​​​Broward Ferret Rescue & Referral

FERRET FIRST AID

 

TAKING YOUR FERRET’S TEMPERATURE; A digital thermometer is suggested. Coat the end with a lubricant such as vasoline or KY jelly. If necessary, have someone scruff and comfort them. Gently insert ½ inch into the rectum. Normal temperature is 101-103*F. 

HOW TO GIVE MEDICATION; #1 Rule- have everything ready before you pick the ferret up. Be sure to read and follow the directions on administering, dosage, and storage. Liquid medication; Administer with a dropper of syringe in the side of the mouth. Do not go too quick, allow them to swallow to avoid forcing medicine down the “wrong way” or into the lungs. Pills; best to breakup and disguise in treats such as hairball medicines. 
CPR/ ARTIFICIAL RESPIRATION; CPR should only be done by an experienced person; however, this may not be practical. Review this with your vet in the event of an emergency. Know their lung volume is very small and there is a high risk of rupturing if performed improperly.  The slightest excessive compression efforts can cause cracked ribs or bruised lungs. Consult your vet for instructions. 

MOVING AN INJURED FERRET;
 Gently wrap the ferret in a bulky towel or blanket. Gently slide both hands underneath them and cradle their body as you move to the towel. Try not to let any part of them flop over your hands, to avoid a possible broken bone from puncturing a lung or airway. 

LIFE THREATENING EMERGENCIES; 

The following common emergencies are listed alphabetically to help stabilize your ferret enough to get them to the vet. 

ANIMAL BITE/DEEP PUNCTURE WOUND; Clean the affected area with diluted betadine (the color of weak ice tea). Bandage with clean gauze or other bandaging material to protect from debris and to control bleeding. Be careful not to tighten the dressing too much where you will be cutting off the circulation. Seek vet care immediately. 

BLEEDING; Direct pressure is the best way to control. Holding the wound firmly with your fingers and gently apply a pressure bandage to help stop serious bleeding. Do not attempt to use a tourniquet, or apply too tight, where you cut off the circulation. Seek vet care immediately. 

BREATHING, LABORED; Breathing sounds that are harsh and rattling, an increased effort to inhale or exhale, or breathing with an open mouth are all signs of a serous health problem. Common causes of breathing difficulty in ferrets are heart disease and respiratory infections. 

BROKEN BONES; Manifested by the ferret’s inability to stand without pain, support its weight normally, or move or walk normally. The ferret may vocalize, cry, or make some other unusual noise when picked up. There may be visible or internal swelling. Tenderness of the affected area is also common. Stabilize the broken bone by bandaging it to the ferret’s body. The average size ferret can have ¼ of a baby aspirin per 24 hr period for pain. 

BURNS; Non chemical- Apply cool compress followed by light application of aloe vera gel. Chemical- Flush with copious amounts of cool water. Do not apply any cream or ointments, bandage lightly. Seek vet care immediately.4. a pet carrier for the travel and a portable cage for your location. A suggestion is to get a playpen type cage. One that can be set up quick, and just about anywhere. It is also easy to travel with.

CHANGE IN COLOR OF GUMS AND NOSE; Gums and nose should be pink. Pale or white gums are a serious problem. These clinical signs may indicate anemia, internal bleeding or shock. Conversely, gums, which are bright red, can be the sign of toxemia-severe systematic infection. Keep the ferret warm and calm. If the ferret is fully conscious, offer soup or fluids orally. Contact a veterinarian immediately. 

CHOKING/RETCHING/VOMITING; There are many causes for these clinical presentations; foreign bodies in the gastrointestinal tract, severe gastric ulcers, heart conditions, and severe respiratory infections. Try to keep the ferret as calm as possible and get to the nearest vet clinic as soon as possible. For choking, hold the ferret in both hands. Have the head lower than the rear (on a 45 degree angle). Firmly but not vigorously, shake the ferret as if you are trying to shake the obstruction out of their mouth. You should review this procedure with your vet. 


CONVULSIONS;Possible causes for convulsions are; low blood sugar secondary to an insulinoma, distemper, and lymphoma. Of these, low blood sugar is the most common. Carefully rub either Karo syrup or honey on the ferret’s gums. When in a convulsive state, they are often not able to swallow. Use small amounts initially. As it gets absorbed through the mucous membranes and the ferret starts coming around, try to feed the ferret some duck soup or chicken baby food. The initial bolus of sugar will help save the ferret’s life by making the seizure stop, but too much will stimulate even more insulin to be secreted and the ferret may go into another seizure later. A vet can help you properly diagnose  insulinoma and prescribe appropriate treatment. The ferret should see a vet asap-especially if the ferret does not respond to the administration of sugar.

