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Rabies Awareness

How to protect your ferret and yourself from rabies.

By Kim Schilling

Protecting Yourself
There’s never been a reported case of a human contracting rabies from a ferret. However, any animal bite could cause potential danger. “Any bite can become infected,” said veterinary pathologist Bruce Williams. “As oral cavities go, the ferret doesn’t have as many infectious organisms as a cat, or even a dog. However, all bites should be washed well with soap and water, regardless of the species from where it came.”

I take it a step further and apply a triple antibiotic ointment to the wound, wash it frequently and protect it from dirt and debris. Always seek medical treatment if a bite becomes infected.

Protecting Your Ferret
Although the risk of your ferret contracting rabies is virtually nonexistent, you can further protect yourself, your ferret and the public. “The importance of a rabies vaccine is simple: It protects the owner from overzealous public health officials in the remote occasion when there is a nip or scratch from a ferret,” said Williams.

Doctors are legally obligated to report animal bites to the proper authorities. Although asking is no guarantee, many doctors will respect the expressed wishes of the patient to let the bite go unreported. “Personally, you can’t be too safe,” said Williams. “Although ferrets are now in the [Rabies] Compendium, and can be quarantined in most localities in the event of a bite incident, it will make it much easier on all concerned if the animal is vaccinated (against rabies).”

The addition of the ferret to the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control in 1997, written by the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, was a huge win for ferret lovers. As with dogs and cats that bite, the ferret is now afforded a 10-day quarantine to rule out rabies. Unvaccinated ferrets that bite remain at-risk for being euthanized and beheaded in order to test for rabies. The same holds true about biting ferrets, vaccinated or not, that fall into the hands of officials unaware of the addition of the ferret to the Compendium.

Keeping your ferret current on its annual rabies vaccination is not only the safe thing to do, it is also the responsible


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