Ferret Health: First Aid

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This month we’re looking at illnesses in ferrets. While we would never wish illness on our ferrets, it is important to be prepared and to know what to do in case your ferret becomes ill.

So this week we’re going to look a little bit more at first aid. If your ferret is poorly, you really should be taking it to a vet as soon as possible. However, first aid for ferrets might mean care once you’ve brought them back from the vets. Or it might be for minor issues where the vet said there’s not that much wrong with them. But please don’t read this post then not take a poorly ferret to the vet.

Always take a poorly ferret to the vet.

So the first thing to remind you is that even if your little cuddle bugs are normally the softest in the world and wouldn’t bite a fly, remember that if they’re in pain, they will possibly bite you. And as part of that pain and panic they might lock on.

Stay calm, both for yourself and for your ferret. And the best way to stay calm is to be prepared. Do your research (like reading this blog) and be prepared around the most common issues your ferret might face.

Bleeding nails

So for minor things like cutting one of their nails a bit too short and it starts bleeding, something like flour, soap, styptic pens or beeswax, something like that can be put that over the nail and it’ll help stop the bleeding.

However, what I’d also say is put the ferret back in the cage. They’re more likely to fall asleep away from you and in the safety of their cage. If you’ve got them out and they’re running around, their heart’s still beating fast, pushing the blood around, which is more likely to make it carry on bleeding. So if you have done that, just try and put them back into a smaller area and they’ll fall asleep, which will lower the heart rate and help the wound clot nicely and heal.

Minor scratches

If you’ve got some minor scratches on them, clean that using lukewarm water – make sure it is only lukewarm. A little bit of lukewarm water with a little bit of cotton wool dunked in it. And I will clean that as best I can. If I really need to, I’ll use a bit of soapy water, but I try not to just in case it’ll sting. Then I’ll tap it dry with a very clean towel.

Don’t rub, just gently tap it dry to keep those things clean. And if they start scratching it again, it might be something you need to get looked at by the vets, just to check there’s no underlying infection. But on the whole, just clean water will work for that. And then a clean towel.

A fall

If they fall from a height and they scratch themselves, I would be taking them to their vets to check for anything internal that’s gone wrong that you can’t be sure of. If you know that it was just a scratch, you saw the scratch happen and you are happy that there’s nothing internal that’s gone wrong, just treat it. But if you are unsure of how they got the scratch or if you saw it and it was something a bit more major, do take it to the vet, so the vet can check for any internal bleeding.

Vomiting or diarrhoea

If your ferret vomits or starts vomiting, monitor that for 12 hours. Look at how they’re drinking, how they’re eating, how they’re pooping. If it goes on for more than 12 hours, please take the ferret to the vet. That could be the sign of a blockage. If they’ve stopped eating entirely, go before that 12 hour period. But if after 12 hours you feel unhappy or unconvinced, take them to the vets.

With diarrhea, take the same approach but reduce the window of 12 hours if things don’t improve. If they’ve got a lot of diarrhea and you can see that they’re not drinking and weeing, take them to the vets. It could be a little bug that’ll work its way out. But with diarrhea, are they going to rehydrate themselves well enough? Are they going to be eating well enough? They can lose weight very, very quickly and it can be very difficult to get it back on.

Seizures

I’m very glad to say I’ve never had direct experience of seizures in ferrets, however I have with humans. And it is frightening. And just as you would with a human, if a ferret has a seizure, all you can do is keep that ferret safe from itself and from you. Do not put your hands or anything near its mouth because as part of the seizure it might clamp down and then you are stuck. It won’t swallow its tongue, but just keep it from hurting itself through that seizure.

Put it somewhere soft and just watch it and make sure it’s okay. Once the seizure ends, that’s when you can just gently hold them, pet them, keep them warm, maybe cuddle and talk to them in a soothing manner. They could be confused and scared so try to calm them down.

If you are aware that they have seizures and the vet has told you what to do, that’s great. You don’t need to take the animal to the vet necessarily. If this is new to you and your ferret has never had a seizure before before, please, please take your ferret to the vet. It could be something very serious underlying. Also, if you have the presence of mind, if you can try and time the length of the seizure, that might help your vet as well.

Ferret first aid kit

So a first aid kit for ferrets should contain a 10ml syringe. You don’t have the needle on the end, it’s just the syringe. And that’s just a good way of feeding them. If I’ve got a poorly ferret, I will quite often keep a diary of how much they’re eating, when they’re eating. And if I’ve had to syringe feed them, I can have a better idea of how much is getting in there. I also keep track of when they’re pooping and weeing.

You might want some flour or a bit of beeswax or a bit of soap. This is for if you’re clipping their nails and there’s a little bit of blood. Maybe a bit of honey or a bit of golden syrup or sugar water for if you need to just help the ferret round from something. If they’re very weak and they just seem to be very dazed, that could be a low blood sugar. A little bit of honey on their gums will work wonders.

A tick remover. Please don’t try and remove a tick in any other way than with a tick remover because you can leave the jaws of the tick in, which can cause an infection and be quite serious.

Emeraid is good to have as well. We used to say RCC, but Emeraid is a good substitute because Royal Canine Convalescence is no longer available. Please, please make sure you get the carnivore ones because there are different ones for different types of animal.

If you’ve got any questions on what I’ve said or you’ve got any comments or things that you use as well, please do let us know in the comments below.

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