Two medical conditions of ferrets that demand special mentions are the ferret’s extreme susceptibility to canine distemper and the unusual consequences of female ferrets coming into heat. These are therefore covered in separate factsheets.
However, there are other medical conditions that affect ferrets that are briefly covered here.
Ferrets lack sweat glands and are somewhat compromised in their ability to maintain normal body temperature in extremely warm environmental temperatures.
If the temperature rises above 32°C/90°F, and if water is restricted or not available to ferrets, heat exhaustion is likely and death quite possible. Providing ample shade and spraying your ferret on hot days will help reduce the likelihood of this problem.
Ferrets can also suffer from either kidneys or urinary bladder stones, which can cause serious problems in ferrets. Both sexes seem to be affected equally.
Signs of urinary stones include blood in the urine, inability to urinate, a swollen and painful abdomen, vomiting, lack of energy and poor appetite.
Surgery is usually necessary to correct this problem, though a special diet may eliminate certain types of stones or prevent recurrence.
Cardiomyopathy is a condition of the heart muscle seen in dogs and cats, which ferrets can also suffer from. Most affected ferrets are males over 3 years of age. The cause for this condition is unknown.
The muscle walls of the heart become thickened, reducing the ability of the heart to pump adequate quantities of blood to the rest of the body. Signs include poor appetite, fatigue, increased periods of sleep, intolerance to exercise, fainting and shortness of breath.
Cardiomyopathy is diagnosed using chest x-rays, an electrocardiogram (ECG), and echocardiography (EKG). All ferrets older than 3 years should have an EKG to screen for this disease.
Ferrets are prone to ringworm, which is a fungal disease of the skin, similar to Athlete’s foot in humans. It has been reported in young ferrets and may be transmitted by infected cats.
As a rule of thumb, products manufactured and intended for use in and on cats (dewormers, flea products, ringworm medications, etc.) are safe and suitable for use with ferrets, with one exception: flea collars should never be used on ferrets.