Ferret health

How can you tell if a ferret is healthy? 

It's important to conduct a daily visual health check and a thorough health check once a week to ensure that any health issues are identified quickly. Check that: 

  • The ears and eyes should be clean. Ferrets are prone to wax build-up in the ear which can lead to ear mites
  • Your ferret's coats should be clean and shiny. Check the coat for signs of ticks and fleas, especially if you have a multi-pet household or you take your ferret out on walks regularly
  • Check for any wounds, lumps and bumps on your ferret — being so playful and energetic, they can be prone to injuries
  • Check and trim claws when necessary
  • Check that your ferret is eating a normal amount
  • Check your ferrets teeth to ensure that they are in good shape. 

Common ferret illnesses 

A ferret kept in the correct environment and on the right diet should be a very healthy pet with few health issues. Some of the conditions occasionally seen include: 

Parasites including ear mites, ticks, fleas and worms are reasonably common in ferrets and should be checked for regularly. Ear mites are particularly prevalent and present in your ferret as scratching around the head area, shaking the head and a build up of wax in the ear canal. If any of these symptoms present themselves take your ferret straight to the vet. Treat your ferret for worms and fleas every three months with a product suitable for ferrets that is recommended by your vet. 

Canine distemper. Ferrets should be inoculated against canine distemper and a booster vaccination is needed annually. Symptoms of distemper include loss of appetite, nasal discharge, blinking of the eyes and a fever. 

Dehydration. Ferrets can become dehydrated easily so access to plenty of fresh, clean drinking water at all times is essential. Paddling pools in the summer are ideal to encourage your ferret to drink and to help him to keep cool in the summer months. 

Diarrhoea can be fatal in ferrets. Changes in diet can be the cause but green or black diarrhoea can indicate a serious issue. Monitor your ferret's faeces production and if you notice any changes, consult your vet immediately. 

Hair loss. Middle-aged ferrets often lose hair on their tail but the reasons for this remains unknown. Hair should grow back within a few months. If it does not, or if the hair loss spreads to other parts of your ferret's body, take your ferret to visit the vet. 

Overgrown claws can be very painful for a ferret and can cause issues when your ferret is walking. Claws should be clipped every four to six weeks in order to keep them comfortable and in shape. 

Flu. Just like us, ferrets can get the flu. There is no treatment for this and your ferret should get over it on his own between five to seven days. Symptoms include sneezing, coughing, a fever, lethargy, wheezing, diarrhoea and a lack of appetite. If you suspect that your ferret has the flu, pay close attention to his symptoms, if they persist for longer than five days consult your vet. Ensure that during this time your ferret drinks lots of water to avoid dehydration. 

Hairballs and blockages. Ferrets love to chew and blockages caused by the items he has chewed can be common. Ferrets can also suffer from hair balls, especially when moulting. Signs of a blockage include difficultly toileting, coughing, a lack of appetite and pawing at the mouth. If you suspect a problem visit your vet.

REMEMBER: If you are in any doubt at all about the health of your ferret, contact your vet immediately. 

Pet care advice