Ferrets are very intelligent creatures and make wonderful pets. With a lifespan of about six to nine years, a ferret can provide many years of companionship and fun. A healthy ferret enjoys play time and can be taught many things. However, there are a few health concerns to look out for, and regular veterinary care is a must.
“In general, ferrets under the age of two are sturdy,” said Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital. “However, they can catch the flu from a person. Therefore, if someone in the household is sick with the flu, make sure they do not handle the ferret and let others take over the routine care and feeding.”
There are also two other common health considerations that a high percentage of ferrets experience once they reach about four years old:
Insulinomas – Seventy percent of ferrets over the age of four at some point will probably develop an insulinoma. This is a tumor the size and shape of a sesame seed that develops genetically in their pancreas which secretes insulin. The symptoms are very subtle at first because ferrets sleep long hours. The most common symptoms presenting as an emergency are seizures, unresponsiveness and/or coma.
Other symptoms include pawing the mouth, rear leg weakness, especially on slippery surfaces, or simply stumbling on its rear.
“Sometimes just playing less because they are tired is a symptom,” said Dr. Martins. “It’s important to be aware of what is normal activity for your ferret so you can easily spot abnormal behavior and call your veterinarian to report the changes.”
Adrenal tumor – Another common problem ferrets develop is an adrenal tumor. The symptoms are hair loss starting over their tail.
“If you notice some hair loss, please contact your veterinarian,” advised Dr. Martins. “Even though ferrets do go through two shedding cycles, it’s important for a veterinarian to determine the difference. If they are losing fur to the point of baldness, they probably have developed a tumor. Other symptoms include rear leg weakness and extreme itching that just won’t stop and gets progressively worse.”
Some ferrets might develop an insulinoma and adrenal tumor at the same time.
“You would be surprised how many ferrets are experiencing health problems without the owner’s knowledge,” said Dr. Martins. “Ferrets should go to a veterinarian specializing in exotic mammal care once a year for an exam.”
Belle Mead Animal Hospital (BMAH) is located at 872 U.S. Highway 206, Hillsborough, NJ 08844. Telephone: 908-874-4447.
The BMAH team has been providing compassionate, high quality care to families and pets in Hillsborough Township and surrounding areas in New Jersey for more than 30 years. They have a special interest in Exotic Companion Mammals. More information can be found on their website here.
The Belle Mead Animal Hospital is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).
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