Ferrets or Mustela putorius furo, belong to the same family as mink, weasels, sea otters, badgers, and their wild cousin, the black footed ferret. The ferret we have as a pet is not present in the wild, but is closely genetically related to the European Polecat. A domestic animal since 4B.C, their Latin name « furonem » means thief, and describes their character well. Playful, entertaining and mischievous, ferrets make their presence known in any household. Their average lifespan is between 6 and 8 years.


High Quality Ferret Food
Ferrets are obligate carnivorous animals, meaning that they are strictly meat eaters. It has been shown that they can only utilize amino acids from meat proteins and cannot utilize amino acids from plant proteins. Many commercially available cat foods contain cereal or plant proteins in their formulation and therefore are not ideal for your pet. Thus, we recommend the use of high quality ferret diet, as these are made with high quality meat proteins.
A variety of ferret diets are available on the market, but check the label: make sure that the fat content is between 18 and 30% and that the protein level is between 32 and 40%. Over 40% protein may be detrimental to the kidneys, especially in older ferrets.
If you cannot access ferret food, a high quality kitten diet can be a substitute. Switch to the adult diet when your ferret is four year old. Make sure you buy the highest quality cat food available and ensure that the protein source is meat and not vegetable based.
Another reason to feed high quality food is that ferrets are prone to a certain type of bladder stone, similar to what many cats develop, that may be aggravated by high ash content in the diet. High quality foods are low in ash and therefore help prevent bladder stones in your ferret.
Food should be left out to be eaten free choice and replaced with fresh food daily. Obesity is not a common problem, so the diet usually does not have to be rationed. We recommend feeding dry food, as this provides more exercise and cleans the teeth and gums.
If your ferret is on any other diet, please discuss it with your veterinarian.

Clean, fresh water should always be available and should be contained in either a heavy ceramic or weighted bowl or a bottle such as is used for rabbits and guinea pigs. Nothing should be added to the water, as it may reduce water consumption.
Some ferrets like to snorkel in their water (immerse their entire head), in which case the bowl may need refilling more often.

These are generally not necessary if your pet is on a high quality diet.
If you find your ferret has dry skin or fur, Nutrical or Ferretone is a fatty acid supplement that can help to restore fur and skin condition. These concentrated supplements should be provided with careful monitoring, as they are high in sugar. Consult with your veterinarian.

Hairball Laxative

Cat hairball laxative pastes can be offered when your ferret is shedding. Ferrets love this supplement and generally will lick it directly from the spoon.
This paste can also help clear foreign bodies swallowed by young ferrets.
Supplements and laxatives contain high levels of sugar, so, under normal circumstances, restrict the amount you give to approximately ¼ teaspoon per day, regardless of how much your ferret likes it.

Safe Treats
While treats are not necessary to provide nutrition, some foods can be safely given in very small quantities (not more than a teaspoon per day):

  • Non acidic fruit, chopped up in small pieces
  • Eggs, chopped
  • Meat, cooked and cut up
  • Cat treats, high quality



Some people recommend bones for ferrets. We do not. Ferrets can chew and swallow bones, but small pieces can lodge in their digestive tract, or can cause abrasion and bleeding while being pushed through. This damage or blockage may require surgery or medical management to remove the piece of bone.

Table foods

It is not advisable to feed grains, nuts, many fruits or vegetable matter. Ferrets have a very poor ability to digest fibre, and if fed too many of these foods, may develop colitis or chronic soft, mucous stools.


Never feed your pet foods that are high in carbohydrates or sugars (candy, desserts, milk and milk products etc.) Ferrets cannot digest sugars. As well, they are prone to developing pancreatic problems such as insulin producing tumours (insulinomas), which affect the regulation of blood sugar.


Ferrets are crepuscular, meaning they sleep most of the day, and are active at dawn and dusk. They need approximately 18 hours of sleep per day, and will often adapt their schedule to be awake when you are home and available to play. Most ferrets have a very keen sense of smell as well as hearing, but their eyesight is poor. They need several hours of stimulus, exercise and attention per day.

