Consider a Ferret for you next Pet

William Fullmer DVM By William Fullmer DVM, 17th Nov 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Pets>Other

Ferrets are unique animals that make enjoyable companions.

Ferrets have lived with humans for centuries.

I had a very interesting conversation with a client this week while examining their ferret. They said they have been asked by some acquaintances if the ferret drank the owner’s blood or drank its own urine. We laughed at what seemed to be outrageous inquires, but they assured me that they have been asked those same questions on more than one occasion. With this in mind I thought that a discussion on ferrets would be in order.

Ferrets have coexisted with humans for centuries, their first purpose may have been for rodent or rabbit control where they were found extensively in Europe1. The ferrets we have in America as pets are the European species; there is only one native species of ferret in the US, the endangered Black Footed Ferret. Much can be learned about ferrets by examining their scientific name. Mustela putorius furo, mustela means mouse eating, putoris means smelly and furo means thief1. Ferrets as their name would imply, are carnivores, and generally eat a commercially prepared ferret chow. They do also have distinct odor that some find offensive. Most ferrets have their primary scent glands removed at the time of neutering or spaying. However, they are never scent free due to unremovable secondary sent glands. They have mischievous thief like behavior, in that they are very curious and like to investigate anything they can get into. Because of this they also have a tendency to eat things they shouldn’t, causing intestinal upset or obstructions.

All ferrets should be vaccinated for canine distemper and rabies as they are very susceptible to both diseases. Initially the distemper vaccine requires a two series booster two to four weeks apart and a yearly booster thereafter. The rabies vaccine is good for a year on initial vaccination and requires a yearly booster. Ferrets are prone to many of the same health issues as dogs and cats and should be examined at least once a year. They do however have their share of their own problems. They are more prone to adrenal gland disease, gastric ulcers, and cancer than are most dogs and cats. Another unique fact about ferrets is that unless a female is bred she will not come out of her heat cycle and estrogen rises to toxic levels. Estrogen has the effect of decreasing all blood cell lines, the resulting effects are to lower platelets and red blood cells to the point that the ferret will bleed to death. Most ferrets are surgically altered before they are sold so this is rarely a problem for pet ferrets.

For the right home a ferret can make a very good pet. You do need to check the laws of your state. Some states ban ferrets on the fear that if they get loose they may develop a feral population, raising concerns for their effect on the local wildlife. Consulting your veterinarian before acquiring any new pet is a good idea.

1. Susan A. Brown in Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents Clinical Medicine and Surgery second edition.


Distemper Virus, Ferret, Ferret Health, Ferrets, Ferrets As Pets, Pets, Pets And Happiness, Pets Animals, Vaccination, Vaccinations, Vaccine, Vaccines

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author avatar William Fullmer DVM
Dr. Fullmer graduated from Washington State University with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. He also graduated from the University of Idaho with a bachelor's degree in Veterinary Sciences and f

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
17th Nov 2011 (#)

Ferrets sure are cute pets but a bit too demanding for our lifestyle so we do not have any. Good advice for people thinking about getting a pet ferret though.

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author avatar Jack Wellman
17th Nov 2011 (#)

So awesome seeing you here too brother. God bless you my good friend in Christ Jesus.

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author avatar Tranquilpen
22nd Nov 2011 (#)

Great article thank you.

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author avatar Songbird B
5th Dec 2011 (#)

Excellent article, and very informative too...Thanks for a really interesting share..

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