Because ferrets eat a lot, that means they will poop a lot too! Their digestive systems process food quickly, causing them to poop about 3 hours after meals. It is a good idea to monitor the color and consistency of their waste. This can tell you if they are sick, or may have a foreign body inside. Below is a quick reference chart. You should always consult your vet anytime you notice an abnormality.
Green poop - a very non-specific sign - it just means that food is moving through too fast. The normal brown color seen in feces is the end product of breakdown of old red blood cells. The pigment goes through a green stage called biliverdin, before it becomes brown (called stercobilin). So if it is going through at an accelerated rate, it never breaks all the way down, and has a green color to it. Anything that accelerates passage of food or causes diarrhea can result in green color - ECE, rapid food changes, lymphoma, just about anything.
Black tarry poop - Very suggestive of gastric bleeding and usually associated with gastric ulcers. You have to have significant bleeding in the stomach for the feces to turn black. The black color is the result of digestion of blood, which usually only occurs in the stomach.
Bloody poop - If you see frank blood in the poop - it is usually either from the large bowel or rectum ( if seen in small amounts) - of if there is a lot of blood, it could come from the entire length of the GI tract. Massive hemorrhage is seen either from severe gastric bleeds or shock in ferrets, and as one might imagine, is a really bad sign.
Birdseed poop - Generally a sign of maldigestion or malabsorption. Also non-specific, it can be seen with any disease that severely affects the small intestine. Most commonly seen with ECE, the individual seeds are usually undigested fat and starch complexes. When you see this, you should consider removing a ferret from kibble and going to a bland, easily digested supplement for a while. ILL FERRETS: May not be interested in eating any food (even if finger fed), so it is up to you to ensure they do. You should always have feeding syringes (NO NEEDLES) on hand; 35cc catheter tip. Getting the tip into the side or front of their mouth, you will need to SLOWLY push the food through the syringe, giving them time to swallow. Too much at once could lead to choking and or aspiration, so take your time. A ferret not eating on their own should be fed approximately 25-35cc of food every 3-4 hours, for a daily intake of about 80-120 cc's. Ferrets are by nature very clean animals, and do accumulate hairball's like cats. Unlike cats however, ferrets do not generally posses the reflux motion to cough up any hairball accumulations (though some have been known to do so). The best prevention is to provide them with vasoline on a weekly basis in order to lessen any accumulations from developing in their system. Some of the signs can be pencil thin poops, not pooping at all, refusing to eat, etc. If you suspect that your ferret might have a hairball or swallowed something they shouldn't have that is not being passed take him to the vet immediately, as an operation might be warranted for its removal. This situation can be life threatening to your ferret, so please do not wait.
Pencil thin poop- usually a foreign body.
ILL FERRETS: May not be interested in eating any food (even if finger fed), so it is up to you to ensure they do. You should always have feeding syringes (NO NEEDLES) on hand; 35cc catheter tip. Getting the tip into the side or front of their mouth, you will need to SLOWLY push the food through the syringe, giving them time to swallow. Too much at once could lead to choking and or aspiration, so take your time. A ferret not eating on their own should be fed approximately 25-35cc of food every 3-4 hours, for a daily intake of about 80-120 cc's. Ferrets are by nature very clean animals, and do accumulate hairball's like cats. Unlike cats however, ferrets do not generally posses the reflux motion to cough up any hairball accumulations (though some have been known to do so). The best prevention is to provide them with vasoline on a weekly basis in order to lessen any accumulations from developing in their system. Some of the signs can be pencil thin poops, not pooping at all, refusing to eat, etc. If you suspect that your ferret might have a hairball or swallowed something they shouldn't have that is not being passed take him to the vet immediately, as an operation might be warranted for its removal. This situation can be life threatening to your ferret, so please do not wait.
While for the most parts, ferrets are sturdy animals, you should be prepared to react quickly. They are very good at hiding their illness/discomfort until it is very bad, challenging us to know they are ill prior to physical symptoms sometimes. Beginning at the age of 3-4, they are susceptible to two very common diseases that will need your attention and medical care for the rest of their lives, insulinoma and adrenal disease. Both, at some point, will require surgical intervention, and you should be prepared for it financially if and or when needed.