It is highly recommended that your pet be caged when you are not home to prevent accidents, as ferrets are notorious for getting into unusual spots. House ferrets alone or with other ferrets, but never with another species of animal. Ferrets are excellent hunters, and should be kept separate from other small pets such as birds, rabbits, reptiles and rodents.
Many different models of cages are available, and imaginative owners have designed all kinds of elaborate homes for their ferrets. We recommend you invest in a sturdy, easy to clean and indestructible ferret home for when you are not at home.


The basic cage needed to house up to two ferrets is a cage 24" x 48" by 18" high. This type of cage provides little or no exercise, and although it is adequate while you are not able to supervise; ferrets living in it must be let out for 2-3 hours every day for exercise.


Cage bottoms should be made of non-porous plastic. Avoid wood, glass, wire or chewable materials. We do not recommend any kind of mesh or wire flooring due to the risk of abrasions and injury. Aquaria are not suitable cages for ferrets as the ventilation is poor. Ideally cages should have as many sides as possible made of wire to provide adequate ventilation.
Some companies sell corral type enclosures that set up on your floor. Whether or not they are an escape-proof structure for your ferret will depend on how determined he is to wander.


Keep the cage away from direct sunlight and cold draughts. Ferrets enjoy temperatures that are below 72° F (22° C) and where humidity levels are comfortable for humans. Avoid damp areas such as basements or bathrooms.
Ferrets cannot and should not live outside. Keep your ferret's cage somewhere in your home where he can see you come and go, but where he can get his necessary sleep as well. The middle of a busy household may result in a grumpy ferret that never gets to sleep! Keep cages at least 6 inches from most walls to avoid stains that result from urine and stool that miss the litter box.
In hot weather, here are ways to keep your ferret cool:
  • Keep the cage out of direct sunlight
  • Keep the cage in the coolest room of the house
  • Provide cool water bottles, or a frozen water bottle wrapped in a cloth or towel as a portable air conditioner
  • Provide a fan from outside the cage to circulate air (restrict your ferret from having any access to the fan)
  • Change the drinking water 2 or 3 times a day to keep water cool
  • Make sure water is easily accessible, especially if your cage has several levels
  • Provide a piece of linoleum on the cage bottom, it is cool and your ferret can lie on it
  • Mist your pet lightly with a spray bottle
  • Let your ferret bathe, snorkel and play in a few inches of cool water


Latches and doors should close securely, even if it requires a small clip or lock. The space between bars of any kind of mesh or wire should be small enough to prevent escape (less than one inch). Determined and curious ferrets can get their heads wedged in tight places by pushing on loose doors in an effort to escape.


Cover the cage bottom with old towels or clothes, white or brown paper, or newspaper. Do not use wood chips, corncob or rubber or foam-backed carpeting as a substrate for the cage.


Use heavy crock style dishes for dry food and water. Water bottles can complement a heavy water dish where your ferret might routinely 'snorkel'. Dishes and litters can be attached with c-clamps if your ferret tips them over.

7-Sleeping Area

An enclosed sleeping area or bedroom is necessary or your pet will become extremely frustrated and continually dig at the corner of the cage. Most ferrets are truly content to sleep in a hammock. You can buy a hammock or make one from a leg of a pair of old jeans or other tough pants. Other examples of sleeping areas are: an enclosed plastic or cardboard box with a hole in the side and a soft blanket inside, a towel, clothing with no holes or a ferret tent (as sold in many stores).

8-Litter box

Most ferrets will use a litter, but the key is that they need to find it easily. Provide litter boxes inside and outside of your ferret's cage. Inside the cage let your ferret pick his preferred toilet area (usually a corner), then place the box in his chosen spot. Corner litter boxes with one high side are ideal for this situation. When your pet is loose in the house, provide several low sided boxes litter boxes in his play area, as ferrets are not very good at returning to home base if they get the urge. The more litter boxes that are easily available, the higher the success rate. Note that, unlike cats, most ferrets will not cover up their waste. Older or convalescing ferrets will appreciate a low-sided litter for easy access.
Avoid the use of perfumed litter materials, and any that are made of wood chips, corncob or clay. We recommend a perfume and dust free, fairly heavy, recycled paper pellet as the ideal litter.

