0208 943 2303   info@alpha-vets.co.uk
24h Emergency Service 0208 783 2850
 

FERRETS

How to care for your ferret

We’re delighted to offer our veterinary services to cheeky ferrets. At our ferret clinic we provide consultations and ferret vaccinations, as well as advice on a range of topics. They’re a joy to have in our ferret clinic as they love to play and we enjoy their inquisitive ways! Find out more about the services we offer ferrets, along with some helpful information.

Consultations

Please call our regular telephone number:  0208 943 2303 (Alpha Teddington); 01372 460107 (Claygate) during office hours and speak to one of our receptionists who will help book you for the correct consultation appointment.

 

Please remember to inform our receptionists how many pets you will be bringing. Each pet will need to be scheduled individually for a consultation to allow the vet time to properly examine each pet and discuss its problems.

 

Please note that our staff who answer the ‘Emergency Call’ number outside of office hours are unable to book regular day time consultations.

 

Here is a guideline to the different types of consultations we normally provide:

  • Regular Consultation: This is our standard 15-minute consultation with the vet for an animal with a new health problem, a problem that has recurred from some time ago, or an ongoing problem.
  • Second Opinion Consultation:  If your pet has been to see another vet for this problem (within the last year) and you would like our opinion on the problem, then we need to read the previous medical record, blood results and x-rays etc. We can then learn what medicines have been used and what the original vet found on examination. We need to do this in order to properly understand your pets’ condition and provide you with a good second opinion. As this takes time to arrange the consultation must generally be booked at least one day in advance. As this is a more complex and time consuming procedure, we therefore normally schedule for you to spend 30 minutes with the veterinarian and we charge a higher fee.
  • Walk in Consultation:  If you come in without an appointment booked we will try our best to fit you in; however you may have to wait for an hour or even longer if the vets are busy. Of course if your pet’s life is in danger we will assess their condition and may admit them into the hospital while we make a vet available. The Walk in Consultation is generally scheduled for 15 minutes with the veterinarian but is charged at a higher fee than the Regular Consultation.
  • We strongly advise our clients to try and make an appointment, as we are often fully booked or very busy. We do not want your pet to become stressed if they have to wait a long time.
  • Referral Consultation: This is when another vet has asked you to come and consult with us as they feel we have more expertise with ferrets or with your ferret’s specific problem. In these cases the other veterinarian will directly fax us a ‘Referral Letter’ and your ferrets medical records. Afterwards we will also inform your original vet of the outcome of the case. This also requires the extended 30 minute consultation.

Once you have made the appointment please make sure that you, or whoever is bringing in the pet, has all the information as follows:

  1. How long your pet has been sick for and what symptoms is it showing.
  2. What food your pet is fed on, including any snacks and supplements.
  3. Any medicines that may have been given to your pet (please bring in the packets or containers).
  4. What is the origin of your pet and what animals has it been in contact with.
  5. What is the urine & faeces (poop) normally like and what are they presently like.
  6. That the owner or a decision maker will be available on the telephone if they cannot come in.

Please note that to sign a consent form (for example for an operation or if you pet needs to be admitted into hospital) legally it must be someone over the age of 18 years old to sign.

We require payment for the services provided immediately after a consultation. If your pet does unfortunately need to be admitted to hospital or for surgery you will be required to pay a deposit. To try and make it more convenient for you we do accept payments by cash, cheque, debit and credit cards.

 

And don’t forget to collect your  ALPHA CARD – our free loyalty card which gives you 1% back on everything you spend with us! You collect points on your card which you can redeem against any of our services or products! The card is free to all clients, and we even give you 500 points (=£5) to get you started! Ask at reception for more details when you come in.

Vaccinations

Vaccination protects your ferret against distemper which is a very serious viral disease, and can be fatal. It is a highly contagious viral disease which is fortunately now rare in the UK due to vaccination.  In ferrets the virus causes severe respiratory signs (such as sneezing, coughing, pneumonia) fever, skin problems and even death.