HOW TO CLEAN EARS
FLEAS, TICKS, EAR MITES AND HEARTWORMS:
HOW TO CLEAN THE EARS: Put a few drops of an ear solution into the ear canal, massage the area below the external ear to soften and loosen material far down in the canal, and bring it up to the surface. A cotton-tipped swab can be used to clean this off the outer part of the ear. Repeat as often as necessary to get the ear canal very clean before using any medication. Use care when using a cotton-tipped applicators into the ear canal to remove wax: it will just be pushed further down, and may injure the eardrum. Ferrets with ear infections will both scratch and shake their heads, and the discharge will be brown, yellow, or green pus that may have a bad odor.
HAIRBALLS Ferrets do get hairballs because they lack the natural reflux ability of coughing it up. Vaseline can be used as a preventative. If you notice a lack of appetite, stringy poops, vomit or dry heaves, pawing at mouth, rubbing face on carpet, hind leg motor weakness, coughing, etc you should take them to the vet immediately, as this usually signifies a blockage either in their stomach or intestines. All of the above signs are not just indicative of blockages, but also can be signs of other illness, and a medical exam is certainly warranted as soon as possible. If a hairball accumulation/blockage is left untreated, it could result in serious complications or death. This becomes more important during the shedding season due the increased amount of fur they can ingest from grooming.
A clean living environment is the key to minimizing musky ferret odors. Like cats, ferrets are clean by nature and can be litter trained. Ferrets back into corners with their tails raised to urinate or defecate and, unlike cats, they do not cover their stool. To properly accommodate ferrets, use the hi corner litter pan. Place a thin layer of dust-free, absorbent litter to contain moisture inside the litter pan. Clean out the litter pan on a daily basis to ensure odor control. Also, be sure to wash any hammocks or blankets at least once a week to remove odor and reduce oily buildup. DAILY: Change any bedding/litter that is too soiled. Empty and wash food and water bowl using warm water and a small amount of mild soap. Thoroughly rinse and dry the bowl before returning it to your pet's environment and filling it with food. Sometimes your ferret may splash water into the food causing it to smell and eventually got moldy. They won’t want to eat their food this way.
WEEKLY: Remove and replace all bedding and litter. Wash & disinfect entire cage and toys.
Broward Ferret Rescue
NORMAL GREEN BLACK TARRY BLOODY BIRD SEED
Check your ferret’s teeth as part of your normal weekly grooming routine. This will avoid painful dental diseases, and avoid expensive veterinary dental treatment. Check both teeth and gums for signs of redness or bleeding, discoloration (either yellow, grey or green darkening), chipped or broken teeth. Also check for lodged foreign bodies between teeth or on the roof of the mouth. As ferrets age, they are more prone to having dental problems as both their immune system weakens. Best to start when they are young. Try and perform a dental check while your ferret is relaxed. If they didn’t particularly enjoy the experience, try giving them a reward afterwards. If you see any problems contact your vet immediately. Gums should be healthy pink and moist gums, with clean, white, gleaming teeth! Vets recommend daily brushing but perform at least once a month. Do not use human toothpaste it contains flouride which is thought to be poisonous to ferrets. Use a cat or dog toothpaste. Finger toothbrushes are great too but try and find one that isn't rubber, as these don't brush off tartar very well. Be gentle! To brush your ferret's teeth, gently lift the gum and carefully stroke the teeth with the toothbrush. Take care to reach all the way to the back. Also stroke the gums with the brush. DENTAL PROBLEMS: Ferrets have dental problems similar to dogs and cats. Fractured teeth most commonly occur. Bored ferrets may often chew on the wire of their cages. Canines especially on the upper jaw are most likely to break off in this situation. Luckily for ferrets, the tooth pulp does not extend as far down in the tooth as other species. This means it’s less likely to require an extraction.BROKEN TOOTH: At times the enamel is chipped and can be treated by a veterinarian with sedation to grind down any rough edges. However, if the nerve is exposed, the treatment of choice is to remove the inflamed nerve to save the tooth, or a crown is applied. PERIODONTAL DISEASE: Is the most common in ferrets over 6 years. It is infection of the gums, the bones of the jaws, and the connective tissues which anchor teeth in place. Gingivitis –is characterised by sore looking red gums, which can also be inflamed or bleeding. Any signs of red or inflamed gums should be treated immediately by your vet! BAD BREATH – this can be a signal of dental problems, abscesses, and diseases of the kidneys or liver. GUMS– Swelling of the gum occurs with gingivitis and developing an abscess. Pale gums- This can be several things: anemia or internal bleeding, which would cause the blood pressure to decrease and reduce the flow of blood to the gums. ULCERS- These are a common symptom of stress in a ferret, but also can reveal more serious illnesses such as Insulinoma. RAT TAIL:Reasons for rat tail is: skin infection, ear mites, fleas, malnutrition, allergies, old age, hormone imbalance, stress or improper lighting. Your ferret may experience clogged pours or blackheads in their tails. This can be cleaned with soap and warm water daily, and every other day with your vet suggested acne medication.
