Illnesses and Emergencies in Ferrets

By PetMD Editorial on Aug. 7, 2008

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Ferrets commonly hide any sign of illness or injury until it becomes serious. Because of this you must remain observant of its daily activities such as eating, sleeping, playing, breathing or urinating to understand if it is showing any abnormal signs.

Signs of an Emergency

Below is a list of some common signs a ferret displays during an illness or an emergency-type situation. If your ferret presents any of these symptoms, take him to a veterinarian immediately.

  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Any bite marks
  • Severe and/or constant pain
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Bloody urine or stool
  • Broken bones or limping
  • Unusual lethargy or unresponsiveness
  • Refusal to eat or drink for 24 hours
  • Any wounds to abdomen or chest area
  • Skin rash, itching of body or ear
  • Weak pulse, a low or quiet heartbeat
  • Bluish or white gums or tongue
  • Burns, frostbite, hypothermia, etc.
  • Abnormality in the eyes (e.g., cloudy eyes or squinting)
  • Nosebleed or discharge from eye, ear, or other body openings

The inability to eat or defecate is usually attributed to intestinal blockage. It can also cause the ferret to cough, choke or even begin vomiting. If at any time a ferret has bouts of vomiting or diarrhea that lasts more than 24 hours, it should be evaluated by your veterinarian because ferrets tend to dehydrate quickly. And while occasional soft or irregular stool is normal, cases of bloody or dark, tarry droppings can indicate a serious condition that requires immediate medical assistance.

Limping, bad coordination or bent and disjointed limbs are all signs of a broken bone or other serious emergency. Ferrets have poor eyesight and are curious creatures, making them vulnerable to a variety of emergencies.

Things to Keep in Mind

Stay calm. If you are not relaxed, your pet may become upset and make it more difficult for you to ascertain the extent of its injury or illness. Also, keep track of all its symptoms, as this will help the veterinarian suggest a course of treatment.

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