The vaccine is an important part of your ferret’s health care program, however there is the potential for reactions.  Most reactions are not serious (discomfort at the site of injection, tiredness, reduced appetite) and usually go away without treatment.

However some can be life threatening, such as allergic reactions: bumpy itchy skin, vomiting/diarrhoea and even death. We will advise that you wait at the clinic for 30 minutes after the vaccine to watch out for severe reactions.

Our veterinary surgeon will discuss the pros and cons of vaccinating your ferret during a consultation in order for you to make an informed decision on whether you want to vaccinate or not.  If your ferret has had a previous reaction it is important that you tell the vet about this.

 

 

Other vaccines:

 

Influenza:

Ferrets are susceptible to the influenza virus, and can pick it up from infected humans. The symptoms will be similar, with nasal discharge, sneezing, fevers and feeling sick. If you have the flu please wear a mask at home and do not handle your ferret if possible.

There are no vaccines available for flu in ferrets.

Health Checks

Kit Health Checks

Taking on a new kit is an exciting and rewarding experience. There are lots of things to consider with any new pet and our aim is to help you ensure that your new kit has the best start in life and continues to be happy and healthy into adulthood.

At your first health check, our veterinarian will perform a full physical exam – this involves looking at your ferret’s eyes, nose, ears, mouth and teeth, skin, listening to his heart and lungs, and feeling his abdomen. Our veterinarian will also discuss all aspects of care including feeding, behaviour and training.

We will also cover preventative care such as vaccinations, neutering and parasite control.

As you see at these kit health checks there is a lot of information to be covered by the veterinarian at this time!

 

Regular Health Checks

Regular six-monthly health check-ups are important for the long term health and welfare of your ferret.  Vaccines are important to prevent disease. Ferrets are very susceptible to distemper, which is a common disease in dogs.

Routine examinations allow us to take a pro-active role in preventative health care – we may spot health problems earlier, allowing us to take appropriate treatment or preventative action.  We can carry out a full physical exam when your ferret comes in for his annual vaccinations.  This is an ideal opportunity to discuss any concerns you may have about your pet’s health.  The annual health check includes a free urinalysis.  Please bring in a fresh urine sample (or one that has been refrigerated) in a clean container, preferably the first sample of the morning.

It is of course possible to perform health examinations at times other than the annual vaccination, and we recommend twice-yearly check-ups. We often recommend more frequent check-ups for pets with chronic problems (e.g. heart disease, arthritis). If your pet is on an ongoing medication, then it will require more regular check-ups to allow us to keep prescribing the medication.

 

Older Ferret Health Checks

Ferrets are usually considered old or ‘geriatric’ from 3-4 years of age, although for some breeds or individuals, this may be earlier or later.  Geriatric pets need more attention than younger pets and it is important that your animal is checked regularly by us in order to detect problems early – we recommend a health check every 6 months for these special ‘old-timers’.

When our elderly pet starts to slow down, we often put this down to ageing changes when in fact it can be due to an underlying medical condition.  If detected early these conditions are often treatable and treatment can greatly improve an animal’s quality of life.  Some commonly seen problems in older animals include: dental disease, arthritis, heart conditions, and kidney failure and liver problems.

At the ‘Older Ferrets Health Check’ as well as performing a full physical exam, we may advise a urine test and blood tests as part of the health exam.

Even if the health check reveals nothing untoward the information we gather will help in the future if concerns for your pet’s health are raised.  Knowing what is normal for your pet will help immensely when investigating illness.

Nutritional Advice

Ferrets are true carnivores. Their diet should consist almost entirely of meat and animal products. They have a short intestine that food passes through rapidly.

Diets high in vegetable proteins, fibre or carbohydrates must be avoided.

Too much carbohydrate or sugars may lead to problems with the pancreas. Vegetable proteins in a complete food can lead to stones in the urinary tract. Whole pieces of vegetable (such as carrot) may block the intestine and need surgical removal.

Some people feed ferrets a natural diet of mice, rats and birds but this is a bit messy!

