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THE HEALTHY FERRET

Ferrets are fun pets that love to get into mischief. Because ferrets are fun to watch and to play with, they are becoming more and more popular as pets. To make sure your ferret is as healthy and happy as possible, here are some helpful ferret facts.

Eyes

A ferret's eyes are big, clear and bright, but the size of their eyes does not help them to see. Typically, their eyesight is poor and they do not see well in bright light. In addition, they do not have the ability to distinguish colors.

The ferret makes up for its eyesight with its other senses. In fact, hearing, smell and touch are so acute in ferrets that it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between a blind ferret and a sighted one. Still, take good care of your ferret's eyes. A laceration or scratch to the eye should be considered an emergency and you should call your veterinarian.

Ears

Ferrets have excellent hearing. To help them maintain this ability, their typically waxy ears require regular cleaning for good health.

Nose

A good sense of smell is what helps ferrets explore their environment. Ferrets will sniff everything they come into contact with. Healthy ferrets typically have moist noses free of scales and discharge.

A runny nose in a ferret is a serious condition and they should be taken to the veterinarian immediately. If your ferret's nose is dry following a nap, it's probably because he or she was burrowed near or beneath a towel that dried the nose. Moistness should soon return without reason to be concerned.

Mouth/Teeth

Ferrets are carnivores and have 40 teeth to help them eat. Sometimes, ferrets will break or chip their teeth. This isn't usually serious unless the tooth starts to turn brown. In this case, veterinary care is needed. As ferrets get older, their teeth do begin to darken and regular cleanings by a veterinarian may be necessary for good health. Ferrets also have long teeth that often stick out beyond their lips. This is normal.

Body

Ferrets twist and turn so much it's hard to imagine they have bones at all. However, their skeletal features are similar to other vertebrates. One unusual thing a ferret can do that other vertebrates can't is turn its head 180 degrees in order to see what is behind it. This flexibility gives ferrets their ability to crawl into small, tight places. Believe it or not, a ferret can even fit through a one-inch hole.

Ferrets have muscular bodies and are naturally athletic. With the help of their insatiable curiosity and athletic ability, ferrets can perform a wide variety of amusing and unusual feats for their owners.

A full-grown ferret weighs between .75 pounds and five pounds. Females weigh much less than males. Their typical length is 14 inches long.

Fur

Ferrets have ample, thick hair. A healthy ferret's coat is soft and glossy from its head to the end of its tail. The color of an individual ferret's hair and markings is unique, although certain breeds are identified by their hair color. Some ferrets' markings include face masks, which many people feel is appropriate due to their tendency to take and hide just about anything. Coat colors often change slightly from season to season, which is nothing to be concerned about.

Skin

Even though they have lots of hair, ferrets do not have sweat glands, which makes them especially susceptible to overheating. In fact, they can easily overheat at a temperature of 85 degrees F, so take extra precautions during the summer. Sometimes, ferrets have problems with scaly, itchy skin. This is pretty common even in healthy ferrets and products can be purchased to help control this. Check your ferret's skin regularly for fleas, injuries and other signs of trouble.

Although they don't have sweat glands, a ferret's skin has many scent glands that produce a natural musky odor. Regular bathing, not more than once per month, can help keep odor under control. Also, changing their bedding weekly will help with odor control.

Anus

The skunk is a relative of the ferret and they share one characteristic that is unwanted by pet owners - an anal scent gland. Ferrets only release their scent when scared, but most ferret owners prefer to have their pets de-scented just in case.