summers.
Ideally, the ferrets need to be exposed to ‘normal’ day/night cycles throughout the year. Some occasional exposure to sunlight may also be beneficial. Ferrets can be harness trained and may enjoy short walks and exploring time outside.
Ferrets will often play-bite or ‘nip’ when playing. They need to be taught at a young age that biting people is inappropriate. If required, ferrets can be gently ‘scruffed’ by being held from the back of the neck. This may help to calm them down and can be used with a verbal ‘no’ if they have bitten you. Scruffing will induce a yawn reflex and is a useful tool to get them to let go should they continue to hold on after a nip!
Ferrets are extremely flexible, slinky animals and love to run through your hands and tumble and rumple while playing. Enjoy your ferrets curious nature and playful habits! They can be a truly adorable pet!