Tips to use in caring for a sick ferret:
Caring for a sick ferret can be a scary, challenging, and rewarding experience. Whether it is a cold or a life threatening illness, ferrets really benefit from constant attention and love. It is imperative that you contact or take your ferret to a veterinarian any time it is sick. What may start out as a simple cold or flu could turn into pneumonia or dehydration.
Be sure to check with your veterinarian before administering any "over the counter" pet store or human medications. For example, aspirin and other human pain medications can be lethal to a ferret. Human cough or cold medications can also kill or make your ferret very sick if they contain certain ingredients or are given in incorrect dosages. Your veterinarian can tell you which medications are safe and the correct dosages to give. Don't put your ferret's life in jeopardy to save time or money. Below I have listed some tips I have used in caring for ferrets who were recovering from an illness. I am assuming that your ferret has already been to the veterinarian for diagnosis.
To prevent dehydration, give your ferret a mixture of Pedialyte and water to drink (half Pedialyte and half water) following an initial bout of diarrhea, vomiting or not drinking due to malaise. You should give them fluids that are at room temperature. Very cold, refrigerated fluids can cause your ferret stomach upset. You can also use Gatorade and water, however you must dilute it more (three parts water, one part Gatorade) due to the high sugar content. I would recommend using Pedialyte first and then trying Gatorade only if your ferret refuses to drink the Pedialyte.
Try putting the drink mixture in your ferret's water dish, keeping the water in the water bottle pure. If your ferret refuses to drink the Pedialyte mixture, you want to always have plain water available. If your ferret is not taking in any fluids, or is refusing to drink the mixture, you may have to syringe feed the fluids. You must be very careful while doing this, for they can aspirate the fluid and develop an infection. Fill a syringe with Pedialyte and water, scruff your ferret and slowly inject the fluid into the side of their mouth, one small drop at a time. They will usually resist at first, so it may be a long process. Try to angle the syringe tip towards the front of your ferret's mouth, rather than the back. This gives your ferret a chance to swallow the fluid on his or her own. You should try to get your ferret to drink about fifteen milliliters of the solution every three to four hours (if your ferret is not drinking any fluid on his/her own). Check with your veterinarian to find out exactly how much of the fluid mixture you should syringe feed your ferret per day in order to prevent dehydration.
When my ferret became ill with a terrible intestinal virus (possibly ECE) and low blood sugar due to an insulinoma, I used a method suggested by Dr. Bruce H. Williams, DVM (a veterinarian who owns and works with many ferrets and has his own ferret pathology web site- see Favorite Links ) to keep her nourished after her hospital stay. This technique involves hand feeding your ferret Gerber Chicken Baby Food (with the blue label) every three to four hours. The baby food contains easily digestible protein, calories and fat. It is gentle on irritated intestines and is easily absorbed. You can supplement this diet by mixing some softened, ground ferret chow, canned prescription diet or Ferretvite to the baby food. I used the baby food by itself and then fed her a little Ferretvite separately to ensure she was getting enough taurine and other vitamins. You should always warm the baby food in the microwave or on the stove to slightly above room temperature after refrigeration (don't warm it in the glass jar- use a bowl). Always stick your finger in the center of the food to make sure it is not hot.
Feeding Your Sick Ferret
Ferrets will not generally take to a new food right away, so I had to scruff my ferret and rub a little of the baby food around her mouth and gums to let her taste it. When she didn't seem interested in eating any (in other words she squirmed out of my hands and wiped her mouth all over the carpet), I opened her mouth and placed a very small dab of the food on the roof of her mouth, keeping towards the front of her mouth (do this very carefully, you don't want your ferret to aspirate the baby food). Continue to feed your ferret in this manner until he or she has eaten about one tablespoon (or as much as your ferret will tolerate) of the food per feeding. You should try to feed your ferret every three to four hours, during the day and over night. After a few such feedings, my ferret was licking the baby food off of my fingers. I let her eat as much as she wanted per feeding. It really helped her recover and gain weight. You should always make some dry food available in your ferret's cage as well.
As your ferret's health and appetite improves, start mixing crushed dry ferret food or canned ferret food with the baby food. Finally, when your ferret is feeling better and has gained weight, encourage your ferret to return to his or her normal food by hand feeding small quantities. Moistening the chow with some water and warming it will also encourage your ferret to eat. Continue feeding the baby food as a supplement until your ferret is eating mostly dry food. Eventually, your ferret will begin eating on his or her own again. Hand feeding your ferret during an illness is an excellent way to earn your ferret's trust and administer some much needed attention.
For more detailed information on this topic, please visit the web site of Dr. Bruce Williams, DVM http://www.afip.org/ferrets.
Lymphoma in Ferrets Gastrointestinal Disorders in Ferrets Insulinomas in Ferrets Adrenal Disease
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The information provided in this section is not intended to be used in place of proper veterinary care. This web site contains the opinions of the writer. The reader of this site must use this information at his or her own risk.