Posted: February 1, 2012, 8 a.m. EST
Q: My ferrets itch all the time. They do not have fleas, and I don't see any lice. I thought maybe it was mites, but I don't really know what I'm looking for. When I hold them, I have little itchy bumps on my skin. Any idea what is causing this and how to get rid of it?
A: Ferrets definitely itch more than most pets, so what you are observing could be normal for your ferrets and, if these are your first ferrets, you may not be accustomed to how much ferrets normally scratch.
But external parasites are not the only reasons ferrets might itch. Some ferrets may have a skin reaction to chemicals in their environment. The list of chemicals includes carpet cleaners, detergents and softeners used in the laundry, and even air fresheners. Make sure none of these irritants are near your ferret. If your ferret still scratches, then something else is causing this problem.
If your ferret still itches after you remove any environmental cause, the next step is to visit your veterinarian. External parasites can sometimes be difficult to see with the naked eye and can be easily missed if all you are doing is looking at the skin and hair. Fleas are the exception. You can see fleas and their excrement (flea dirt) on the ferret’s skin. But mites and lice are very small and may not be visible without the aid of a microscope.
Your veterinarian can diagnose these microscopic skin invaders by scraping off small samples of the top of the skin, including dead skin cells and hair. Looking at this debris under the microscope usually shows the parasites and their eggs, if they are present. Thankfully, treatment for external parasites is usually very easy and safe, and relief can occur in just a few hours of killing the parasites.
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