Ferrets need and love toys! They relieve boredom, provide exercise and mental stimulation, and satisfy a ferret's natural curiosity and instinct to hoard. As well, toys in a ferret's cage will help relieve the stress of being confined.
Safe toys include hard nylon balls or nylon bones, rawhide chew sticks, metal balls, ping-pong balls (best used under supervision), golf, tennis, racquetball or billiards balls, and paper bags. There are many safe toys now on the market made especially with ferrets in mind including: edible chew toys, edible dig boxes, balls typically made of very hard plastic with bells inside, tents and sleeping accessories, clear vinyl tubes to walk and play in, noisemakers that bounce, large plastic rolling balls with openings your ferret can go into (and roll around in the ball!) and more.
Never give your pet any rubber toys. Ferrets like to chew and swallow rubber. All too often, pieces of rubber can cause fatal obstruction of the stomach or intestinal tract, which requires surgery to resolve.
Be sure to inspect toys for edible parts, holes, frayed edges or any potentially unsafe but attractive morsel. Even if a toy is listed as "ferret safe", if you are unsure, the best bet is to use it under supervision.

Ferret "Proofing"
The best advice in ferret proofing is: think like a ferret. Then think like the human who is responsible for his or her well-being. Consider:

Possible escape routes

Curious by nature, any small opening is a potential escape route for your pet. Cage doors should be securely fastened or locked. Your ferret's room should have a door that closes and the opening under the door should be no more than one inch off the ground. Windows should be kept closed and your pet should be kept away from a screened window, as a determined ferret can rip through it quickly.

Many "normal" household items and areas are potential hazards for ferrets:

Consider any small space where a ferret may get trapped. If a ferret manages to get just his head stuck in a tight space he can thrash the rest of his body in an effort to get free and cause serious injury. Check spaces under doors, as well as distances behind most appliances and shelving units, the area behind reclining chairs, rocking chairs and folding beds; block off any opening over an inch wide with pieces of wood or other rigid material.
Limit access to fireplaces, and open water reservoirs.
Washers and dryers are possible hazards: check your laundry before throwing it into the wash and your dryer before deciding to start up a new dry cycle. Chewing through a dryer hose and crawling up into warm clean clothes is a typical ferret prank.
Limit access to objects that can be tipped over or pushed off shelves and countertops. Lamps that are top heavy, plants, vases, telephones with wires and cords can easily be pushed or pulled off shelves by tugging on the cords.
The smell of garbage boxes and food containers will attract ferrets, which, in an effort to investigate, may cause the container to topple over. Any heavy object that falls on your pet can cause injury.
"Edible" items:
Ferrets love to chew and ingest many food and non-food items. In their minds, all these things are "edible". The following items should be off limits to your pet, as ingesting them can cause gastro-intestinal blockages or toxicities, which can be fatal.
  • Rubbery items: door stoppers, cabinet door stoppers, remote control buttons, cellular phones, telephone cords, rubber bands, pencil erasers, rubber feet of clocks, rubber backed carpets, electronics, dog toys, crutches or canes with rubber feet
  • Leathery items: belts, purses, wallets, backpacks, shoes.
  • Foam items: shoe insoles, foam stuffed cushions and furniture, stuffed children's toys, stuffed pet toys, foam-lined carpets, sponges.
  • Cleaners: bars of soap, dish and clothing detergent, sprays, pesticides, plant fertilizers.
  • Plants
  • Medication: tubes of toothpaste, ferret hairball laxatives, tubes of anti-biotic ointment, cough and cold medication, band-aids, cotton balls.
  • Human foods: fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, cheese, chips, etc.
  • Other: cigarette butts, coins and jewellery

