A lot of ferret owners get tensed when their lovely fuzzy friends show signs of trouble. I understand that as many of my friends have suffered losses of their cute carpet sharks, and they still lament their losses. So, I thought, why not write a guide for current and prospective ferret owners so that they can deal with these overwhelming situations? I took my phone and researched all about the subject, and here it is.
What are the ferret dying signs?
A sick and dying ferret is highly lethargic, is constantly vomiting, has lost a lot of weight, has squinty eyes, is having discharges from various places including eyes and ears, has a smelly breath, is showing abnormal behavior, et cetera.
A cautious parent can see the danger from miles ahead and prepares in time. If you want to be that kind and caring parent, keep reading on.
Why are ferrets prone to death and diseases?
Ferrets, although being cute, are highly delicate animals. They can suffer from many diseases, and due to low genetic diversity in the US-born ferrets, they tend to suffer a lot from high mortality problems like cancers. As high as 50-70% of ferrets suffer from cancers of one type or other.
The ferrets found in Europe are much more diverse in their genetic structure due to random mating with other polecats. Still, overall, the low genetic diversity is one of the biggest reasons why ferrets have so many diseases.
If you are having two thoughts, do read out the pre-buying guide to ferrets.
What can cause a ferret to die?
A lot of things can cause a ferret to die, including insulinoma (a type of cancer common in ferrets), infections, stroke, injury, blockages, old age, et cetera. As ferrets are quite highly inbred, their chances of having diseases are relatively high.
Now, the next question should be how we can know if our little fuzzy friends are suffering?
How do I know if my ferret is in pain?
There are several ways through which you can understand whether your ferret is in pain or not. A ferret in pain has the following symptoms:
- squinty dull eyes
- teeth grinding.
- twitching in muscles at the top of the head.
- loss of appetite.
- unable to hold food in the mouth.
- having trouble chewing or swallowing food
- having trouble walking. limping or dragging the feet while doing so.
- holding their limbs up
- inability to groom themselves
- excessive licking or scratching
- favoring one side while walk or lying
- inability to get up on the feet
- having trouble stretching or curling up
- crying or moaning on touch
- pooping unusual sounds or on moving around. Check more here.
Furthermore, there are few signs to understand whether your ferret has stuck her paws. To understand these, we have added a few distress signals to this list.
A ferret in distress has the following signs:
Credits to Reddit useru/JoshValik
- loud screaming or making constant fast dooking noises.
- Running away from you or running to a dark corner.
- violent thrashing due to stress up to the level of ripping out their nails
- hissing excessively now and then is quite normal but if they are doing it excessively then they are stressed.
- They can release the stink bombs when they’re excited but this can also happen when they’re stressed/distressed.
- Ferret also do a lot of pooping peeing when distressed.
Distress can be a reason to worry but they usually don’t mean that the ferret is severely ill. There are other signs that can help you decide that.
How do I know if my ferret is ill?
An ill/diseases prone ferret has:
- dry, white, and overly inflamed gums
- smelly breath
- runny hard poop
- diarrhea discharge from eyes, nose, or gentiles.
- brittle soft nails
- overly dry pads of the feet
- skin irritations
- extreme hair loss
- unusual behavior
- not pooping
- some weight loss
What does a healthy ferret look like?
After all these distressed things. Let’s understand how a healthy bright ferret should look like.
A healthy ferret, according to the lady at ferret-world , has the following traits:
- big bright shiny eyes that are moist and clear.
- non smelly breath.
- pink moist gums.
- white teeth.
- plump nose.
- clean eyes which are nice and pink.
- full shiny soft coat with no bald spots.
- No black speckles inside their fur as those could mean fleas
- Pink pads on their feet
- They need to be playful, active, and alert. They need to have an inquisitive behavior except when wake up
- normal brown good consistent poop. Not hard, not moist but just right.
- They need to be clean around their gentiles – penis and anus.
- Their normal body temperature should be between 37.8 c to 39.4 c.
- Their normal respiration is 33 to 36 breaths per minute.
- Their normal heart beet 200 to 400 beats per minute.
What can endanger a ferret?
