Finding an Experienced Ferret Veterinarian
You will also want to locate the nearest 24 hour emergency animal hospital that will treat ferrets. Ferrets often fall ill in the evening, late at night, or on weekends when your veterinarian's office is not open. Given how quickly ferrets can be affected by illness, you will want to get them to a veterinarian as quickly as possible, and it often cannot wait until your regular veterinarian is available.
Make an appointment with an experienced ferret veterinarian for a routine checkup at least once a year. This is for the purpose of general preventive care, but also allows your veterinarian to familiarize himself with your ferret so he can more easily identify when your ferret is unhealthy. Annual exams should include weighing your pet; checking eyes, ears, and teeth; listening to the heart and lungs, and examining the ferret for any internal or external lumps or abnormalities. You should also discuss any questions regarding behavior, diet, parasite control, or other issues with your veterinarian at this time.
As the ferret gets older (generally over 3 years of age), you will also want your veterinarian to run annual blood work, including a blood glucose test, to detect any health problems that can't be diagnosed by a physical examination alone. Ferrets over the age of three are at a higher risk of developing insulinoma and other diseases that you want your veterinarian to diagnose as early as possible.
Canine distemper is an airborne disease and is much more common in ferrets than rabies. It is deadly to unvaccinated ferrets. Even if your ferret never leaves the house or never has contact with other animals, you can still bring the virus into the house on your clothes and shoes, so it is important to stay up to date on your ferret's distemper vaccination. The only USDA approved vaccination is Purevax, though many veterinarians also recommend the use of Galaxy-D. Have your ferret vaccinated at 8, 11, and 14 weeks, and then yearly thereafter.
Talk to your veterinarian about giving the rabies and distemper vaccinations at least two weeks apart. Many ferret owners believe that giving the vaccines at the same time may increase the risk of a reaction. Whether or not that is true, it means that it will be more difficult to determine which vaccine was the cause of the reaction. Some ferrets are allergic to components of distemper or rabies vaccines. Allergic ferrets may show a reaction known as anaphylaxis. Within minutes of being vaccinated, the ferret begins vomiting, and may also have diarrhea. Some go limp and may lose consciousness. Ferrets that have this reaction once will not necessarily have another when given a different vaccine, but it is likely that they will react to the same type of vaccine again. It is wise to remain at the veterinary office for 30-45 minutes after an injection is given to a ferret that once reacted to a vaccine. There is a treatment that works rapidly to reverse the reaction, if given soon after the first signs are noticed. The longer the reaction has been going on, the more difficult it is to reverse it.
An allergic ferret may be treated with oral antihistamine an hour or more before he is vaccinated, to prevent an adverse reaction occurring. Your veterinarian can dispense the correct product and dose when a vaccination is scheduled.
When you are at your veterinarian, you should also have your ferret tested for heartworm and placed on a heartworm preventive. Although heartworm in ferrets isn't as common as it is in dogs and cats, it is more deadly because ferrets are a lot smaller in size.
The best way to prevent hairball blockages is to give your ferret a laxative or hairball remedy, such as Marshall Ferret Lax once a week throughout the year and more frequently during shedding seasons. If you have multiple ferrets, it is possible that only one may be shedding heavily. However, you still want to give the hairball remedy to all of them, as cage mates will groom each other and ingest each other's hair.
Here are a few tips to keep your ferret cool:
One common misconception is that a fan will help your ferret to stay cool. In fact, this can make an intolerable heat level even worse, as you are blowing warm air at your ferret. If you are going to use a fan, put a bowl of cool water or ice behind or in front of it, but do not rely on this method alone to cool your ferret properly. Use a fan to circulate the air, but do not allow it to blow directly on your ferret.