Medical Problems

Strong Body Odours
Ferrets have their own distinctive musky smell, which some people find unpleasant. This scent is transported via bodily secretions (oil on skin, anal glands, urine etc.). Hormones are largely responsible for how strong these secretions smell, so when your ferret reaches sexual maturity, he or she may begin to have a stronger body odour.
Spaying or neutering dramatically reduces the odour. The anal glands located on either side of the anus are also frequently removed at the same time. We do not recommend removal of these glands in ferrets since this procedure is painful and since anal glands, unless expressed, do not greatly contribute to a ferret's odour.
Other ways to reduce the odour of your ferret includes:

  • Regular cleaning of the cage and litter boxes, including changing of bedding,
  • Cleaning your ferrets teeth and ears,
  • Bathing, but not more than once a month

Fatal Anemia of Females (Aplastic Anemia)
While most female ferrets are spayed prior to being sold, those that are not will go into heat at about the age of 6 months and will remain in heat until they are bred, or up to 180 days if not bred. During this time, high blood levels of the sex hormone estrogen are present, which after a prolonged period will depress the production of red and white blood cells in the bone marrow. This causes a life threatening condition requiring veterinary care.
This condition is totally preventable by spaying your pet when she experiences her first heat. We will spay ferrets at 5 months of age, or as soon as they come into heat which is usually by 7 months of age. The principal sign that your ferret is in heat is the very obvious swelling of the vulva. A swollen vulva may also indicate an incomplete spay or an adrenal gland problem. Contact your vet immediately, and have your pet spayed prior to, or at most within two weeks of, coming into heat.

Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is caused by the body's inability to cool down which results in severe dehydration. Because ferrets have few sweat glands, they are particularly susceptible to this condition. Heatstroke can be life threatening, so prevention is key.
Symptoms of heatstroke include: lethargy, lying flat on the floor, panting or rapid shallow breathing, dehydration, dark red paws, nose and gums, vomiting, mucous nasal and oral discharge, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
Dehydrated ferrets need to be seen immediately by a veterinarian. In the meantime, try keeping your ferret cool and encourage him to drink.

Although intestinal parasites are rare in ferrets, they can occur, especially in newly purchased young ferrets. Internal parasites often go unnoticed; as such we recommend a stool analysis upon acquisition of your pet, as a routine precautionary measure.

Ear mites

The ear mite, which affects ferrets, is Otodectes cyanotis. It is commonly found in pet ferrets, and as such we screen for it during routine exams. A swab of your ferret's earwax is examined under microscope for evidence of the mite. The mites are not visible to the naked eye.
Some ferrets will show no symptoms of ear mite infections while others may scratch excessively, have red or itchy ears with dark waxy secretions (although ferret earwax is normally dark brown and often visible on the outer ear canal).
Ear mites are treated by administration of an anti-parasitic drug either by injection, by drops placed in the ear canals or applied topically once a month (Revolution®). In presence of excess ear wax the ear canal may also need to be cleaned.
Because this mite can infect dogs, cats and other ferrets in your home, we recommend a thorough cleaning your ferret's bedding and living area (Use Javex 1:9 for ex.). Other household pets will also require treatment.


Ferrets get fleas just like other mammals. They are most commonly infected by the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis). However, other fleas can infest your ferret. If you take your pet outdoors to walk and play, the risk of exposure increases.
Symptoms of fleas include biting, chewing and scratching of the fur. There may be small lesions where the skin has become irritated and red. Another serious symptom is anemia from the blood loss associated with the infestation.
A typical indicator of feeding fleas are their droppings which are left behind on the ferret's skin and resemble small spots of reddish brown dirt. They contain undigested blood and will turn red when placed on a moist white paper towel.
Long-term flea control products may be prescribed for your ferret through your veterinarian. These medications will eliminate fleas from your pet and the environment.
Be aware: if you decide to use flea powders and sprays, do not use any flea products that are not safe for use on cats. Do not use any flea collars on ferrets, as they can cause skin irritation. Furthermore, these products will not rid you home environment of the fleas.
All other pets in your household can transmit the fleas back to your ferret (and vice-versa) and as such it is advisable to treat all pets at the same time, and to keep them on long term flea control in the summer months, or year-round in warm climates.


Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is a parasite transmitted by mosquito bites, and is a risk for ferrets. The risk of exposure increases if your pet plays out of doors, and if you live in an area where mosquito populations are large.
While the infection begins silently, signs of active disease include lethargy, chronic cough, laboured breathing, fluid accumulation in the abdomen, and a bluish colour in the mouth. This disease is fatal if left untreated.
Ferrets can be tested for heartworm using a blood antigen test. Treatment may include supportive care and anti-parasitic drugs to kill the adults. Preventative treatments can be given orally or topically and are effective and reliable methods to avoid re-infection.
Due to the seriousness of heartworm infections, prevention options should be discussed with your veterinarian anywhere that mosquitoes are present.

Ringworm is a fungal infection caused by one of two fungi: Microsporum canis or Trichophyton mentagrophytes. Transmission can occur from another animal such as a cat (who often carry it without symptoms) or from a spore in the environment (on a brush or cage). Humans, especially those who are immunocompromised, can also contract ringworm.
The symptoms of ringworm include loss of fur in circular patches, itchy dry and red skin, and if your ferret scratches, eventual skin irritation and infection.
Ringworm is diagnosed using a special culture done by your veterinarian. In the case of a positive culture result, your veterinarian may recommend anti-fungal shampoos or ointments along with an oral medication Griseofulvin.
Since spores of ringworm can survive in the environment for months, it is recommended that all bedding, cage and toys be thoroughly disinfected and washed, and that carpets and ferret routes in your home be vacuumed or steam cleaned.

Gastro-intestinal Disorders
Ferrets have a sensitive gastro-intestinal tract, and once disrupted it may require attention from your vet. Symptoms of any gastro-intestinal disorder vary from individual to individual. They may include gradual or sudden lack of appetite, vomiting, loose and dark stools, straining to pass stool, weight loss and teeth grinding. Any of these symptoms warrants immediate attention by a veterinarian, most importantly to rule out the chance there is a foreign body obstruction, which is life threatening.

Hair or fur balls

When grooming, ferrets commonly swallow fur, which can accumulate in their stomach and form hairballs. However, ferrets cannot throw up hairballs like cats can. Symptoms of hairball obstruction include reduced appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea. Since hairballs are treated as gastro intestinal obstructions, their quick diagnosis and treatment is essential.
To prevent a possible hairball from forming, brush your ferret often and give your pet hairball laxative every other day to help the fur pass through the digestive tract.

Foreign bodies in the stomach or intestine

Ferrets are very prone to eating unusual things, especially rubber. Other items that we have removed from ferret stomachs or intestinal tracts have been cotton balls, belt buckles, cloth, bones, foam rubber, Styrofoam, a piece of carrot and hair balls. Be very attentive to items left on the floor that your pet may eat (see: ferret proofing your home).
The symptoms of foreign body obstruction vary greatly and can include: extreme depression and lethargy, pawing at the mouth and salivating excessively, recurrent vomiting with soft mucous-y dark stools or thin stools and straining, bloating, constipation, face rubbing, teeth grinding, loss of appetite and chronic weight loss.
Intestinal blockages can be life threatening for your pet. If any of these symptoms occur in your pet do not wait: have him examined immediately by your veterinarian. Diagnosis requires x-rays and a complete exam. Treatment most often requires surgery to remove the object if it is too large to pass through the intestine.
You can help your vet by quickly reviewing your household for clues as to any object your ferret may have eaten. In mild cases, if in doubt, or while getting to the veterinarians office, give your pet some ferret laxative and fluids.

