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Ferret Slows Down At Age 5

Is it cause for concern if a ferret doesn’t behave like its usual self?

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: April 1, 2012, 7 a.m. EDT

Q: I have eight beautiful ferrets. The oldest ferret, a rescued, hob named Bannock, is 5 years old (or so we were told by the rescue centre). During the last few months, I’ve noticed him sleeping a lot more. A few weeks back he had an extremely serious anal gland infection and was in a lot of pain, which has now been cleared up, but he’s still extremely sleepy most of the time. I know he’s an older boy, but he’s still extremely keen on his food and still scraps with the younger boys for bits of chicken. He’s quite a large ferret, so it would be very obvious if he was losing condition. He’s still happy enough to play games while he’s awake, but he never initiates play anymore, preferring to sleep on the sofa unless someone actually makes the effort to play with him. I don’t think it’s that he’s in pain, and the vet gave him a clean bill of health after his infection. He was my first ferret, and I love him dearly, but I can’t help thinking something is wrong with him. Am I right to worry?

A: If you believe your ferret is not his normal self and your veterinarian has given him a clean bill of health, perhaps the medical tests did not go far enough. Owners know their ferrets extremely well. If you believe there is a problem, there is likely a problem no matter what test results indicate.

It may be that when you first noticed a problem, it was so early on in the disease process that the tests were negative. If you bring your ferret back now to see the veterinarian, the tests might start to show something was amiss.

Based on his age and what you described the diseases to consider would be an insulinoma, a heart condition, or even kidney or liver issues. All of these conditions are common in older ferrets and 5 years is considered an older ferret.

I suggest revisiting your veterinarian and asking if he or she can take a second look at your ferret and possibly redo some simple tests, such as a blood glucose, a liver panel, a urinalysis and a heart auscultation, to rule out the most common causes of a lethargic, older ferret.

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