From Reddit user SwiftVines
A lot of things can endanger a ferret, like not ferret proofing your home, predators, bacteria from other species, diseases like blockages, cancers, infections, etc. Ferrets are known to be prone to diseases, and therefore a lot is needed to keep them safe.
Issues threatening a young ferret are listed below:
- Ferrets can get blockages as they can eat anything on the ground. This is quite common as these carpet sharks chew on almost anything.
- Heat can also kill a ferret. It would help if you kept them at medium temps (lower than 75’ish degrees Fahrenheit), especially in summer.
- Ferrets can also get diseases from humans. Hence, keep a distance in flu seasons. These could cost you hard bills if you aren’t careful.
- Adrenal diseases can also be a cause of concern among older ferrets. Hair loss and appetite reduction are some of the most common signs of having adrenal disease.
- Scratching and itching are typical unless they are too frequent. It can be mites in some cases, but mostly it is normal fuzzy behavior. Check here to find out when it is time to worry.
- Your ferret sleeps so profoundly you are not sure they are alive. They then wake up and act like everything was normal. It’s all right—lean more about sleep-related things here.
- Ferrets tend to lose weight in summers and gain in winters. These changes are expected, and you shouldn’t change their diets randomly, thinking something is wrong.
- Having a lot of ear wax is normal. It is not a sign of mites. Excessive ear wax can also be a reaction to the shampoo you are using. A vet visit is mostly not required.
- Feeding fruit or vegetables to ferrets is dangerous. Your ferret needs more meat protein than a cat, vegetables have little protein content, and that too is not easily digestible. If the ferret food contains veggies, prefer not to provide it to your fuzzy.
- Don’t ever put all your laundry into the washer before checking through it. Ferrets are known to sleep in dirty laundry, and if you aren’t cautious enough, you can kill your ferret accidentally.
- If your ferret is stinky, don’t do a water bath. Excessive bathing is detrimental to ferrets. Try providing them with dirt baths. Let them play in the dirt outside. You can also add some powdered activated charcoal if they are still stinky and repeat. You can read more about smell here.
- Ferret poop can show you signs of their illness. If the poop is of the same color as food, don’t worry; else, you need to read our ferret poop guide.
Let’s say you find that your ferret is sick. What can you do now?
How can I help my sick ferret?
The best thing you can do when your ferret is sick is to reach out to an exotic vet. Meanwhile, if your ferret is not eating anything, you can prepare a mushy soup from the kibble using a lot of water. Then, use a syringe to feed her the solution in small quantities every hour or so. Don’t push in too much, as that could cause a blockage.
In some cases, your ferret can be suffering from hypoglycemia. To check this, you need to check her gums. They should be pink and turn pale when you gently press them. If they aren’t pink, get some sugar syrup or honey and apply it to them. Leave the applied solution there for some time. If you see changes to normalcy, leave it else apply some more.
Some more things to check out are her vomit and feces. Look for things like hairs, blood, foreign objects (rubber/wood/plastic/ anything), parasites, and worms in them.
Having blood and foreign objects is a grave issue, and you should run to the vet immediately. In the meantime, feed (or force-feed) your ferret some egg yolk. Let her lick some Vaseline from your fingers and hope she poops. She must do. These things will act as lube and help the blockage to pass out.
Anyways this is serious, and don’t just operate on your own. Consult a vet immediately.
Also, make sure the ferret is constantly hydrated.
How do you tell if a ferret has a blockage?
Ferrets can suffer blockages. Signs of a blockage can include loss of appetite, losing a lot of weight, not pooping or peeing, showing extreme laziness, etc. . However, some signs like weight loss are typical if they occur alone. Ferrets tend to lose a lot of weight in the winter seasons. So, don’t get panicked if that happens with your dear fuzzy.
Bowel obstructions can occur in many ferrets, and you will need to handle them from time to time. Make some duk soup from the recipes available online (like this one), or get a powdered duk soup. Either that or create a mixture in warm water of canned pumpkin, food paste (available in some pet stores), and olive oil should be administered. Provide Pedialyte and cold water in between the feeding as well. Hope and wait till she poops.
You want the solution to be watery but not like a normal soup, something you can syringe feed them. Avoid adding kibble to the soup if you can.
Is it true a female ferret will die if not mated?
