Here at Glenwood Pet Hospital, we know your pets are a big part of your family. To keep your pets safe and healthy, we recommend all ferrets visit our animal hospital every year. As ferrets age, more frequent appointments may be needed to manage their care. Our team can administer necessary vaccinations and equip you with the tools to ensure your ferret is set up for a lifetime of proper care.
Signs Your Ferret Needs to See the Vet
It may not be obvious if your ferret is sick, however if you notice any of the following symptoms, they may need care from an exotic veterinarian:
- Little to no appetite
- Acting uncomfortable or hunched
- Less active than usual
- Hair loss
- Enlarged vulva
- Trouble urinating
We recommend bringing your ferret into our animal hospital each year for regular examinations which may include:
We can provide their initial distemper vaccination and a booster shot at 12 weeks of age. At 16 weeks of age, we will administer the final distemper booster and initial rabies vaccine. After the initial immunizations, these vaccines are boosted once a year.
Your ferret will also need regular dental care, as they are predisposed to develop tartar build up and gingivitis. Frequently brushing their teeth and feeding high quality kibble can supplement your ferret’s dental health between teeth cleanings.
Disease Protection & Prevention
Depending on your lifestyle or location, we may recommend a monthly heartworm preventative to protect your ferret. Ferrets are also liable to developing adrenal disease, which can be reduced by placing a hormonal implant each year. This is more commonly seen in middle-age or older ferrets.
Age Related Care
As your ferret ages, they become more susceptible to metabolic diseases and neoplasia. Once ferrets reach 4-5 years of age, they are considered middle-aged and will likely require wellness visits more often. We may recommend abdominal ultrasounds and blood work to stay up to date on their health.
Spay & Neuter
Ferrets purchased commercially are usually already spayed and neutered or de-scented, however your exotic veterinarian can check to confirm.
Ferrets, like many pets, are naturally curious and it’s important to keep them safe in your home. Because of their smaller size, it is easy for ferrets to squeeze into small spaces and find themselves in trouble. When ferret-proofing a space in your home, we recommend using child safety plugs in outlets within your pet ferret’s reach. Any spaces larger than 2” x 2” should also be blocked off. Here is what to remove from any space your pet ferret has access to:
- Recliners or sofa beds
- Items that may be accidentally ingested (foam, rubber items, electrical cords, hair ties, shoes, pipe insulation, headphones, etc)
- Possibly toxic or irritating substances including plants, household cleaners, insecticides, or rodenticides
Ideal housing for your ferret should include:
- Spacious, multi-level cages with ramps
- Acceptable ventilation
- Sturdy bases that are easily cleaned
- Top and side wire spaces smaller than 1” x 0.5”
- Plentiful bedding
- Boxes, igloos, and tunnels for engagement
- A small, low-sided pan covered with absorbent, non-toxic litter
If you are considering becoming a ferret owner, we recommend speaking with an exotic veterinarian to see if a ferret is right for your home.
Playing with your ferret for at least 2 hours a day in a ferret-proofed area can not only strengthen your bond but also provide them with necessary exercise. Cloth toys without buttons, larger durable materials, and tunnel toys are excellent sources of engagement for your ferret. In addition, ferrets tend to rough-house with each other which may result in injuries to either pet. Always closely monitor any playtime to ensure all pets’ safety.
Ferrets require animal protein (30-40%), fat (15-20%), and a small amount of fiber (2%) in their diets to grow and develop properly. Ferret kibble including Wysop, Mazuri Ferret, Marshal Ferret Carnivore Plus, or ZuPreem Premium Ferret Diet are suitable for your pet ferret as well. You might consider giving your ferret cooked meat, poultry, fish, or a hard-boiled egg as an occasional treat. A deep, heavy dish or sipper bottle should also be provided. Your veterinarian can provide diet recommendations to meet your ferret’s individual needs.
Ferret Care Instructions
Ferrets are strict carnivores. They require a diet rich in animal protein (30-40%) and fat (15-20%), and a small amount of fiber (2%). We recommend a good quality ferret kibble such as Wysop, Mazuri Ferret, Marshal Ferret Carnivore Plus (grain-free), or ZuPreem Premium Ferret Diet (no corn).
Cooked meat, poultry, fish, or a hard-boiled egg can be offered as an occasional treat in moderation. Ferrets should not be fed diets high in fiber, carbohydrates, vegetables or dog food as they cannot digest these well. Ferrets have a very short gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, food should always be available so they can eat frequent small meals throughout the day.
Clean water should be provided at all times via a sipper bottle, ceramic or glass dish. The dish should be sufficiently deep and heavy to prevent spillage and tipping. Clean bottles and water dishes regularly and refresh the water daily.
Large, multi-level cages with ramps are frequently used for housing pet ferrets. The minimum cage size for 1-2 ferrets is 2’ x 2’ x 1.5’. The cage should have good ventilation and be easy to clean and disinfect. The bottom of the cage should always be constructed of a solid bottom, as ferrets enjoy digging and wire caged bottoms can result in foot injuries. Make sure door latches are secured and the wire spacing for the sides and top of the enclosure are no wider than 1” x 0.5” to prevent accidental escapes. Place the enclosure in a location away from direct sunlight, drafts, or cold and damp areas.