CLEAN LITTER AND BEDDING:
Each is safe and effective flea control on ferrets and lasts about one month. Frontline-kills fleas, ticks and works on ear mites as well. The spray form is the most effective and most economical. You can also use the cat monthly top spot or cat size Frontline Plus. Advantage -kills fleas only. You can use the cat size tube (2-3 drops per month). This application can wash off in baths. Revolution-kills fleas, ticks, ear mites and skin mites and can be used for heartworm prevention. You can use the 5-15 lb cat size. HEARTWORM Heartgard: You can use 0-5 lb cat once a monthInterceptor: You can use 0-10 lb dog once a month Revolution: 5-15 lb cat once a monthIvomec: diluted once per month EAR MITES:Ferrets produce a lot of reddish brown ear wax normally, and when they are infested with ear mites this will be in larger quantities and will be dark red. Ferrets rarely scratch or shake their heads even when their ears are full of wax or severely infested with mites. Ferrets have very small ear canals. (this photo shows mites)
BATHS AND GROOMING
NAIL TRIMMING: Nails should be done twice a month. If they get too long, they will get caught on things and rip off. Use ferret or cat clippers with a notch. Avoid human clippers as they pinch before cutting. In case of clipping too short, have styptic powder on hand.
HOW TO CLIP THE NAILS: Clip up to but not including the blood vessel or “quick”. It is better to leave a little more nail then taking too much. Cut the nails about 1/8″ from the end of the pink quick, cutting on an angle to keep the nails parallel with the floor. Have your helper scruff your Ferret, making sure to support his bottom while you quickly clip his nails. What If My Ferret Hates Getting His Nails Clipped? Try to trim them when he is asleep, before he catches on. With regular nail trimmings, they should become more comfortable with this process. Regular trimming will keep your them from getting his nails snagged on your carpets and fabrics, keep him safe from ripping a nail out or curling under their paws causing much pain.
ODORS WITH YOUR FERRET: Part of being a ferret owner is coming to terms with ferret odors. Even though ferrets are de-scented, strong or pungent odors are usually an indication of lax grooming and sanitation practices.
BATHING YOUR FERRETS: Ferrets produce an oily secretion to help condition their skin and coat. As you would purchase shampoo to meet your specific hair needs, you should always use a shampoo specifically designed for ferrets. Never use dishwashing detergents, and if you can't use a ferret shampoo, use one formulated for kittens or even a tearless baby shampoo. You should only need to bathe them every 4-6 weeks. Excessive baths can remove too much of the oil causing dry itchy skin.
BATHING TIPS: The first few experiences with bath time will set the tone of baths in the future, so go slow and be patient. If you use a tub or sink, have just enough water he can touch the bottom. Water should be slightly warm to your touch, but not too hot. Lather up the body well, but make sure not to get shampoo in the eyes or ears (if you accidentally do, rinse well with fresh water). Water in the ear could cause infections. Rinse all the shampoo out, since any left in the coat could be drying or irritating. Towel drying is usually sufficient and ferrets usually dry out pretty quickly, but it is important to make sure they do not become chilled when still damp. Unless their cage is freshly cleaned, that is not the best place to put them while still damp as a romp through a dirty cage and/or litter box will undo the work of the bath.