Credits to Reddit user u/spinx7
Female ferrets remain continuously in heat due to their periods, and therefore, unsprayed female ferrets can die due to blood loss/anemia if they are not mated. There is, however, a way out of this. Some parents use neutered hobs to get the jills (females ferrets) out of their heat.
Implants can be used to stop seasons, but they only work for 4 years or so. These are, however, preferred to spaying by some vets as spayed ferrets can become more susceptible to Adrenal problems later in life. There are jabs that can bring them out of season, but they can have side effects. There are reports that Jills can go through phantom pregnancies (lots of weight gain, excessive nesting, and “babying” of other ferrets) due to the effect of jabs.
There are other ways through which you can satisfy Jill and get her out of the heat, including using hormones and chemical implants/Deslorelin.
Why is my ferret shaking a lot?
Ferret’s body temps go down when they sleep, and hence to shore them up; they shake their bodies a bit. It is like us shivering in the cold. They usually shake a lot when they wake up, but you should take her to a vet if it continues.
To ensure that they don’t feed cold, keep the temps above 75F and above.
Nervousness can also induce stress which in turn can lead to shaking. Ferrets from poor environments do take some time to blend in, and in between these adaption periods, they can shake a bit.
Ferrets can also shake when they’re super excited, like going out for rides, etc. You don’t need to worry unless it is continuous.
Constantly shaking can also be a sign of blood sugar problems, especially in young kits (3 months or younger). Try to provide them some high-quality wet kitten food.
Shaking is typical in ferrets, but if it is accompanied by other behaviors like being lazy and losing appetite, it could also point to insulinoma. Hence, consult a vet if shaking continues for no apparent reason.
How do you check a ferret’s health?
A routine visit to the vet is the best way to check on a ferret’s health. Still, there are some ways you can examine your ferret at home, like checking their body and see if there are abnormal spots, signs of mites, injuries, or anything out of order. See if they are taking their food and water properly and not being too lethargic. Poop and pee can also give you hints on their health.
Check our guide to ferret poop here to understand what poop can be treated as a bad omen.
Is my ferret depressed?
Credits to Reddit user u/-ohtheplacesyoullgo
Ferrets can get depressed, especially when left alone. You have two options: either you can enhance their environment by adding in more puzzles and stuff or add in a partner with whom they can play and enjoy.
Sometimes newly adopted ferrets take time to get comfortable enough to play in the new environment. They need a little bit more to settle in.
Ferrets can also pass the sickness between one another. They can get depressed if the other fuzz kid is not well or has passed away. Besides this, ferrets are generally sluggish in the winter. It is a type of hibernation and not depression.
Keeping newcomers with diseases can spread the sickness and lathery to your current batch. So keep them astray for a while, especially if they are old. Older ferrets generally suffer from a lot of diseases, including cancer. And they can spread their sickness.
Age is also a factor in their playtime, and that’s not usually a sign of depression. Ferrets get slower with age, especially as they cross the 2-3 years’ mark.
As said before, ferrets need slightly warmer temps to survive (75F and above). They can get lethargic in cold climates.
Check if their gums are pink. Press them as they should become pale for some time and then return to normal. If that’s not the case, they likely have anemia. You’ll need to provide them supplements like Ferretvite to cope with the situation.
What illnesses can ferrets get?
According to Vcahospitals , Ferrets can suffer from various diseases, including diarrhea, parasites, intestinal foreign bodies, heart disease, multiple types of tumors, etc.
If your ferret is in extreme pain, then it is time to let them go. Experienced vets will also help you out in making the right decision. So, listen to their advice, and then you can decide whether to euthanize your ferret or not.
What is the life expectancy of a ferret?
Polecats like ferrets live for around 4-6 years in the wild. While in captivity, they can live up to 10 years. Though popular varieties, like the marshals, are heavily inbred, they are known to die early due to diseases like insulinoma.
Is it normal for a ferret to throw up?
Vomiting in ferrets can happen due to a lot of reasons, including swallowing something nasty or not chewing the food properly. If it’s a single vomit, you don’t need to worry. But if they are constantly vomiting, rush to a vet asap.
Try to provide a raw whole egg. Also, let them lick some drops of ferretone from your finger. Likely these will act as lubricants and help out anything that’s obstructing. You should then wait for their poop. It could be a ball of hair or something solid. You will have to wait and see.
