Ferret diseases and illnesses are among a pet owner’s greatest fears. While ferrets can have a life span of eight to ten years, it is not uncommon for them to die several years earlier due to disease and other problems. In fact, pet ferrets in the United States have much greater problems with certain diseases than ferrets in other parts of the world.
One of the most preventable ferret diseases and illnesses is rabies. A simple vaccination, the same as given to dogs and cats, will keep your ferret safe. It should get its first shot at the age of 12 weeks and will need a booster every three years. Another highly preventable disease is canine distemper, which is easily spread and always fatal. Your ferret should get its first distemper vaccinations at 8 weeks, 11 weeks and 14 weeks and then a booster each year.
It’s very common for ferrets over the age of three to have problems with at least one of the major ferret diseases and illnesses. Adrenal disease will kill your pet, causing urinary blockage, infection or anemia if left untreated. Symptoms include hair loss and sudden aggressiveness. Luckily, this disease can be corrected with surgery to remove the affected adrenal gland, or managed in older ferrets by using medication. Treatment can be expensive, and there is no way to prevent the illness.
Another of the frighteningly common ferret diseases and illnesses is insulinoma, or pancreatic tumors. The disease causes low blood sugar and shows in symptoms such as weight loss, unsteadiness, or a coma. Carefully managing your pet’s diet is the best management for this illness, though sometimes surgery can help. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent it from happening.
Lymphosarcoma, lymphatic cancer, is the most common cancer in ferrets and not limited to older animals. It is nearly always fatal, and is one of the fastest killers among ferret diseases and illnesses. Often, there are no symptoms until it is too late, but they include weight loss, lack of interest in food, and swollen lymph nodes.
A fairly recent addition to the list of ferret diseases and illnesses is ECE, or the Green Mystery Virus. This illness first surfaced in the mid 1990s. It usually lasts a week to 10 days and shows as green slimy diarrhea at first, followed by yellow diarrhea, followed by a golden jelly-like diarrhea. If your pet reaches the jelly stage and you haven’t taken it to a veterinarian yet, you may lose your ferret to dehydration and starvation. One or two days of diarrhea is usually nothing to worry about, but if it continues, take your pet to the vet as soon as possible for treatment.
These are just a few of the many ferret diseases and illnesses that may affect your pet during its life. While there is no prevention for most of them, treatment begun as soon as possible can save your ferret enormous pain and suffering. Since one of the first symptoms of an illness is often weight loss, make a point of weighing your ferret weekly, so you notice any changes as soon as possible. If your pet seems listless or refuses to eat, get it in to see the vet right away. And make sure you use a veterinarian who knows how to treat ferrets. This may mean a long drive to the vet’s office, but a vet who doesn’t have extensive experience with ferrets will likely not be able to help your sick pet.
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