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Ferret Physiology Affects How Ferrets Endure Hot Temperatures

You must understand ferret physiology to understand why hot temperatures are so dangerous to them.

Faith Arnold
Posted: May 19, 2008, 5 a.m. EDT

Because the survival challenge for ferret ancestors was keeping warm in the winter — their small body size caused them to lose heat rapidly — and staying cool in summer wasn’t an issue in their underground burrows, nature provided them with thick, warm fur, but no sweat glands under that fur. We humans can get along very well in quite hot temperatures because we can sweat. By contrast, the ferret’s mechanism of excess heat dissipation is very inefficient — panting and dilation of surface blood vessels, particularly in the paws. A dangerously overheated ferret has bright pinkish-red paw pads and pants rapidly. At this point, a ferret may be in heatstroke, and very close to collapse, brain damage and even death.

Ferrets are so small, they absorb excessive heat from their environment very rapidly. They have a small mass with a comparatively large surface area. Think how fast a small baked potato heats up in the oven, compared to a large stuffed turkey. A ferret in a very hot place can die in just a few minutes, much quicker than a large-breed dog. Never leave a ferret in a hot car, not even for five minutes. And if you must, leave the car running with the air conditioner on (but have a spare key and lock it, which still may not keep someone from breaking a window and stealing your car!). Check every few minutes to be sure the engine hasn’t stalled.
Faith Arnold is co-owner of HyperFur Products, makers of Cheweasels and Foamy Fries.

Like this article? Check out:
The Cool Rules For Ferrets In Hot Weather, click here>>
Keep Your Ferrets Cool At Home During Hot Temperatures, click here>>



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Ferret Physiology Affects How Ferrets Endure Hot Temperatures

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Reader Comments
Spencer and I live in Florida, and it gets so very hot. He sleeps under the bed, under a towel, or under a piece of my clothing, and he's so warm when it pick him up! But, he chooses to sleep there, so I guess he's ok. I keep the A/C around 74, but I'm glad I read the warning signs. Great article!
Cheryl, Jacksonville, FL
Posted: 7/17/2009 12:41:17 PM
My companions;Silas, Woody & Starr, and I live in Central Texas. Last summer on a Friday, my AC went out. It was Monday before I could get a new Compressor. I got lil' fans with wicks that absorbed water, and blew cool(er) air. I also put small trays of Ice & Water to melt behind the fans. All of this was kept in a sleeping Drawer where they stayed the whole times in obvious distress - pooping, panting, sleeping and nothing more. When the AC came back they laid on the Floor Vent. I was scared. Changed ice every 2 hours day & night, but we all made it, but I was scared. Outside tempertures were over 100 F. My vet said I probably saved theeir lives, and it was worth it.
Joe, Pflugerville, TX
Posted: 4/1/2009 11:21:58 AM
My ferret is suffering from hairloss, he is going to see the vet next wens. Should I keep a small heater on him so he will not get cold. We have another ferret that shares the same cage, will the heater bother him?
Amanda, Lagrange, GA
Posted: 2/18/2009 7:07:33 AM
good article.
mary, ptld, ME
Posted: 5/26/2008 2:47:22 AM
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