Our approach to veterinary care in ferrets is very similar to that in dogs, cats and rabbits, with no special equipment being required. Pet ferrets can and should be easily be accepted into any small animal practice.
Posted: 22 September 2020
With specific reference to respiratory conditions, they are susceptible to a number of different complaints. The symptoms of respiratory disease are usually similar, regardless of the cause, but since some of these conditions can be fatal, it’s important to try to determine the cause of disease in order to establish a prognosis.
Stress and poor husbandry conditions are important factors that predispose ferrets to respiratory infections. The most common respiratory diseases of ferrets are canine distemper and influenza. Bacterial pneumonia is uncommon and usually develops secondary to viral pneumonia. Pulmonary mycoses are also rare in ferrets, although cases of cryptococcosis, blastomycosis, and coccidioidomycosis have been described.
Keywords: cryptococcosis, distemper, ferrets, influenza, mycobacteriosis, pneumonia, Pseudomonas luteola, respiratory disease
Primary respiratory disease is actually unusual, and most ferrets are diagnosed with respiratory problems secondary to another cause. In this article we look at 3 of the more likely reasons a ferret might be presented with breathing difficulties.
The canine distemper virus (CDV) can vary considerably in virulence but needs to be taken seriously as it is almost always fatal. It’s highly infectious, and can be spread via;
Since the incubation period is between 7 and 10 days, suspected cases need to be isolated from others for up to two weeks.
The respiratory signs to look out for include;
On top of the respiratory signs, many ferrets with CDV will also present with;
Unfortunately, there is no specific or effective treatment for CDV, and with the condition often being fatal, euthanasia is probably the most likely and humane way we can help. Without support, animals will usually die within a month of being diagnosed.
If the owner is determined to try, then supportive and symptomatic treatments can be used, such as;
As a species, ferrets are particularly susceptible to influenza viruses, and can easily catch flu from infected people or other infected ferrets. All ferrets are at risk, with it being more severe in the very young. It’s really important to appreciate that the influenza virus can also be transmitted from ferrets to humans, so there is considerable zoonotic risk in a veterinary environment.
The influenza virus is generally transmitted by aerosol droplets, so particular care must be taken, much like to the precautions we are now all used to with Covid-19.
Unlike CDV, the influenza virus is not usually fatal and tends to be self-limiting, with most animals recovering within a week. Look for some or all of these respiratory signs;
Other clinical signs to be aware of include;
This usually consists of supportive care such as;
Apart from the viral causes of pneumonia mentioned above, secondary bacterial infections can also result in pneumonia. Primary or secondary bacterial pathogens reported to cause pneumonia in ferrets include;
The clinical signs you would expect to see are similar to those in dogs and cats, and include;
The basic approach to treating a ferret with pneumonia is to provide;