Ferret Care – Behavior and Medical Issues

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 25,141
    Pet Care Expert Robin Hochgerte discusses behavior and medical issues for your pet ferret.

    Robin Hochgertel: Hi! I am Robin at FerretsFirst Rescue teaching you how to take care of your ferrets. Now I will talk about behavioral misconceptions, required veterinary care and medical problems.

    One misconception is that ferrets bite. Well, if ferrets are trained properly, they dont bite. As with a puppy, a baby ferret is going to use its teeth and its mouth to play with you. It's up to you to teach your ferret how much you can tolerate. Unfortunately, ferrets have extremely tough skin and they just don't realize that our skin is not as tough as theirs. So when they start to bite you too hard, just stop playing with them.

    You play with them, you rubbed their belly or you do something else and stay away from their mouth. If you bring home a ferret who has a biting problem, the best way to take care of it is to do what its mother would do if it bit too hard. She would grab it by the scruff of the neck and she would hiss at it. She wouldn't flick on its nose or yell at it, she would just scruff it and hiss at it. That will teach your ferret not to bite.

    Another misconception is that ferrets stink. Well, ferrets are a member of the Mustelid family and they do have musk glands that produce musk and the musk has an odor. Ferrets purchased today or in a store, they have their anal glands removed, which means they can't poof, like a skunk, but they are still going to produce musk.

    The best way to control this musk and the odor of a ferret is:1. You feed it a really good diet. We have discussed diet before. You want to keep the high protein, high fat and stay away from fish.

    2. You want to make sure you scoop their litter pan everyday.

    3. That you want to change their bedding at least once a week because they are going to exchange their musks smell for the smell of the clean bedding and that will keep their odor down.

    Last but not least, make sure you do ferret hygiene once a week. That will keep the odor down from their ears. Ferrets do require medical care, the same as your dog and your cat. You need to take him to the veterinarian at least once a year, get him a distemper shot because they are very prone to Canine Distemper. Canine Distemper can be tracked into your house in the sole of your shoes. They also need their rabies shots because if your ferret bites somebody, you don't want to have to go through the hard-ache of losing your ferret because it bit somebody. So make sure you take your ferret in every year, get them checked for any obvious illness and get their shots done.

    Ferrets do have medical issues. There are some that are very common and specific to ferrets. One of those diseases is called Insulinoma. Insulinoma is the abnormal development of cells in the pancreases that cause an overproduction of insulin. It's the opposite of diabetes in a human. In a ferret, the glucose drops very low and they become lethargic and unable to play. Ferrets have a tendency to develop Insulinoma, if you feed them too many sugars and carbohydrates. That's one of the reasons that we try and stick with a high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate, low sugar diet. So we don't promote the Insulinoma.

    Another common illness of ferrets is adrenal disease. Adrenal disease is characterized by hair loss, loss of muscle mass and occasionally aggression and itchy skin. I have two ferrets here. This one is just starting to show signs of adrenal disease. You can see that he is starting to loose his hair and he did get a little bit aggressive with his cage-mate. He was treated with Lupron and he is going to go in for surgery to get his adrenal glands removed.

    Most extreme cases of adrenal disease are like this little girl here. Her name is Shiasta and she has severe adrenal disease. She went in for surgery but unfortunately was inoperable. She was not expected to live quite as long as she has, but she is doing very well. Be it hairless but her disposition is good, she gets her Lupron, her appetite is good and she really is an active, healthy ferret, other than having no hair.

    Other diseases that ferrets get are infections, much like humans get infections. This little ferret here has an infection of her sinuses. You can see the little bump on top of her head. She has been getting injectable antibiotics to take care of that little infection that she has.

    Ferrets get pneumonia, just like people. They require antibiotics. You will know if your ferret is coughing a lot or having trouble breathing. Ferrets also develop a lot of GI problems, inflammatory bowel disease from a bad diet. So keep that high protein, high fat diet available at all times. Common signs and symptoms you look for with your ferret, if you think your ferret might be sick, is the abnormal stools. Are they eating okay? Are they drinking okay? Are they passing their water? That you can tell by every time you clean the litter pan. If the litter pan is dry, then they haven't passed their water. You check their level of energy. If they are a ferret thats habitually playful and all of a sudden they are lethargic and sprawled out flat, then you know that there is something wrong.

    With the first sign of illness, you need to take your ferrets to the veterinarian because ferrets are having very high metabolic rate and they can get sick very-very quick. Other things can happen to a ferret such as accidents. We have touched briefly on some of those things with ferret proofing, like don't step on your ferret, don't get her caught in the refrigerator door.

    Puffy came here a perfectly normal ferret using all four legs. We are not quite sure what happened to her but she ended up having back leg weakness. So we went out and got Puffy a wheelchair, so that she could have a good quality of life and still explore the rescue. She is quite good with her wheelchair. She loves to roll around and check out other people's cages. You need to know that with every ferret, you can expect at least one major medical bill and that will usually run you anywhere from $500-$1,500 during the life of the ferret.

    Ferrets are wonderful and entertaining pets. We have given you some good information to help you start caring for your ferret. I encourage you to search the internet and to read a couple of books, that will also help you learn more about ferrets. I hope you enjoy yours as much I enjoyed mine. Thank you for watching us.