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Is Sand Safe For Ferret Play?

Should ferret owners let their pets play in sand?

Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: June 27, 2013, 4 a.m. EDT

ferret in b ox of shredded paper
The choice of a ferret's dig box material can affect his health.

Q: My ferret loves to burrow in a tub of play sand I place in the bathtub. However I am concerned about her inhaling the sand dust. Should I be?

A: That is a great question. Ferrets are animals that, by nature, dig into dirt and run in underground tunnels and burrows hunting their prey. So the question is, is the sand you are using similar to what a ferret might burrow into if he or she was digging into dirt?

That is difficult to say without seeing the sand. As you mention, with sand, it is possible there is dust if the particulate matter is small with the type of sand you may be using. If there is enough dust in this sand, it could irritate your ferret’s eyes and cause damage to the cornea. It could cause irritation in the nasal passageways leading to infection and discharge. Or it could be inhaled and reach your ferret’s lungs, causing further damage leading to infection and decreased respiratory function.

Finally, if you give treats to your ferret while she is burrowing, sand could accumulate and stick to the treat leading to an over ingestion of sand. Sand can attract moisture in the gastrointestinal tract that can further lead to dehydration, diarrhea or even a blockage.

As you can see, there are some negative health aspects to having your ferret play in sand. If you want to use this sand, the safest procedure is to bring samples of the sand to your veterinarian’s office the next time you visit. The two of you then can decide if it appears safe for your ferret.

See all veterinary questions about ferrets, click here>>
See veterinary questions for all small animal pets, click here>>
See all ferret health articles, click here>>

Posted: June 27, 2013, 4 a.m. EDT


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