Gastro Intestinal (GI) Infections

Ulcers in ferrets are commonly caused by the bacterium called Helicobacter mustelae. Symptoms are similar to other gastro-intestinal diseases seen in ferrets and include loss of appetite, dark, tarry or poorly formed stool, lethargy, teeth grinding, drooling and weight loss.
Proliferative colitis is a similar gastro-intestinal disease in ferrets and is associated with several bacteria including Lawsonia intracellularis and Desulfovibrio. This condition presents with similar symptoms as an ulcer, except that stool may contain blood or mucus, and your ferret may also suffer from rectal tissue prolapse.
Overgrowth of these bacteria can be caused by stressful situations such as surgery, moving, overcrowding or heatstroke. Diagnosing your ferret requires a thorough exam and x-rays. Treatment involves a course of antibiotics and a stomach-lining protector. Your veterinarian may also recommend a highly digestible replacement or supplemental diet during recovery.
Several viruses can cause enteritis (an inflammation of the intestines). Disease symptoms include the sudden onset of green mucous-y stool, lethargy and refusing to eat. Diagnosis is usually based on clinical symptoms, and treatment involves supportive care to help the ferret through the course of the illness.
Since many gastro-intestinal diseases resemble each other closely, we recommend you consult with your veterinarian as soon as symptoms present in order to determine appropriate treatment.



Although ferrets cannot contract our cold virus, ferrets are highly susceptible to the human influenza virus and will develop the same symptoms as humans. They may have runny noses, watery eyes, and develop sneezing, fever, coughing and diarrhoea and be eating less for several days. There is generally no need for veterinary attention- just tender loving care at home including encouraging them to eat and drink. Symptoms should resolve between 5 and 10 days.
If your pet loses all of his appetite, develops a green or yellow eye or nasal discharge, uncontrolled coughing spells, or becomes depressed, do not hesitate to have him treated by a veterinarian. He may be dehydrated from the virus, or a more serious condition may have set in.
Also remember that ferrets can give the flu back to you and to other ferrets.
Quarantine ill ferrets and wash hands frequently, and keep your pet away from your face.

Canine Distemper

This virus is highly contagious to ferrets. Ferrets become exposed through airborne virus or from any body fluids of an infected animal. Even the pet that never leaves the house may be exposed to the virus brought in on your shoes or your clothes.
This disease is 100% fatal in the ferret. Symptoms include a very high temperature, thick nasal and ocular discharge, and loss of appetite, thickened feet pads and skin rashes on chin, lips, nose and belly. Diarrhoea and vomiting may also occur. Unfortunately, once diagnosed, there is no treatment.
Please have your pet vaccinated. A safe and effective vaccine exists for ferrets. Breeders usually vaccinate young ferrets against this disease, but annual boosters are essential to maintain immunity. Some ferrets experience an allergic reaction to this vaccine, and as such we require that all ferrets stay with us for 20-30 minutes post vaccination under observation.


Ferrets can contract rabies through the blood or saliva of infected animals such as an unvaccinated dog, a fox or racoon.
Since most pet ferrets are kept strictly as indoor pets, the chances of contracting rabies are very small, so why vaccinate? First and foremost, because rabies is a severe and invariably fatal disease. Secondly, there is an approved safe rabies vaccine available for ferrets that protect both you and your ferret. How so? Annual vaccination starting at 12 weeks of age is the best protection for your ferret in case he bites someone. Ferrets are still considered wild by some people who do not know them well. These people may panic if your pet bites them (or their child) and demand that the ferret be destroyed.
Authorities may require that your unvaccinated animal be put down in order to confirm the possibility of rabies by most-mortem analysis of the brain tissue.
We urge you to have a written statement of vaccination from your veterinarian in the form of a signed certificate to keep as proof of vaccination should a bite incident occur.
These are some examples of situations where rabies vaccine is strongly recommended.
  • Any pets living outdoors where exposure to wild animals may occur. This includes pets that go camping with their owners.
  • Any pets with exposure to children. Children (especially small ones) are more likely to create a bite situation by mishandling the animal and parents of children that are bitten are more likely to report the bite.
  • Any pets with exposure to people unfamiliar with, or afraid of, ferrets. People that are afraid are more likely to get the pet excited and get bitten.
  • Any pets that are to be shown, or used in demonstrations where they may be around other pets or people unfamiliar with ferrets.
  • Any ferret, which is abnormally nervous and therefore more apt to bite.
If you have any questions regarding rabies vaccine and your pet, ask your veterinarian.

