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Small Mammals

  • Common conditions of pet ferrets include diarrhea, intestinal foreign bodies, parasites, heart disease, and various kinds of tumors.

  • Ferrets commonly get infestations of an ear mite called Otodectes cynotis. Many ferrets show no symptoms of infestation. Subsequent problems of the ears are rare. Ear mites are acquired from other affected animals at the breeders, in pet stores or animal shelters.

  • Ferrets are true carnivores and cannot handle a diet containing more than 4% fiber. There are several good commercial ferret foods available that are dry foods.

  • Due to their well-deserved reputation as escape artists, ferrets should be housed in a cage that can be securely closed and/or locked. The cage should be as large as you can afford; a suggested minimum size might be 24” x 24” x 18” high (60 x 60 x 45 cm).

  • Ferrets can suffer from tumors in any part of their body, ranging from benign cancers of the skin to aggressive malignant tumors of internal organs. A large number of ferrets are affected by tumors of the lymphoid system. This handout will discuss lymphomas and lymphosacromas.

  • There are four major hormonal diseases in ferrets. Two of these diseases are covered in separate handouts, namely abnormally high levels of estrogen associated with persistent estrus in female ferrets (see Ferrets – Reproductive diseases), and abnormally high levels of insulin associated with the pancreatic tumor called insulinoma (see Ferrets – Tumors).

  • The ferret has been domesticated for over 2000 years. It was originally used for pest control and hunting in Europe (the polecat). They are members of the weasel family (Mustelidae), which includes skunks, otters, mink, weasels and badgers.

  • Ferrets have several unique problems; understanding these problems will allow you to better care for your pet and minimize future health care problems.

  • Ferrets are susceptible to a number of different diseases of the respiratory system. The symptoms of respiratory disease are similar, regardless of the cause. Some respiratory diseases can be fatal, and it is important to attempt to determine the cause of disease in order to determine a prognosis.

  • Most skin diseases in ferrets are associated with parasites - fleas, mites and ticks. Ferrets may also develop bacterial skin disease if the skin is traumatized, and they are susceptible to tumors such as squamous cell carcinoma and mast cell tumors.