Vaccination protects your ferret against distemper which is a very serious viral disease, which can be fatal. This disease is quite common in dogs, especially those from pet shops. It is a highly contagious viral disease which is commonly seen in Hong Kong amongst unvaccinated dogs. In ferrets the virus causes severe respiratory signs (such as sneezing, coughing, pneumonia) fever, skin problems and even death.
The vaccine is an important part of your ferret’s health care program, however there is a significant potential for reactions. Most are not serious (discomfort at the site of injection, tiredness, reduced appetite) and usually go away without treatment.
However some can be life threatening, such as allergic reactions: bumpy itchy skin, vomiting/diarrhea and even death. We will advise that you wait at the clinic for 30 minutes after the vaccine to watch out for severe reactions.
Our veterinarian will discuss the pros and cons of vaccinating your ferret during a consultation in order for you to make an informed decision on whether you want to vaccinate or not. If your ferret has had a previous reaction it is important that you tell the vet about this.
Rabies vaccines can be given to ferrets in Hong Kong, but this is not legally necessary (as it is in dogs for licensing). There is also the potential for significant vaccine reaction.
As there is no rabies within Hong Kong and ferrets are kept as indoor pets here we do not recommend the vaccine (other than for export purposes)
Ferrets are susceptible to the influenza virus, and can pick it up from infected humans. The symptoms will be similar, with nasal discharge, sneezing, fevers and feeling sick. If you have the flu please wear a mask at home and do not handle your ferret if possible.
There are no vaccines available for flu in ferrets.
Kit Health Checks.
Taking on a new kit is an exciting and rewarding experience. There are lots of things to consider with any new pet and our aim is to help you ensure that your new kit has the best start in life and continues to be happy and healthy into adulthood.
At your first health check, our veterinarian will perform a full physical exam – this involves looking at your ferret’s eyes, nose, ears, mouth and teeth, skin, listening to his heart and lungs, and feeling his abdomen. Our veterinarian will also discuss all aspects of care including feeding, behaviour and training.
We will also cover preventative care such as vaccinations, neutering and parasite control.
As you can see at these kit health checks there is a lot of information to be covered by the veterinarian at this time!
Annual Health Checks.
Regular health check-ups are important for the long term health and welfare of your ferret. Vaccines are important to prevent disease. Ferrets are very susceptible to distemper, which is a common disease in dogs.
Routine examinations allow us to take a pro-active role in preventive health care – we may spot health problems earlier allowing us to take appropriate treatment or preventive action. We can carry out a full physical exam when your ferret comes in for his annual vaccinations. This is an ideal opportunity to discuss any concerns you may have about your pet’s health. The annual health check includes a free urinalysis. Please bring in a fresh urine sample (or one that has been refrigerated) in a clean container, preferably the first sample of the morning.
It is of course possible to perform health examinations at times other than the annual vaccination. We often recommend more frequent check-ups for pets with chronic problems (e.g. heart disease, arthritis). If your pet is on an ongoing medication, then it will require more regular check-ups to allow us to keep prescribing the medication.
Older Ferret Health Checks.
Ferrets are usually considered old or ‘geriatric’ from 3-4 years of age, although for some breeds or individuals, this may be earlier or later. Geriatric pets need more attention than younger pets and it is important that your animal is checked regularly by us in order to detect problems early – we recommend a health check every 6 months for these special ‘old-timers’.
When our elderly pet starts to slow down, we often put this down to ageing changes when in fact it can be due to an underlying medical condition. If detected early these conditions are often treatable and treatment can greatly improve an animal’s quality of life. Some commonly seen problems in older animals include dental disease, arthritis, heart conditions, kidney failure, liver problems.
At the ‘Older Ferrets Health Check’ as well as performing a full physical exam, we may advise a urine test and blood tests as part of the health exam.
Even if the health check reveals nothing untoward the information we gather will help in the future when concerns for your pet’s health are raised. Knowing what is normal for your pet will help immensely when investigating illness.
Ferrets are true carnivores. Their diet should consist almost entirely of meat and animal products. They have a short intestine that food passes through rapidly.
Diets high in vegetable proteins, fibre or carbohydrates must be avoided.