ADV (Aleutian mink disease virus)

ADV is a parvovirus that can infect any member of the Mustilidae family, including ferrets and more commonly, mink. Although this virus is extremely rare among pet ferrets, it has received more attention recently.
Unfortunately, the action of the virus and the development of disease in ferrets are poorly understood. Transmission can occur through direct contact with feces, urine, saliva or blood, as well as through contact with contaminated surfaces. Exposed ferrets may or may not get infected. If infected, they may or may not develop the disease. The incubation period is unknown, as is the shedding period (when infected animals actually spread the virus). And finally, symptoms of ADV mimic many other disease conditions in ferrets and can include: weight loss, lethargy, trembling, dark tarry faeces, hind end paralysis, and urinary incontinence.
Although ferrets can be tested for ADV anti-bodies, confirmation of their presence is not an indication your ferret will ever develop, shed or suffer from this virus.
At this time no safe vaccine exists for immunizing your pet. Considering the multiple unknowns of this disease, the best prevention is to keep your ferret away from other ferrets you do not know. If you are planning to adopt a new ferret, be sure to quarantine him or her and have him examined by your veterinarian.

The Older Ferret
The average life span for a ferret is 6 to 8 years. Starting at about 3 years of age we see an increase in cancers in the ferret, most notably of the pancreas and the adrenal glands. There are also changes in heart, kidney and liver function, coat changes, dental disease and a reduction of energy level.
Older ferrets may thus require more frequent examinations. Your veterinarian may recommend annual or bi-annual complete blood workups and X-Rays to detect any diseases early so that they may be treated properly to prolong his or her life with quality.


This is a disease of the heart muscle seen primarily in ferrets over 3 years of age. For some unknown reason, possibly genetic, the muscle of the heart becomes greatly thickened, causing it to pump less blood per beat, thereby leading to poor circulation, fluid accumulation and eventually death.
The symptoms of the disease may be very subtle and include sleeping more, collapsing for short periods during play, becoming more lethargic and harder to wake from sleep and decreased appetite. Eventually the symptoms progress to include: cough, laboured breathing, hypothermia, hind leg weakness and abdominal enlargement.
Diagnosis requires an x-ray to visualize the heart. Treatment then focuses on supporting the ferret by 1) decreasing the amount of fluid built up in the abdomen and lungs, 2) increasing the strength of contraction of the heart. Diuretics will be prescribed to remove excess fluid from the abdomen and lungs. This also helps keep the blood volume at a level the heart can manage. Other medications can be prescribed to increase the strength of contraction of the heart muscle.
Unfortunately there is no cure for cardiomyopathy, but it can be managed if caught early.

Adrenal disease

Adrenal gland disease is a common problem in older ferrets. The adrenal glands grow lesions that can be benign or malignant, but the resulting symptoms in your pet are much the same.
An overproduction of hormones secreted by the affected glands can cause a variety of symptoms but usually begin with hair loss starting at the tail. Additionally, your ferret present dry skin, weakness, excessive drinking, weight loss, a pear shaped body, an enlarged vulva (females) or trouble urinating (males suffer from this symptom due to an enlarged prostate).
This disease is best treated if caught early. Diagnosing this disease is usually based on clinical signs, but your veterinarian may also want to run blood work and take an x-ray or perform an echogram to rule out other conditions. The most effective treatment is surgical removal of the affected gland. Medical management can alleviate symptoms but does not resolve the underlying problem. This option may be presented if your veterinarian feels your ferret is a poor surgical risk.


