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Ferrets are energetic, playful and nearly fearless animals. Seeing one of these animals sick or injured can be distressing for anyone, so you can imagine the toll this condition is taking on your pet, who doesn't understand why he feels the way he does or why he can't be up to his usual tricks. Fortunately, you can help your ferret get back to normal faster by remembering and taking care of a few simple needs.

Fluids and Foods

Sick or injured ferrets, like other animals, can dehydrate very quickly. Ask your veterinarian how much liquid your pet should be getting every day and then make sure he gets it, even if you have to give it to him by hand. Ferrets can seem to be eating and drinking but still not get enough calories or electrolytes to heal rapidly. They have a quick digestive system as well. Everything they eat goes through their system in 4 to 5 hours. If you're not sure he's getting enough, hand feed your pet every 4 hours if he is really ill. Again, always follow your veterinarian's directions. Ask your vet to give you a list of what foods are good in this situation (such as powdered electrolytes you can add to his water) and how you should feed them to your ferret.

One good recipe for recovering ferrets is Duck Soup, named after Lucky Duck, the ferret. Here's how to make it:

  • One 8 oz. can Sustacal (this is non-dairy)
  • One can water
  • 4 oz. dry food, soaked in enough water to cover and soften completely
  • Optional: electrolyte water (this really helps) or baby food such as chicken or mashed bananas
  • Mix well. Using a blender is best.

You can freeze the mixture in an ice cube tray for later use. Serve it warm and let your ferret eat his fill several times a day. If the soup gets too thick, thin it out with a little water. Note: Sustacal must be used within 48 hours if it's not frozen. If you have a really ill ferret, you can give him warm Sustacal at full strength.

Warmth and Attention

A sick ferret also needs to be kept warm. Do NOT use an electric heating pad for this. Instead, line his cage with plenty of clean towels and drape a towel over the back and sides to create a snug environment. Your ferret also needs the warmth that comes from you to heal, since he is a social animal and thrives on having contact with you and hearing your voice. So hold him as much as you can during the recuperation and talk to him.

Administering Medications

If your ferret is starting long-term medication, he will likely resist taking it for the first few weeks, but after that, he will become accustomed to the routine. There may be an assortment of medications, and schedule and dosage may change depending on his health. Always follow your vet's direction when it comes to administering medications. Keep a record noting when and what medications were administered, and file all related information together, including side effects, when to skip doses, what to do about missed or double doses, which medications shouldn't be given together and which should be shielded from light. Don't store medications in a hot, cold or humid environment. Always be aware of side effects and interactions.

Giving Your Ferret Liquids

With any luck, your ferret will like the taste of his medicine. If he does, hold the dropper out in front of him or put the medication on a spoon and let him lick it off.

If you have to squeeze the medicine into your ferret's mouth, don't squirt it down his throat. If he inhales any, he may develop pneumonia. Place the dropper behind your ferret's back teeth and aim to the side. This gets the medicine past his taste buds and keeps him from shaking it out of his mouth.

Giving Your Ferret Pills

Some ferret owners crush a pill or pill piece and mix it with a liquid treat. Check with your veterinarian to see which liquids are safe to use. If this doesn't work for you, cover the pill with something sticky like peanut butter and hold it on your fingertip. Gently pry your ferret's mouth open and scrape the peanut butter onto his tongue, placing it as far back as you can without making him gag. Close his mouth so he can't push the substance out with his tongue and then rub his throat to encourage him to swallow. If he spits out the pill, just keep trying until it goes down.

However you administer medication to your ferret, be sure to reward him with a treat after the ordeal. Remember, he doesn't know why you are making him take the medicine, so let him know he's not being punished.

Make Things Easy for your Ferret

A sick or injured ferret doesn't have the mobility he normally has, so it helps if you give him some assistance while he's recovering. Make his litter pan easily accessible by cutting down its sides and using folded towels to make ramps. If your ferret is still ill but can't wait to play, put extra ramps, pillows and climbing boxes throughout his area. These aids make it easier for him to get in and out of boxes or jump down from furniture. Above all, keep an eye on him to be sure he is not playing too hard too soon.