​DISLOCATIONS; A swelling of any joint or limb, sometimes both. Immobilize the affected limb by bandaging it to the body. 

DROWNING;
 Ferrets can swim only for a few minutes before succumbing to exhaustion. Remove the ferret from the water immediately. Gently swing the ferret upside down to try to void any water from the respiratory tract. Wrap the ferret in a warm towel and proceed to the vet immediately. 

EAR INJURIES; These range from bites, scrapes, complete avulsions and foreign bodies in the ear. Minor wounds may be cleaned with diluted Betadine and treated with antibiotic ointment. Minor bleeding can be controlled with pressure. Never stick a q-tip deep into the ear canal. Rupture of the eardrum can occur. 

ELECTRIC CORD BITE/SHOCK;Burns on the lips and gums may be visible. The ferret may be lying on its side having difficulty breathing. This requires immediate vet attention. One of the most common consequences of electric shock is pulmonary edema (fluid accumulation in the lungs).

EYE INJURIES;
 These can include scratches, perforating injuries, foreign bodies, and chemical or contact corneal trauma. All are absolute medical emergencies.

FAINTING OR LOSS OF BALANCE; This is manifested by the ferret collapsing or showing weakness that is generalized or confined to the hind limbs. Causes for this can be cardiac or metabolic problems such as low blood sugar. Try giving Karo syrup or honey. Take the ferret to the vet asap.

FROSTBITE/HYPOTHERMIA; Gently massage the extremities and body. Keep the warming process gradual. Heating pads may be used if kept on “low” setting and the ferret is checked frequently. Bluish or black discoloration of the skin or limbs can indicate death of that tissue and is very serious.

HEAD INJURIES;If the ferret is unconscious or bleeding from the ears, nose or mouth, keep the animal horizontal and immobilized. Keep movement to an absolute minimum.  Since neck injuries often occur along with head injuries, movement can result in permanent paralysis. 

HEATSTROKE; Never leave a ferret in an enclosed area in the sun without adequate shade. Never leave a ferret in the car; ferrets can overheat easily. Immediately wrap the ferret in cool, wet washcloth. Freshen the cool water ever couple of minutes. Alcohol can be applied to the feet and ears to help cool a drastically overheated ferret. Continue cooling procedures until the ferret’s temperature is below 103*F. Even if the ferret comes around, vet care is still necessary. Overheating can dramatically damage a ferret’s internal organs. The lining of the intestinal tract may slough. Antibiotics and fluid therapy may be necessary. 

NOSE, FACE, JAW INJURIES/NOSEBLEEDS; If a nosebleed is minor, apply direct pressure using gauze or tissues. Any nose, face or jaw fractures or other facial injuries are serious and handling should be kept to a minimum. Transport the ferret to a vet wrapped in a towel. 

SPINAL OR NERVE INJURIES; Clinical signs may include wobbly gait, tenderness, difficulty in breathing, or inability to move legs. Keep handling to a minimum. Transport to a vet wrapped in a towel. 

UNCONSCIOUSNESS; If possible, take careful notes so you can tell the vet whether the ferret is breathing quickly or slowly, whether the pupils are dilated or very small, whether muscles are supple or stiff, and whether or not the ferret is responsive to voice, and or touch. Again, low blood sugar can cause this clinical presentation. Carefully rub a small amount of Karo syrup or honey on the ferret’s gums.  Seek vet help immediately. 

VACCINE REACTION;  This can happen after administration of either the ferret distemper vaccine or the rabies vaccine. The most common clinical presentations are vomiting or difficulty breathing within 15-30 minutes of being vaccinated. Immediate vet care is imperative. A ferret can die from this reaction. It is strongly recommended to pre-medicate all ferrets with Children’s dye free Benadryl prior to vaccinations. This is an extremely safe drug and its only side effect is slight drowsiness. The dosage for a ferret weighing 1.5-3 lbs should be 1 cc. You should stay at your vet’s office for at least 15-20 minutes after the vaccine. 