The ideal ferret food contains

Protein content of 30–40% (preferably at the higher end of this range)

Fat content 15–20%

Fibre content < 3%

Meat or meat by-products should be listed as the first 3 ingredients (not corn/grains)

Highly digestible

An alternative to feeding a commercial ferret diet is to offer premium quality dry kitten food. Diets such as Hill’s Science Diet Kitten, Iams Kitten or Royal Canin kitten dry foods are appropriate.

Canned versions of these kitten foods should not be given as the main diet as the ferret cannot physically eat enough of it to supply its needs.  A small amount twice a week is fine.

We do not recommend a poor quality cat or dog food (for example most of the supermarket brands) for ferrets – they are inadequate due to low digestibility and high levels of sugars and vegetable proteins.

Neutering (De-Sexing) Surgeries

De-sexing, or neutering, is a surgical procedure performed under general anaesthesia.

In female ferrets, this involves the removal of the ovaries and the uterus and may also be called ‘spaying’, whilst in males, ‘castration’ is the removal of the testicles.  Hormonal castration can also be performed.

Neutering is essential in ferrets. The breeders will normally have had a veterinary surgeon perform the surgery before you purchase your pet. If they are not spayed female ferrets will develop life-threatening anaemia. This is due to the effects of the cycling female hormones.

Male ferrets, if not castrated will be incredibly smelly and can be difficult to live with indoors.

Neutering can increase the risk of adrenal gland disease. If you are concerned please speak to our veterinary surgeons during a consultation as there are some treatments available to reduce this risk.

If you have a ferret and you are not sure whether it has been neutered or not please telephone for an appointment.

Dental Services

We all know the importance of regular dental care – we brush our teeth at least twice a day and if we don’t, plaque, tartar and other tooth diseases will soon result.  Our pets are no different.

Symptoms of dental disease may include bad breath, reddened gums, and build-up of yellow or brown tartar along the gum line.

Your ferret may show changes in chewing or eating patterns and may paw his mouth.  As infection and inflammation progresses, periodontitis may result – this is irreversible and may lead to the loss of the tooth.  As oral bacteria can be released into the bloodstream, dental disease can also result in heart, kidney, liver and lung disease.  As our pets are living longer compared to their wild relatives, maintaining good dental health is very important towards them leading healthy, happy lives.

We advise regular dental checks – the annual health check or vaccination check-up is the ideal time to assess for any early problems.

Ferrets are also at risk of breaking their canine teeth.   Most ferrets are very inquisitive and love to bite on things, and jump around.

Broken teeth need treatment otherwise they hurt and can develop abscesses.

Your vet can advise you on how to keep your ferret’s teeth clean and if a dental cleaning is required.  Plaque and tartar is removed by using an ultrasonic scaler, and the teeth are polished afterwards.  We check for any loose or damaged teeth, which may need to be extracted.  The dental procedure is carried out under a full general anaesthetic, as no “awake” ferret will let us do a thorough cleaning!

Your vet may advise pre-anaesthetic blood tests, and your pet may require antibiotics prior to the dental cleaning or have to go home on some medications afterwards.

Home care is important to prevent development of dental disease.

Young kits should have their mouths handled from an early age, to get them used to the idea of tooth brushing.

Even older animals, if introduced slowly and patiently, can be taught to accept having their teeth brushed.

Never use human toothpaste as this can cause foaming, and ferrets do not like the minty taste. Dog or cat toothpaste is suitable

If performed daily, tooth brushing can prevent plaque formation, gingivitis and periodontal disease, saving your ferret from pain and reducing the cost of future dental care.  Please see our online video on tooth brushing techniques.

If your ferret won’t tolerate tooth brushing, there are other methods which may help to maintain a healthy mouth.

  • Special diets are available which can help clean the teeth while he eats.  Some have been created to help reduce plaque and tartar formation.  Please ask your vet for more information about the different types of diet available and which best suits your ferret’s needs
  • Dental treats – some chews are marketed to be a part of dental health care, but not all are created equal.  For information on which products are most effective, check out the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOCH) website.  Remember that these treats may contribute towards weight gain, and always be around to supervise your pet when giving chews
  • Dental sprays – some of these can be sprayed into the mouth or added into the drinking water as an anti-plaque wash
  • Toys  – some chew toys will help to reduce the plaque and tartar if your pet will actually chew them 

We have all the products you need to be able to perform effective home care in our Pet Product Shop so please come in and discuss further with our staff if necessary.