Insulinomas are tumours of insulin producing cells of the pancreas. Unfortunately they are quite common in ferrets. These tumours manufacture an excess of insulin, the hormone that regulates the intake by cells of blood sugar, resulting in hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
Your ferret may be completely asymptomatic and your veterinarian may detect low blood sugar levels upon routine testing. Onset of symptoms can be gradual or sudden. Your ferret may appear dazed, lethargic and he may be difficult to awake from sleep. Salivation and pawing at the mouth are frequently seen. And finally, this disease can result in weakness, incoordination, seizures, coma and even death.
Diagnosis requires blood work, most importantly to determine blood glucose levels. Treatment for insulinomas may be surgical and /or medical.
Surgery involves removing visible tumours from the pancreas in order to reduce the amount of insulin being produce. Medication can regulate blood sugar levels quite well, but careful monitoring is required by owners in conjunction with their veterinarian to continually balance the levels of medication with the evolution of the disease.
The appropriate first aid for a severe or sudden attack is to immediately rub a sugary substance such as laxatone or nutrical onto your ferret's gums, in an effort to raise blood sugar levels. Provide food and immediately contact your veterinarian.


Lymphosarcoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. There is some speculation that this cancer may be virally transmitted, there is no proven causative agent at this time. The disease has two clinical presentations in the ferret.
Young ferrets develop a more aggressive form of the disease. Symptoms are often vague at first and may include lethargy, trouble breathing, vomiting and diarrhoea.
A more chronic form affects ferrets usually over 5 years of age. Here the only sign may be enlarged lymph glands, sometimes even these go unnoticed by owners until the cancer has invaded and affected another organ. Other symptoms may include an enlarged spleen, wasting, lethargy, poor appetite, difficulty breathing, and diarrhoea or hind leg weakness.
Diagnosis is usually made from a complete blood cell count and a sampling of affected tissue. This is the most malignant of cancers in ferrets, and treatment includes steroids and chemotherapy but the prognosis remains poor.

Bladder stones and urinary tract infections

Uroliths (bladder stones) can be found anywhere in the urinary tract and are common in ferrets over 3 years of age. They may be caused by an inappropriate diet (poor quality cat food or cat food with plant based proteins), water intake, and pH of the urine, genetics, underlying disease or bacterial infections.
Symptoms include straining to urinate, crying while urinating, urinating more often and/or in inappropriate locations, foul smelling urine or 'sand' or blood in the urine. In severe cases, there may be a blockage and there will be no urine at all. This condition can rapidly progress to kidney infection and should be treated as soon as symptoms are present.
Diagnosis may include x-rays and analysis of the urine. Treatment includes antibiotic therapy, diet corrections and if stones are detected, surgery may be recommended.
Prevention of these conditions includes feeding a high quality, low ash kitten or ferret food.
We feel that the ferret makes a wonderful pet for the conscientious pet owner. However, we must not put our pets into a situation where they will be forced to defend themselves. As with any other domestic animal, they have feelings and moods and can lash out in anger or pain by biting. We recommend that children under the age of three should not be left with ferrets without direct adult supervision.
Enjoy your new pet, appreciate his personality, and be responsible for his care, as he depends totally on you for his existence.

Fast Facts
Latin name: Mustela putorius furo
Life Span: 6 to 8 years
Sexual maturity: Females: 4-6 months
Males: 5-9 months
Female ferret: Jill or Sprite (once operated)
Male ferret: Hob or Gib (once operated)
Group of ferrets: "Business of ferrets"
Ideal environment temperature: cool, not above 72° F (22°C)
Gestation period: 41-43 days
Weaning age: 6 weeks

Recommended Care:
Upon Acquisition- visit your veterinarian for:
Physical examination (which includes ear mite detection and intestinal parasitology),
Vaccines (distemper and rabies if due).

At sexual maturity:
Surgery to spay or neuter

Physical examination,
Vaccine: (distemper and rabies)

Older ferrets as per your veterinarian's recommendations:
Physical examination and vaccine
As necessary: x-ray, blood work, and teeth cleaning

Nails: may need occasional trimming but usually take care of themselves.
Bathing: At the owner's discretion, use shampoos designed for ferrets, but do not bathe more than once a month.

Ear cleaning and teeth brushing: discuss these hygiene issues with your veterinarian.