Another thing is to notice the intensity with which they are vomiting. If it is like a normal vomit, then OK, but if they are getting utterly exhausted after a puke, then it’s a sign of trouble.
In any case, taking them for a routine checkup is the best option.
Not eating is not always a sign of obstruction. They could not be in a mood to eat, or they have eaten plenty; both of these reasons could stop them from eating new food. You need to check their intakes and outtakes to figure things out.
Middle ear issues can also cause nausea. And they can also be a source of vomiting.
Occasionally throwing up is not a big issue. Every ferret will do that from time to time, but if it is continuous or if she stops pooping, immediately visit a vet.
Why is my ferret so tired?
It is usual for new ferrets to take some time to understand and get comfortable with a new environment. And, in that time, they could be perceived as lazy or lethargic. So give them some time to adjust.
Also, sleeping for around 18 hours is quite normal and not a sign of laziness in ferrets. You can rotate the toys that she plays with to provide new stimuli from time to time. You can also be adding new games like squeak and stash to enhance the excitement further.
Being sluggish and lazy is also dependent on age; ferrets usually get slower after they get 2 to 3 years old. It is also highly dependent on personality. Not all ferrets are alike, and therefore some might like to play a lot while others tend to be on the quieter side.
Anyways, if they are pooping and peeing normally, it shouldn’t be a worry. However, it’s a great idea to visit a vet just for a routine checkup, especially if you’re just adopted a new ferret. Get her through a complete checkup before letting her settle in.
In some cases, people provide their ferrets’ food in the same bowl, which can lead to aggressive ferrets not allowing others to eat much food, which could cause lethargy and laziness. So, make sure that there are different bowls present for each of your ferret.
They could get quite lazy after vaccination because vaccines usually weaken the pathogens in the body. These symptoms can remain there for 1 to 2 weeks.
Also, a lot of ferrets don’t like to come out of their cages if they are closed. So make sure that your cages are open so that they can get out to play and enjoy their time when they want to play.
Why is my ferret breathing weird?
Breathing weird or clicking sounds in ferrets can indicate that they have swallowed something or have a throat irritation. You can make them lick some Vaseline (or coconut oil/olive oil/canola oil) from your hands so that anything that’s stuck gets passed away.
Rapid breathing can also occur due to high temps. Ferrets can’t handle more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit (sometimes they aren’t comfortable at even low 70s). Keep the temps down to make the environment much soothing for them.
You can provide them a pool to play in. This can help reduce their stress during summer but don’t ever leave them alone in the pool as they can drown without supervision.
Try to open the mouth and check whether you can see something inside.
If nothing else, to the vet is safest. Good luck.
Sometimes litter dust/dusty beddings can also cause breathing problems. Visit a nearby exotic vet immediately in case you can’t figure out what’s happening.
Infections can also cause rapid breathing.
What can I give my ferret for pain?
According to WebMD , the recommended pain meds for animals like ferrets are carprofen, deracoxib, firocoxib, and meloxicam. A Reddit user has confirmed  that his vet prescribed meloxicam for his ferret’s pain. The dosage, however, will depend on their weight.
The WebMD piece is particular to dogs, and hence we have reference University of Maryland data for ferret-specific dosage.
According to the University of Maryland, the dosage of pain meds ferrets varies according to the drug provided. It’s 2-4mg/kg of body weight in the case of carprofen. For meloxicam, it is 0.2-0.3mg/kg. As for Lidocaine, the dosage should never be more than 2mg/kg of body weight. There are also restrictions on the number of times per day for each of these meds.
Here is the complete chart:
According to Veterinary Clinics of North America , Ferrets with ulcer diseases can be prescribed ranitidine.
What does a sick ferret look like?
A sick ferret usually has foul breath, lethargic attitude, loss of appetite, runny poop, discharges coming from eyes and ears, skin infection/irritation, etc. A sign alone should not be seen as a sign of sickness, but if it’s accompanied by other signs as well, then you must visit a vet immediately.
Change of food can trigger sickness in ferrets. Ferrets get extremely associated with their food, and any change can bring symptoms that resemble sickness. Try to feed them baby food which is more soothing/mushy than normal kibble. If they still aren’t eating, try syringe-feeding them. Make sure they are eating and pooping before taking them to a vet.