Hospitalisation

Sometimes your pet may have to stay in hospital for treatment.  We understand that this can be a worrying time for owners, and we try to make your ferret’s stay in our hospital as comfortable and as stress-free as possible.

We usually will keep ferrets in our Cat Ward, which has a variety of different sized kennels to suit your pet.  We also have Isolation facilities, which are separate from our other wards, used to house animals with infectious diseases which may spread to other pets or humans.  For critically ill patients, we have temperature controlled oxygen cages which allow the administration of oxygen without stress to the patient.

Whilst in hospital, your ferret’s needs will be looked after by our dedicated hospital nursing staff, working closely with the vet in charge of your pet’s case.  Clinical rounds are carried out regularly throughout the day with the vet and nursing staff looking at each patient and planning its treatment for the day.  You will usually be updated about your ferrets’ progress after morning rounds, and further updates will be given throughout the day.

Your ferret will be offered cat food, dry & tinned while in hospital. If your pet is on a particular type of food then please let us know so we can maintain the normal feeding regime. You can bring in the home diet too. You may wish to bring something from home to make your pet more at ease whilst staying with us e.g. a favourite blanket or toy.

Weight Monitoring

Ferrets rarely become overweight if they are fed on an appropriate diet and are healthy.

If you feel that your little darling is overweight it suggests there is something wrong and you should make an appointment.

The vet will then be able to advise you on the actual condition of your pet, if they are overweight or not, and if the diet needs to be changed, or whether investigations into the health status should be done.

Enrichment Toys

Ferrets are hunters, and need lots of stimulation to keep them happy and healthy.

They are clever and inquisitive animals that love to play.

One of the best playthings is a friend. Ferrets are social animals and another ferret is probably the best thing to keep them happy and give them something to play with.

Whether you have one or ten ferrets you will still need to give them some extras.

 

Alone time – because we all lead busy lives, our ferrets often end up spending a good portion of their day home alone.  Giving your ferret something to do when they’re by themselves means they will be less bored, and less stressed.  Food puzzle toys require time, patience and problem-solving, and encourage natural behaviour such as pawing, licking and chewing.

Hong Kong has an excellent range of food puzzle toys to give your ferret’s brain and jaws a workout.  When you first introduce your ferret to a food puzzle toy, make it easy for him to empty it, as he has been used to getting his food served up to him in a bowl.  As he becomes an expert, you can make it harder for him to get the food out of the toys. It is very important to make sure the toys are indestructible as ferrets will often swallow small pieces of chewed up toys/cage furniture/anything they can chew up. These little pieces can block the intestine and may need surgery to remove them.

Kong toys for cats or small dogs will be suitable

A big wheel (with solid base) should help keep your ferret exercised, fit, busy and well-muscled.

 

Out of the cage time!  

You must let your ferret out of his cage every day to play and exercise.

Ferret proof your home so they cannot bite electrical cables, get stuck in holes in the furniture, and get into trouble!

Tunnels are much enjoyed for exploring and tubes and hoses can be bought in electrical shops so you can make a playground.

Ferrets love to burrow and dig, a box filled with woodchips or dry rice will be enjoyed. Hide some food treats in it to make it even more fun

A bowl of water with a ball floating in it will also provide hours of fun

A window seat to watch wild birds or a fish tank will also provide visual stimulation.

Watch that your ferret cannot get to the fish though!

If you are looking for ‘good’ toys for your ferret then please visit our Pet Product Shop where we sell a wide range of enrichment toys that have all been tested on our staffs pets!

Learn more about your pet

You can download our PDF documents for more information.

Cushings Syndrome

Guinea Pig – Feeding

Anaesthesia

Cat – Moving House

Exotic – Critical Care

Cat & Dog – Bereavement

Remember, you can contact us anytime!