Posted: June 1, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT
Ferret Little Bear/© Courtesy Jessica & Jason DeJean
All ferret owners want to keep their pet ferrets healthy, and recognizing a medical emergency is part of that care.
“Is it an emergency?” That is one of the common questions pet ferret owners have. There are many diseases, injuries and problems that truly need rapid veterinary medical attention to avoid a tragedy. Let’s take a look at some of these serious conditions that require urgent veterinary care for ferrets.
1. Ferret Trauma
Trauma is one of the common reasons for a ferret to have an emergency visit to the veterinarian. Fortunately ferrets rarely escape from the house and end up being hit by a car like dogs and cats do; however, ferrets are prone to other serious injuries while still in the house.
In households with other pets, a ferret might receive a bite wound from a dog or a cat. Bite wounds can cause bleeding, infection, and, in the worst-case scenario, even fatal damage to internal organs like the lungs, spleen and liver. Every bite wound should be considered serious, and the ferret should be taken to your ferret veterinarian without delay.
Ferrets like to get into everything and under furniture. This can create problems, too. If a ferret gets under a reclining chair, it can certainty receive a serious injury if the chair reclines on to it. This can cause broken bones and even death. The same thing can happen with a sofa that folds out into a bed. An injury of this kind to a ferret should be considered life-threatening, and emergency care should be sought immediately.
Ferrets will sometimes chew on the darndest things. Occasionally they will even chew on electrical cords. This can cause serious damage to the roof of the mouth and even death from electrocution. Any wound from an electric cord should receive medical care right away.
© Courtesy Jerry Murray, DVM
This ferret required surgery on a dislocated elbow suffered when the ferret jumped from the top of its cage.
Ferrets can also injure themselves from falling off a high place. Young ferrets are prone to climb onto things and take a flying leap down to the ground. If they fall from high enough, they can actually dislocate their elbows when they land on their front arms. If a ferret is not able to walk normally after a fall, veterinary attention should be sought quickly. It is much better to put the elbows back into place right after the injury rather than delay treatment until the next day.
Ferrets can also be injured accidently by people. Common examples of this include getting the door closed on them and being stepped on. Older ferrets can sometimes hurt themselves going down metal ramps in the cage. If they get their foot caught between the slots as they move down the ramp, it is possible to tear a ligament in the knee (the anterior cruciate ligament) just like athletes do. If the ferret is not able to walk normally after an injury, it is time to take the ferret to the veterinarian for an exam that day.
2. Ferret Seizures
Any time a ferret has a seizure, emergency care is needed. Middle-aged to older ferrets are prone to a cancer called insulinoma. The insulinoma causes the blood sugar level to become low. The low blood sugar can lead to a seizure. Most of these are “screaming fit” seizures, because the ferret makes a very high-pitched scream during the seizure. Other diseases such as ferret FIP can also cause seizure activity. Regardless of the cause of a seizure, quickly take your ferret to the veterinarian any time it has a seizure.
3. Ferrets That Strain To Urinate
If a ferret strains to urinate but is unable to produce urine, then urgent treatment is needed. Ferrets will often make a high-pitched squeak as they strain to urinate. Male ferrets with adrenal gland disease frequently have an enlarged prostate. If the prostate becomes big enough, it clamps down on the urethra and makes the urethra too small for urine to pass through it. Other problems that can prevent urination in either males or females are bladder stones and severe bladder infections.