Too much carbohydrate or sugars may lead to problems with the pancreas. Vegetable proteins in a complete food can lead to stones in the urinary tract. Whole pieces of vegetable (such as carrot) may block the intestine and need surgical removal.
Some people feed ferrets a natural diet of mice, rats and birds but this is a bit messy!
It can be difficult to find commercial ferret food in Hong Kong as ferrets are not commonly kept, but they can be ordered on line.
The ideal ferret food contains
Protein content of 30–40% (preferably at the higher end of this range)
Fat content 15–20%
Fibre content < 3%
Meat or meat by-products should be listed as the first 3 ingredients (not corn/grains)
An alternative to feeding a commercial ferret diet is to offer premium quality dry kitten food. Diets such as Hill’s Science Diet Kitten, Iams Kitten or Royal Canin kitten dry foods are appropriate.
Canned versions of these kitten foods should not be given as the main diet as the ferret cannot physically eat enough of it to supply its needs. A small amount twice a week is fine.
We do not recommend a poor quality cat or dog food ( for example most of the supermarket brands) for ferrets – they are inadequate due to low digestibility and high levels of sugars and vegetable proteins.
De-sexing, or neutering, is a surgical procedure performed under general anaesthesia.
In female ferrets, this involves the removal of the ovaries and the uterus and may also be called ‘spaying’, whilst in males, ‘castration’ is the removal of the testicles. Hormonal castration can also be performed.
Neutering is essential in ferrets. The breeders will normally have had a veterinarian perform the surgery before you purchase your pet. If they are not spayed, female ferrets will develop life threatening anaemia due to the effects of the cycling female hormones.
Male ferrets, if not castrated will be incredibly smelly and impossible to live with indoors.
Neutering can increase the risk of adrenal gland disease. If you are concerned please speak to our veterinarians during a consultation as there are some treatments available to reduce this risk.
If you have a ferret and you are not sure whether it has been desexed or not please phone for an appointment.
We all know the importance in regular dental care – we brush our teeth at least twice a day and if we don’t, plaque, tartar and other tooth diseases will soon result. Our pets are no different.
Symptoms of dental disease may include bad breath, reddened gums, and buildup of yellow or brown tartar along the gum line. Your ferret may show changes in chewing or eating patterns and may paw his mouth. As infection and inflammation progresses, periodontitis may result – this is irreversible and may lead to the loss of the tooth. As oral bacteria can be released into the bloodstream, dental disease can also result in heart, kidney, liver and lung disease. As our pets are living longer compared to their wild relatives, maintaining good dental health is very important towards them leading healthy, happy lives.
We advise regular dental checks – the annual health check or vaccination check-up is the ideal time to assess for any early problems.
Ferrets are also at risk of breaking their canine teeth. Most ferrets are very inquisitive and love to bite on things, and jump around.
Broken teeth need treatment otherwise they hurt and can develop abscesses.
Your vet can advise you on how to keep your ferret’s teeth clean and if a dental cleaning is required. Plaque and tartar is removed by using an ultrasonic scaler, and the teeth are polished afterwards. We check for any loose or damaged teeth which may need to be extracted. The dental procedure is carried out under a full general anaesthetic, as no awake ferret will let us do a thorough cleaning!
Your vet may advise pre-anaesthetic blood tests, and your pet may require antibiotics prior to the dental cleaning or have to go home on some medications afterwards.
Home care is important to prevent development of dental disease.
Young kits should have their mouths handled from an early age, to get them used to the idea oftoothbrushing.
Even older animals, if introduced slowly and patiently, can be taught to accept having their teeth brushed.
Never use human toothpaste as this can cause foaming, and ferrets do not like the minty taste. Dog or cat toothpaste is suitable
If performed daily, tooth-brushing can prevent plaque formation, gingivitis and periodontal disease, saving your ferret from pain and reducing the cost of future dental care. Please see our online video on tooth-brushing techniques.
If your ferret won’t tolerate tooth-brushing, there are other methods which may help to maintain a healthy mouth.
We have all the products you need to be able to perform effective home care in our Pet Product Shop so please come in and discuss further with our staff if necessary.
