American ferrets can now
have life spans up to ten years of age. Disease condition can begin
as early as 3 to 4 years old. It is imperative to catch problems
early as a lot more can be done about them.
Routine physical exams twice
a year by a Veterinarian experienced in ferret medicine would be
optimal. I have frequently found tumors and cancer early in this
manner that were treatable rather than finding these when it is too
advanced because the ferret is seven years old and never has been checked
Hind leg weakness - This can
be due to insulinomas, hypoglycemia, liver disease, kidney disease, or old
Hair loss on tail only -
This can be a seasonal hair loss that grows back or the start of an
adrenal tumor if it progresses up the animal.
Hair loss on the body -
Although the adrenal tumor is the most common, fleas, fungal infections,
allergies, or poor nutrition can also be responsible.
Lumps, bumps, raised brown
spots on the skin - Skin tumors or cancer. Both benign and malignant
forms are common. Get a proper diagnosis quickly.
mounting behavior, swollen vulva, or urinary/prostate problems can again
be related to an adrenal tumor. Have it removed early while it is
Weight loss, loss of
appetite, thin sized fecal material, and debilitation - These are common
to gastrointestinal tumors and cancer or something lodged in the GI
Diarrhea - This can be from
diet, cancer, toxin exposure, viral or bacterial diseases and should be
dealt with immediately.
Trouble breathing - Heart
problems, liver disease, or tumors can all cause fluid build-up that may
compromise breathing ability and respiratory infections can also occur.
Drooling, gagging, weakness
- Insulinoma or tumors on the pancreas are again common and may be dealt
with by dietary modification or surgery.
Proper nutrition - Ferrets
are true carnivores like cats (dogs are omnivores) and require high
quality protein diets (40% protein is optimal). Make sure the first
2 or 3 ingredients on the food label are meat! Commercial cat food
from the grocery store is inadequate. There are now good ferret
diets that are much better such as Mazuri, Totally Ferret, and Zoopreem.
Also, remember ferrets are susceptible
to heartworms and should be put on proper prevention.
Ferrets are wonderful little
pets that give us much amusement and pleasure. Return the favor by
giving them proper nutrition, housing, attention, and health care.
The above is a reprint of an article
written by Jack Landess, D.V.M., as a public service. Reprint
permission was obtained from the Florida
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