ABNORMAL SYMPTOMS REQUIRING EVALUATION AND ASSESSMENT BUT ARE NOT IMMEDICATELY LIFE-
THREATENING   


ANIMAL BITES OR SCRATCHES; Clean affected area with dilute Betadine. Apply a light amount of antibiotic ointment. If wound is very deep or begins to appear red, inflamed or has a discharge, seek medical help. 

CONSTIPATION;  Signs include straining to defecate, vocalizing when trying to pass a bowel movement, scant, reduced or absent stool, or thin watery stools. This can be caused by ingestion of a foreign body, passing of a mass of hair, or an enlarged prostate secondary to an adrenal tumor. Laxatone or mineral oil may be administered every 4 hours to aid the passage of stool or aberrantly ingested material. If the ferret’s abdomen becomes distended with gas, or if the ferret is laterally recumbent or depressed, seek vet care immediately. 

​DIARRHEA;  A green stool is indicative of an increase rate of passage of ingestion through the gastrointestinal tract. It is common to happen occasionally in normal ferrets, but is still considered an abnormality. Evaluating the whole ferret and subsequent stools will help you determine if the episode was singular and perhaps secondary to a minor dietary indiscretion, or a change in environment, or if it is a medical problem. If it is only one episode and the ferret returns to normal, try to think back to what the ferret was exposed to or may have eaten that their digestive system was not use to. Ferrets, being carnivores, may have adverse reactions to treats that are very sugary. If the diarrhea persists, medical attention is warranted. They will dehydrate very quickly. Give small amounts at a time of pedialyte to maintain hydration and electrolyte balance. A vet can help determine the cause of the diarrhea and prescribe medications to control it and cure the cause. If a ferret is recovering from an extended episode of diarrhea and has lost weight, duck soap is often beneficial in the recuperative phase. This mixture is highly palatable, digestible and easily absorbed from the intestinal tract. The nutrical in the recipe is beneficial for providing a quick, easily absorbed energy source, but remember, too much sugar (nutrical has a lot of sugar in it) can exacerbate the diarrhea. Use an anti diarrhea or any other medications ONLY under vet supervision

DROOLING OR PAWING FRANTICALLY AT THE MOUTH; 
This sign is consistent with low blood sugar, severe stomach ulcers or possible ingestion of toxins. Evaluate the environment for toxins. If there is anything found, call the poison control center at 1-900-680-0000. If the ferret is alert enough to swallow, administer Karo syrup or honey and get the ferret to the vet.

HAIR LOSS;   Rat tail; the loss of all the hair on the tail, is a common sign of stress or excessive shedding in the ferret. As the season progresses, the hair will often grow back. It is also an indication of adrenal gland disease. This is when the adrenal tumors over secrete the sex hormones. It is curable with surgery, however when left untreated, they will die. Swelling will occur in the vulva of the females, and the prostate in the males.  This will cause an inability to urinate, eventually causing the bladder to errupt, an electrolyte imbalance happens quickly, and a critical increase in potassium level causing the heart to stop. They also can get blemishes or black heads. Ask your vet what type of soap to use for this. 

INSECT BITES;  
Clean area with dilute Betadine. Apply a small amount of Benadryl tropical cream. Watch the ferret for any progressive signs such as swelling of the bitten area or difficulty breathing. Seek vet care as needed.

 ITCHY SKIN;  This may be local or generalized. Causes for itching include dry skin, parasite, dietary problems or adrenal disease.  Recommended therapy until a vet can evaluate the ferret. Benadryl given orally at a dose of 1mg per lb; bathing in relief shampoo followed by relief cream rinse. This is a vet product that is safe to use on ferrets. The active ingredient is paroxamine HCI. It is a topical antihistamine. Unrelenting itchy skin is also uncommon presentation for adrenal disease. 

RED BLOTCHES WITH A BLACK CRUST/EXUDATE;  This is most commonly a mast cell tumor. Cytology performed right at your vet’s can tell you if it is a mast cell tumor or not. Surgical removal is recommended.

​SNEEZING;  Causes include upper respiratory tract infections, dust, other inhalant irritants or even allergies. It is important to remember that humans can transfer cold and influenza viruses to ferrets. If you or a family member is sick, use caution when handling or interacting with your ferret. Your vet can prescribe antibiotics for your ferret. Keep in mind the antibiotics will not kill a cold virus but it will help minimize secondary bacterial infections. 

​SPRAINS AND STRAINS;  Due to their active nature, they can sprain a joint or strain a muscle easily while playing. If you notice signs of lameness, restrict activity to a pet carrier or small cage till medical attention is sought.