Insurance: There is only one UK company that will insure ferrets. It is therefore recommended that you set up a savings account for any veterinary expenses. Treatment can prove to be very expensive.
Choosing your vet: When it comes to ferrets not all vets are created equal. Your closest veterinary practice might not have much experience with them, may not be up to date with the latest in ferret medicine or may not be overly confident in treating them. Take your time to find the right vet; ask questions or even go along and talk to them in person before you make a decision. Remember that as well as finding a good veterinary practice, note which veterinarians are experienced in dealing with ferrets. Ferrets are considered exotics; exotics is a specialised area which is not covered in the basic training for a vet. It has been known for an inexperience vet to give bad advice.
Operations: For any operation where your ferret is having an anaesthetic, please ensure that you do not starve your ferret beforehand. Due to their high metabolic rate ferrets must not be without food for more than three to four hours. Your vet should ask when they last ate so that they can schedule the surgery within the time limit.
Medicines: There are not many medications licensed for ferrets so you may need to sign a waiver for your vet to prescribe them. Most are on what is called cascade as most companies are unwilling to do the testing to show that the medication works on ferrets with minimal side effects. Focus is on proving that they work for cats and dogs.
Fleas: If you find fleas on your ferrets you will need to treat both the ferrets and their living accommodation or at the very least identify where they are coming from. There are a few options available as either a spot on or spray. Stronghold and Advocate require a prescription from a vet as they need to check the health and weight of the animal to be sure of the correct dosage. These are effective against fleas and ear mites. Frontline (Fipronil) and Effipro are effective against fleas and ticks and can be easily administered by spraying onto a rubber glove and wiping over the ferret, being sure to work it through the fur down to the skin.
To treat the environment, make sure any bedding is thoroughly washed on a hot wash. Remove the ferrets from any room or enclosure that is infested and treat with Indorex spray as directed. To prevent re-infestation it is best to identify the source of the original infestation. Fleas can be brought in by interaction with other animals such as cats who roam outside so it is worth treating them as well.
Ticks: Ticks can be picked up by walking through long grass. They can also be carried in on straw and hay. This is one of the reasons we recommend fleece bedding for ferrets. To remove ticks always use a tick twister. Tick twisters are very cheap and can be found at most good pet stores or from ourselves. Do not use any other method to try to remove ticks. Never smother them with oil, Vaseline or any other liquid as this will cause them to regurgitate blood into your pet increasing the risk of spreading diseases to your animal. Treat any remaining ticks that may be too small to remove using a spot on or spray treatment from the vet. Also see the section on fleas above.
Ear Mites: Xeno, an ivermectin based treatment is an effective treatment for ear mites and other parasites. This is available without prescription and can be easily ordered online. It will not treat fleas effectively. Also see the section on fleas above.
Worms: It is possible for ferrets to get worms. If you suspect or see worms then you will need to treat your ferrets. Advocate is effective against all worms except tapeworms which must be treated with Panacur.
Health risks to entire hobs (males): In some hobs one or both testicles may fail to descend. It is thought to be a hereditary condition and therefore it is vital that these hobs are not bred from. Retained testicles have a high risk of becoming cancerous and so castration is essential.
Health risks to entire jills (females): For jills, the risk of leaving them in season can be life threatening. Repeated seasons without being brought out by some method, if not immediately fatal, will have a drastic impact on life expectancy. This is because ferrets are induced ovulators and when in season hormones begin to build in their system. If not brought out of season by some method the bone marrow is affected and a condition called aplastic anaemia develops which can be fatal. Other common complications from not spaying a jill can be pyometra and ovarian cancers.
Neutering: See our neutering page.
Pyometra: Caused by hormonal changes, entire jills are susceptible to pyometra. A life threatening uterine condition, glands in the uterus increase and produce a secretion. This encourages bacteria to develop on the endometrium (uterus wall) leading to an accumulation of pus. Toxins from the pus can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Emergency surgery is required to spay the jill.
In an emergency or if in doubt always seek advice from your ferret knowledgeable veterinarian.