FAQ - Health and Safety
Ferrets require routine vet and health care but have very few needs otherwise. The only things you will need to do are trimming nails, cleaning ears and bathing, all of which are very easy once you know how.
Ferret nails grow rapidly and need clipping weekly or fortnightly depending on your ferret. You can use special cat clippers or strong human clippers (like toe nail clippers).
Scruffing the ferret is often necessary, but because some ferrets dislike being scruffed, distracting them with a treat like Nutripet will help. Cut the nail short, but avoid the pink vein running inside the nail which is easily visible. If you cut the vein, the ferret will let you know! They may squeal and might try to bite from fear. Just hold them and reassure them, and if necessary, apply a gentle antiseptic cream.
Ears need regular cleaning too. You will know when they are dirty as the ear wax is a dark red, almost black (it can be a shock when you first clean them as it does look like blood). Use a warm, moist cotton bud to gently wipe the grit out of the ear, only as far as you can see - do not go too far inside the folds of the ear as this can hurt the ferret. Again, you may need to distract the ferret with a treat while doing this. Be on the look out for mites as they often live in the ears!
If you have trouble with nail clipping or ear cleaning, contact our Info Line for hints or ask someone in a red shirt for help at the next meeting.
Most ferrets tolerate having a warm bath or shower. Use baby shampoo or herbal pet products to wash your ferret every two months or so if needed. More frequent bathing can cause dry skin, which causes the ferret to produce more oil and smell more. Flea products that are kitten and puppy formulated are safe (eg. Di Flea for Kittens, Frontline and Program). Do not use formulas made for adult cats or dogs.
Although some ferrets enjoy a bath, others hate it. If your ferret is particularly fearful, they may prefer taking a shower with you! Holding them gently against you as you wash them can help calm them and allows them to trust you more.
Desexing is a must, especially for females. We recommend desexing from around six (6) months of age. A female (Jill) will come into season around September and will remain in season until she is desexed, mated or receives an injection from a vet to bring her out of season. Unless she is brought out of season there is a real danger of the ferret dying from anaemia!
A male (Hob) also comes into season around the same time and can lose up to 40% of his body weight. This is normal for a male and there is no need for concern. There will be a colour change (yellowing) and you will also notice that his odour becomes very strong, unpleasant and no amount of bathing will eradicate it. He may also become quite aggressive and try very hard to escape his cage in search of a mate.
The NSWFWS does not recommend descenting of ferrets. This is an unnecessary operation and does not decrease smell.
All ferrets need to be vaccinated against canine distemper once a year. We recommend the use of Canvac DA2 or CSL C3 at 1/6 (one sixth) to 1/4 (one-quarter) dog dose.
Ferrets are susceptible to the same worm parasites as cats and dogs (roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm) abd routine treatment is recommended. To prevent heartworm, the NSWFWS uses Oral Ivomec which also protects against intestinal worms (except tapeworm). It can also prevent sarcoptic mange (skin mites) and ear mites. Consult your vet for dosage.
WARNING: Human flu virus can be caught by your ferrets and vice versa. If infected with the flu keep your ferret warm and monitor food and water intake. If the ferret has nasal discharge, seek veterinary advice, as antibiotics might be needed.
As a precaution, try not to handle the ferret too much while either of you are ill, and be sure to wash your hands after handling.