How to syringe feed a ferret?
Check out this video on how you can syringe feed your ferret in case of an emergency.
Are ferret’s noses supposed to be wet?
Drippy nose can be due to cold or from a mild allergic reaction. Try to provide some licks of ferretone or ferretvite. They may not eat that much while having cold, but the effects should go away as they become normal.
How do you hydrate a ferret?
A ferret can be hydrated in several ways, including providing a bowl or dish for her to drink easily, wetting your fingers, and then letting her lick them, etc. You can also provide them with food of high water content like chicken soup/broth. If nothing works, use a syringe and push little water every few minutes through the side of their mouths. Consult a vet immediately if the situation persists.
Dehydration in ferrets is both normal and can be a dangerous sign of blockage and severe illness. So, tread with caution if your ferret is continuously avoiding drinking water.
Why is my ferret not moving?
Credits to Reddit user u/OttoToast
A ferret can suffer from immovability due to several reasons, including suffering from a recent injury, a tumor in the body, suffering from insulinoma, had a recent stroke, is suffering from organic failure, etc. All of these are serious situations and should not be treated at home. A quick visit to a nearby vet is advised.
In the meantime, you can rub some Karo syrup on their gums to help with the situation. Also, provide easy access to food, water, litter, and sleeping areas.
There are other walking issues as well:
- Being lethargic can be a sign of insulinoma, especially in young ferrets. Although being lazy is a common thing for ferrets, but if it is accompanied by other ailments like not peeing or pooping, losing appetite, you should take this seriously.
- Dragging legs is a common sign of tumors in ferrets. They may stand up to poop and pee but won’t walk until it is removed properly. This is a serious situation and needs immediate vet care.
- Unable to move back legs can be because of stroke or insulinoma. It could also be a result of a normal injury.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can ferrets transmit diseases to humans?
According to CDC’s website, Ferrets can transmit various types of diseases like influenza, skin infections, and rabies; besides these, they can also host numerous disease-carrying bacteria and parasites like Campylobacter, Giardia, and salmonella. Ferrets can also contain ringworms which are harmful to humans as well.
How can you tell how old your ferret is?
Ferret’s age can be guessed by looking at the yellowness of their teeth especially upper canines. These teeth turn yellower as the ferrets age. Ferrets have completely white teeth when they age 1 year or less. Between 1.5 and 2.5 years, their teeth start showing slight yellowness on the tips, the gums begin to wear as well. When they’re of age between 3 to 4 years, their teeth become yellow-stained, and a lot more wear is visible on the gums. After 6 years, their teeth become completely yellow and rotten, especially if they’re on a kibble diet.
If you still don’t understand, there is a video to show you how you can check the age of your newly adopted fuzzy friend. A visit to the vet can help as well. They will tell you the age immediately.
My ferret has a toothache. How can I help?
Image taken from hakibe ferret blog
If a ferret is suffering from teeth-related issues, a visit to the vet is essential. There you will know whether teeth removal is necessary or not. In the meantime, get her out of the kibble diet. Provide a passable, mushy, and smooth diet. Duck soup, lukewarm baby food (with high protein) would be the right stuff to provide.
My ferret has a swollen vulva. Should I be worried?
Swollen vulva in ferrets is generally a sign of adrenal cancers. You can’t do much about them except providing melatonin implants that halt cancer for a while but not much else. Your ferret need not show all signs of adrenal disease like fur/hair loss, weight loss etc.
How can I help my dying ferret?
You can do little to help a dying ferret besides providing them with a comfy environment with the right temps and quick access to food, water, litter, and sleeping areas. You can also give them pain meds to relieve them from their pain a bit. A dying ferret can also be providing with forbidden treats that aren’t usually ok to share.
What treats can you provide a dying ferret?
Since these are your ferret’s last days, they can have their choicest forbidden treats. Some ferrets love ice-creams, some love cheese. You have to see what they get bonkers about and provide them as these are their final days. Please don’t be worried about more diseases since they aren’t going to last long anyway. Let them have some fun.
Some common treats for dying ferrets are Honey, coffee, cheese, rice cakes.
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