If your ferret could talk, you would learn a lot about how she feels. Unfortunately, she can't talk and she can't tell you - in fact, like most ferrets, she will probably go to great lengths to hide signs of illness or distress. That's why it is important for you to observe your pet every day and make note of any changes: It's true - you are the best resource on your ferret's health. You know your ferret's normal behavior and appearance better than anyone, and by observing any changes in that appearance or behavior you are her first line of defense against disease.
Fortunately, ferrets are very healthy and robust animals; however, an annual veterinary examination is a must for maintaining your ferret's good health. The examination that your veterinarian gives your ferret is the best way to ensure that you catch diseases early enough for successful treatment. Your veterinarian may also notice congenital problems, and give you the best advice about caring for your ferret. However, even the best veterinarian in the world can't see in a visit what you have observed throughout the entire year.
The first time you visit a new veterinarian or take a new pet to your veterinarian, you will probably have to answer a series of questions about the pet and your household. Questions that are typically included in a routine first visit include the following:
Besides seeking the specific answers to these questions, your veterinarian may also be assessing the level of treatment that you are expecting for your ferret. Strange as it may sound, not all owners are willing to spend money on their pets, even if a medical treatment is necessary. Veterinarians know that they must weigh the benefits of a costly round of treatment with an owner's ability or willingness to pay.
In addition to this round of questions, the veterinarian may want to take your ferret's temperature, weight and a stool sample.
Even after the first visit, a trip to the veterinarian for an annual physical exam and vaccinations can be a harrowing experience. Your ferret might remember the last visit and might not be happy about another trip in a cramped carrier to stand on a cold metal table and be prodded by a stranger with all manner of instruments and needles. Can you blame her? Many owners manage to get through the visit by constantly talking to and stroking their ferrets; some ferrets, however, can only be controlled using restraints. If your ferret is transformed into a demon at the mere thought of a visit to the veterinarian, don't be embarrassed: no doubt your veterinarian has seen worse behavior, and knows just how to handle a scared or angry ferret without hurting her.
Whether your ferret is docile or enraged at the veterinarian's office, you may still need to answer some basic questions about her health and progress over the past year. Some of these questions are intended to gather standard information, while others might be asked because of something the vet notices; the questions will likely include the following:
Since you have been working to control your ferret while the veterinarian has been examining her and giving you information on her condition and instructions on her care, you might feel a bit overwhelmed -- especially if the veterinarian has recommended specific treatment. Don't let all the information go in one ear and out the other: Ask the veterinarian to repeat the diagnosis or even to write it down if you don't recognize the words -- that way you can research more information later if you need to. Also, since you might be thinking mostly about getting your ferret home quickly, during or shortly after the exam, write down any important information or instructions you've been given, such as the following:
The more information you can give the veterinarian (for your ferret's history) the better she can assess the ferret's current health - both by knowing if there are specific things to look for during the physical exam and by adding to her general store of knowledge about your ferret. Make sure you notice, keep track of and report any abnormalities or changes in your ferret's behavior or physical condition.