Ferrets love to burrow and hide. Providing lots of bedding such as old towels, shirts, blankets or hammocks are great ways to keep them comfortable. Alternatively, there are many commercial products that you can purchase online or at pet stores to keep your ferret happy, comfortable and entertained such as boxes, igloos, and tunnels. Ensure that your ferret is not ingesting any of the cloth or bedding material as this can result in a life-threatening situation.
Bedding and litter material should be non-toxic, absorbent, and free from dust. An economical bedding material is a layer of newspaper covered in hay. Commercial forms of bedding/litter are also available. These are often recycled paper products (e.g. CareFresh or Yesterday’s News), and are well accepted. Wood shavings, wood chips, pine, aspen, and corn cob bedding are not recommended. The bedding/ litter material should be kept dry and clean. Daily spot cleaning is recommended as well as weekly replacement.
Ferrets will back up to a vertical surface to void themselves. Most ferrets can be litter pan trained, especially when started at a young age. A small, low-sided pan in a corner of the enclosure lined with a thin layer of absorbent, non-toxic litter (e.g. CareFresh, newspaper, or Yesterday’s News) is recommended. If your ferret is allowed a large exercise area outside of its enclosure, place litter pans in several locations to minimize soiling of your home.
Ferrets do not cover up their waste. It is recommended to spot clean daily and completely replace the litter weekly or as needed to minimize odors.
Daily exercise is a must! Ferrets should have supervised exercise time for a minimum of 2 hours a day in a ferret-proofed area. Offer plenty of toys and interaction time throughout the day to strengthen your bond with your ferret. This will allow them a healthy outlet to exhibit their natural and playful behaviors. When selecting appropriate toys for your pet, we recommend cloth toys (with buttons/eyes removed), larger indestructible materials (like hard plastic larger than a ping pong ball), and tunnel-type toys. Always monitor your pet when interacting with toys to ensure pieces are not accidentally being ingested.
Ferrets are fun and curious animals. However, they may not be the right pet for every family. If your family has young children, other pets such as birds, rabbits, rodents or lizards, then a ferret may not be the best pet to have. Talk to your veterinarian to determine if owning a ferret is a good choice for your family.
Ferrets are nocturnal but can adjust their activity schedule to reflect yours. Due to their curious nature, all homes should be ferret proofed before acquiring one. Ferrets are easy to handle but like any other animal, they can bite when they become overstimulated or frightened.
Ferrets can play quite roughly with each other and cause injuries. Supervise play time for any evidence of aggression and separate ferrets with a “time out” if they are becoming too rough with one another. Youngsters tend to nip and bite. Discourage nipping as this can result in biting as an adult.
Due to their curious nature, all homes should be ferret proofed before acquiring one.
Ferrets can squeeze into very small and narrow spaces! Any hole or space between appliances larger than 2” x 2” should be walled off or sealed to prevent escaping. Ideally, a room with no recliners or sofa beds should be used as ferrets have been accidentally crushed in the springs while playing underneath these furniture items. Always double-check your dishwasher, refrigerator, washer and dryer before shutting the appliance door and turning them on if your ferret is allowed access to these areas of your home.
Keep all foam, rubber items, electrical cords, hair ties, shoes, pipe insulation, headphones, etc. out of your ferret’s reach. They can accidentally ingest these items, which can cause intestinal blockage. In addition, remove all potentially toxic or irritating substances such as plants, household cleaners, insecticides, or rodenticides from your pets reach. Use child safety outlet plugs to hole up outlets that a ferret can reach.
Ferrets should be vaccinated against distemper and rabies. Ferret specific distemper vaccines should be used, as regular dog distemper vaccines are not recommended for ferrets. Most ferrets purchased from pet stores have received their initial distemper vaccine at 8 weeks of age. A booster vaccine is highly recommended at 12 and 16 weeks of age and then annually. Rabies vaccine is given at 16 weeks of age and then annually.
Ferrets are highly prone to developing adrenal disease, including cancer of the adrenal glands. It is typically seen in middle-aged to older ferrets and is commonly characterized by hair loss in both sexes and vulvar enlargement in females. The chances of developing the disease can be decreased by using a hormonal implant placed under the skin annually. Consult your veterinarian for more information and options.
Ferrets should be examined yearly until they are 4-5 years of age. Middle-aged and older animals should be examined twice yearly because of their high incidence of metabolic diseases and neoplasia. Abdominal ultrasounds and blood work (including blood glucose) might be recommended.
Adult ferrets are prone to developing dental tartar and gingivitis. Feeding a good-quality kibble or brushing their teeth regularly can help reduce the frequency of recommended anesthetic dental cleanings.
Heartworms can cause disease in ferrets and once per month preventive oral medication might be recommended if you leave in an endemic area or if there is risk of exposure.
The human flu virus is considered a zoonotic disease (transmission can occur between your ferret and you, and vice versa). If you have a cold, try not to handle your ferret until you have cleared your illness. If you must handle your ferret, wash your hands before and after handling them and do not place the ferret near your face.
Most commercially purchased ferrets in the USA are sold already spayed/neutered and de-scented. This is annotated with two tattooed dots on the ear. If unsure if your pet is spayed/neutered, please ask your veterinarian. De-scenting your ferret will not completely remove their natural musk odor.