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Routine Exams for Ferrets

Your pet ferret, like many animals, will often hide signs of illness or distress. It's up to you as a pet parent to notice any changes in your ferret’s health. If you observe any anything outside your ferret's normal behavior, call your veterinarian.

Your Ferret's First Health Exam

Annual examinations with an exotic animal veterinarian are a must to maintain your ferret's good health. In addition to addressing any congenital problems or detecting or treating diseases, your vet will administer required vaccinations. Ferrets require distemper vaccinations at 8, 11 and 14 weeks, a rabies vaccination at 12–16 weeks of age and annual distemper and rabies vaccinations. Your vet also can show you how to clip your ferret’s nails, a task you'll regularly need to perform.

Here's what else you can expect at your ferret's first exam:

  • Medical Records. Medical records are usually filed under your pet's name and the pet parent's name. These records will include:
    • Where you purchased/adopted your ferret. Your veterinarian may identify certain medical risks based on where you purchased him. By knowing his origin, your veterinarian can better understand what tests or vaccinations might be necessary.
    • Your ferret's sex and if he is spayed/neutered and/or de-scented. Your veterinarian can help determine these statuses if you do not know. Most ferrets are usually spayed or neutered and de-scented. De-scenting is a medical procedure that removes the ferret's anal sacs.
    • Your ferret's age. Again, if you don't know your ferret's history, your veterinarian will be able to estimate his age for you.
    • Previous vaccination history. If you don't have a complete health history for your ferret, he most likely will receive a full set of shots. Bring any shot records that you may have been provided when you adopted/purchased him.
    • Any behavioral problems. Your veterinarian may be able to offer advice on modifying your ferret's unwanted habits or may refer you to a certified animal behaviorist.
    • How he gets along with other ferrets (if you own more than one). It can be tricky to bring a new ferret into a household in which another ferret runs the show, especially if the ferrets think they are in competition with each other. Your veterinarian may be able to offer advice on encouraging your ferrets to live in harmony or you may be referred to a certified animal behaviorist.

Follow-up Annual Exams

Be prepared to identify the following at your ferret's annual checkup:

  • Any problems lately, such as vomiting, coughing or sneezing.
  • Litter box problems. Problems with urination and bowel movements can signal a number of ailments, including some that are serious.
  • Ear scratching or head shaking. This behavior could be a sign of ear mites or other ear infections.
  • Skin or coat changes. Your veterinarian may want to know if his coat is thinning, or whether it feels coarser than usual.
  • Sudden weight gain or loss. Any noticeable change in weight could signal a variety of problems, including a serious medical issue.
  • Current feeding protocol. Be prepared to tell your veterinarian about your ferret's diet, including any recent changes in his eating or drinking habits.
  • Activity and exercise levels. Ferrets are energetic and playful creatures. Your veterinarian can offer tips on keeping your pet fit and mentally stimulated.

It's normal to feel a bit overwhelmed when taking your ferret to the veterenarian—especially if specific treatment is being recommended. To ensure that you document all important information, ask your veterinarian to repeat or write down any diagnoses or care tips. Write down any important information or instructions you’ve been given, including:

  • Diet recommendations, including the brand name of recommended foods and the amounts to feed your ferret. Ferrets must be fed a very specific diet that is high in protein and fat. They should not be offered dog or cat food. Your veterinarian can also make healthy treat suggestions.
  • Exercise recommendations and any activities your ferret should avoid.
  • If your ferret will be taking medication, ask how much, how often, how long and how to administer it.
  • When to schedule a follow-up visit.
  • Finally, always retain all shot records for your ferret in a safe location.