Sometimes your pet may have to stay in hospital for treatment. We understand that this can be a worrying time for owners, and we try to make your ferret’s stay in our hospital as comfortable and as stress-free as possible.
We usually will keep ferrets in our Cat Ward, which has a variety of different sized kennels to suit your pet. We also have Isolation facilities which are separate from our other wards, used to house animals with infectious diseases which may spread to other pets or humans. For critically-ill patients, we have temperature controlled oxygen cages which allow the administration of oxygen without stress to the patient.
Whilst in hospital, your ferret’s needs will be looked after by our dedicated hospital nursing staff, working closely with the vet in charge of your pet’s case. Clinical rounds are carried out daily at 9.00pm, with the vet and nursing staff looking at each patient and planning its treatment for the day. You will usually be updated about your ferrets’s progress after morning rounds, and in serious cases if required, updates may be given throughout the day.
Your ferret will be offered cat food, dry & tinned while in hospital. If your pet is on a particular type of food then please let us know so we can maintain the normal feeding regime. You can bring in the home diet too. You may wish to bring something from home to make your baby more at ease whilst staying with us e.g. a favourite blanket or toy.
Our visiting times are between 3.00pm and 6.00 pm on weekdays, and 3.00pm to 5.00pm on weekends and public holidays. Normally we restrict visiting to two visitors for 15 minutes. Please discuss with us if you require an exception, we will always try to arrange something to suit your needs.
There are some cases when visitation may not be appropriate, for example after surgery when your ferret will need some quiet, undisturbed time to recover.
We unfortunately cannot allow visitors to spend a long time in the hospital as having many visitors over a long period can be stressful for the other pets in hospital.
For further details please see our ‘Hospital Visiting Guidelines’.
At this time we are not a 24-hour hospital, and if necessary, we may advise you to transfer your pet to a hospital with 24-hour facilities.
Ferrets rarely become overweight if they are fed on an appropriate diet and are healthy.
If you feel that your little darling is overweight it suggests there is something wrong and you should make an appointment.
The vet will then be able to advise you on the actual condition of your pet, if they are overweight or not, and if the diet needs changed, or whether investigations into the health status should be done.
Ferrets are hunters, and need lots of stimulation to keep them happy and healthy.
They are clever and inquisitive animals that love to play.
One of the best playthings is a friend. Ferrets are social animals and another ferret is probably the best thing to keep them happy and give them something to play with.
Whether you have one or ten ferrets you will still need to give them some extras.
Alone time – because we all lead busy lives, our ferrets often end up spending a good portion of their day home alone. Giving your ferret something to do when they’re by themselves means they will be less bored, and less stressed. Food puzzle toys require time, patience and problem-solving, and encourage natural behaviour such as pawing, licking and chewing. KONG have an excellent range of food puzzle toys to give your ferret’s brain and jaws a workout. When you first introduce your ferret to a food puzzle toy, make it easy for him to empty it, as he has been used to getting his food served up to him in a bowl. As he becomes an expert, you can make it harder for him to get the food out of the toys. It is very important to make sure the toys are indestructible as ferrets will often swallow small pieces of chewed up toys/cage furniture/anything they can chew up. These little pieces can block the intestine and may need surgery to remove them.
Kong toys for cats or small dogs will be suitable
A big wheel (with solid base) should help keep your ferret exercised, fit, busy and well muscled.
Out of the cage time!
You must let your ferret out of his cage every day to play and exercise.
Ferret proof your home so they cannot bite electrical cables, get stuck in holes in the furniture, and get into trouble! Tunnels are much enjoyed for exploring and tubes and hoses can be bought in electrical shops so you can make a playground.
Ferrets love to burrow and dig, a box filled with woodchips or dry rice will be enjoyed.Hide some food treats in it to make it even more fun
A bowl of water with a ball floating in it will also provide hours of fun
A window seat to watch wild birds, or a fish tank will also provide visual stimulation. Watch that your ferret cannot get to the fish though!
If you are looking for ‘good’ toys for your ferret then please visit our Pet Product Shop where we sell a wide range of enrichment toys that have all been tested on our staffs pets!