Do ferrets need veterinary care?

Ferrets, like any other animals and humans, need medical care. We recommend annual wellness visits to check them out. Once they get older, we'll want to see them twice a year, just to make sure they're healthy.

Dr. Molly Kase
Brook-falls Veterinary Hospital and Exotic Care Inc

What kind of animal is a ferret?

Ferrets are mammals. They're in the weasel family, so they are a type of weasel.

Are ferrets considered to be rodents?

No, not rodents. They're in the weasel family, which is a different family than rodents.

What's the difference between a weasel and a ferret?

In the wild, weasels tend to be smaller, and they have a distinct white belly with like a brown or tan top. They would live in different habitats if they were both in the wild.

Are ferrets exotic pets, and will I need a permit to own one?

Depending on where you live, you might need a permit to own one. There are some states that require permits or don't allow you to have ferrets as pets. Here in Wisconsin, we are very ferret-friendly.

How can I find out if ferrets are legal to own in my state?

The American Ferret Association has a great website, and they have a comprehensive list of the state regulations listed by state.

Can I have a baby ferret as a pet?

Yes, you can get a lot of baby ones from Marshall farms and things like that.

How long do ferrets live?

About like six to nine years. Sometimes they can be a little bit older, a little bit younger, depending on what diseases they have, but they generally live about six to nine years.

Is it hard to have a pet ferret?

They can be a little bit difficult to care for because they have very high energy levels, and they're true escape artists. So they require a lot of social interaction to keep their energy levels maintained, and you may need some help in what type of play is appropriate between them and you and them as far as biting goes. So it can be a little bit more difficult to own a ferret than something else. They're like little Houdinis.

Are ferrets domesticated?

Yes, pet ferrets are domesticated.

Where does a ferret live in the house? Do they need to have their own space?

Yes, they need their own space. We recommend having a ferret enclosure that is escape-proof because they can get out of anything. That being said, they should spend plenty of time out of that enclosure, interacting with you, running around, and things like that, but you really have to make sure that anywhere they are is ferret-proof because if it's not, they will find it and they will tell you.

What is a ferret diet like?

Ferrets are one of the highest levels of obligate carnivores that exist. They need a really high percentage of protein and fat in their diet. Commercially made ferret kibble is recommended. Otherwise, depending on what type of situation you are in, in the wild, they would eat whole prey.

What do I need for a ferret bed and ferret litter?

For litter, something like a low dust formula, like paper pellets or wood stove pellets. For bedding, they enjoy soft beds and hammocks because they'll snuggle up in there.

What are the different types of ferrets?

The wild ferret is a black-footed ferret. Otherwise, they can be albino, sable, cinnamon, panda, black, white, or angora. There are a bunch of different types.

What is a black-footed ferret, and why is it endangered?

Black-footed ferrets are a wild type of ferret. Unfortunately, they're endangered, like a lot of other endangered species, because their habitat is disappearing. They live on the planes and grasslands, and a lot of that is being plowed for crops. So because the habitat is disappearing, they're becoming endangered.

Do ferrets smell?

Ferrets do have a general natural musky odor to them that can be a little bit stronger than other animals, but if they're properly taken care of and have enough space, they shouldn't necessarily be smelly.

Are ferrets smart, and can you train them?

Ferrets are very smart, and I feel like, with the right motivation, you could definitely train a ferret.

Can ferrets make cats or dogs sick?

Technically, ferrets can pass some illnesses to cats and dogs, and humans, unfortunately, such as GI viruses, parasites, or some respiratory diseases.

What are ferret hairball symptoms?

If a ferret has a hairball, it could be something that's subtle as lethargy. Otherwise, they may be nauseous, drooly, grind their teeth, or might seem painful in their abdomen and not be eating. Hairballs in ferrets are a thing, unfortunately. They can get hair built up in their GI system.

How can I prevent adrenal disease in my ferret?

Adrenals disease is very common in ferrets and is luckily treatable. The most common way is with an implant called Suprelorin, and it basically works in the body to decrease the overproduction of sex hormones. It's either every six months or a yearly injection of this implant.

Do ferrets carry diseases?

Yes. Just like all animals, they can carry diseases. As we mentioned before, it can spread to some other animals. So good proper hygiene and washing your hands in between are important.

Are ferrets hypoallergenic?

Hypoallergenic is a strong word, but they definitely have less dander than some other pets like cats and dogs do. So they might be better suited for someone with a pet dander sensitivity.

Why do ferrets lose the hair on their tails?

That's usually one of the classic signs of adrenal disease that we mentioned earlier. The overproduction of sex hormones causes their hair to fall out, and the tail is one of the most common places hair would fall out.

Can I get my ferret sick, and can my ferret get me sick?

Unfortunately, yes. You can pass diseases to each other. Influenza and the flu can go back and forth between you guys, so exercise proper hygiene, and if you're feeling sick or you notice your ferret feeling sick, separate yourselves from each other.

How do wellnesses and preventative care impact the overall health and wellbeing of my ferret?

Wellness is definitely preventative care, which is very important, especially with ferrets that have a couple of diseases that most of them get. With preventative care, if we can identify it early, it makes it more treatable.

What are some common conditions that ferrets can experience?

They can have respiratory issues like influenza, as well as a couple of different GI viruses and bacteria. Giardia and Campylobacter are a couple. They can get salmonella, ringworm, ear infections, skin masses, and insulinoma, which is a big one. Adrenal disease is common. Those are target words for people that know ferret diseases. But a lot of similar things that other pets get and a couple that is particular to ferrets.

What vaccinations do ferrets need?

We recommend rabies and distemper. A lot of baby ferrets, if you get them from a breeder, might be pre-vaccinated, but then we'll continue that series at the vet and make sure it's updated yearly.

What are some signs and symptoms that something might be wrong with my ferret?

Their appetite is a big one. If they're not eating well, they're grinding their teeth, and if you notice they're losing weight or losing hair, those are distinctive signs. If they're breathing changes, they're vomiting, or they have diarrhea, those are also signs.

How soon should I bring my ferret to the vet if they're not eating or drinking or if their other normal habits and behavior change?

I would call your veterinarian right away, depending on how severe the signs are. They'll give you a better timeline, but make it known as soon as possible.

How will a veterinarian be able to know if there's something wrong with my ferret?

It all starts with a physical examination. So we look at every part of the ferret: Their eyes, ears, mouth. We listen to their heart and lungs, feel the abdomen, and go from there if we find certain abnormalities.

Why is it important to avoid self-diagnosing illnesses in my ferret?

Just like with a lot of different species, if they show a certain sign, it's always absolutely correlated with a disease, so it could indicate a couple of different things. Letting the veterinarian look at everything and then going based on what they feel is going to be better than just assuming something is happening.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of illnesses in a ferret so important?

Early detection is going to lead to better treatment, sometimes more successful treatment of various diseases. Depending on when you catch the issue can give your ferret a little bit more longevity.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (262) 781-5277, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.