If you plan on purchasing a pet ferret, or already own one of these charming creatures, it’s important to remember that your pet may be a host to various pests. Both internal and external parasites can cling to your pet, resulting in illnesses, lethargy, difficultly breathing, fainting spells, and other devastating symptoms. By recognizing these symptoms and any odd behaviors, you’ll have the opportunity to eradicate the parasites before they have the opportunity to harm your ferret.
External Parasites in Ferrets
Microscopic ear mites are fairly common in ferrets and are more of a nuisance, then life threatening. Ear mites can be seen on the inside area of the ferrets’ ears and appear as small dark red, brown, or black discharge. If the condition is mild, there may not be any initial signs. As the infestation grows, you may notice your pet ferret scratching her ears or shaking her head. Avoid over the counter medications for an ear mite infestation and see your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and medication.
Fleas are another common external parasite found on many pets, including ferrets. Once fleas find a host they like, they take up residence on your pet, bedding, furniture, carpet, and any other warm place. Fleas typically present as reddish brown specks on the skin of the ferret or in her bedding. Besides actually seeing the fleas with the visible eye, you may notice your ferret scratching more than usual. It’s important to clear up a flea infestation quickly as without treatment, your ferret can become anemic and even die.
Ticks are tiny crab-like parasites that can attach to the skin of a ferret. As most of us know, ticks can carry Lyme disease, putting your pet under additional risk of infection. Ticks can usually be removed at home using a pair of tweezers. After removing the tick from the skin, it’s recommended to apply antiseptic to the area that the tick was attached and check often for signs of secondary infection. Since ticks are difficult to kill even when not on a host. For this reason, it’s best to keep it in a covered jar with alcohol.
Internal Parasites in Ferrets
Microscopic parasites that live within a ferret’s intestine are known as coccidian. These protozoans are transmitted to your pet through the feces of an infected animal. This type of internal parasite is highly contagious, making it essential to remove any other ferrets or animals in the same area of your infected pet. Common symptoms of coccidian include diarrhea in which blood and mucus may or may not be present. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, dehydration, and vomiting. Your veterinarian will provide medication to prevent the coccidian from reproducing, but these parasites can not be killed through treatments.
Heartworm is not very common in pet ferrets, but can affect a ferret in rare cases and lead to death quickly. These internal parasites are transported to a ferret through an infected mosquito. Common symptoms of heartworm include difficulty breathing, enlarged abdomen, coughing, heart murmur, lethargy, and difficulty breathing. The survival rate for ferrets with heartworms who receive proper treatment is sixty-five percent. Remember that it only takes one heartworm to completely debilitate and kill a ferret.
Ringworm is a type of fungus, rather than a worm like the name implies. This condition is fairly easy to identify as it leaves perfectly round patches of oozing or flaking skin. Other symptoms of ringworm may include thickened or red skin and hair loss. Your vet can diagnosis ringworm through a skin culture. Ringworm is contagious and will spread to other ferrets in the same area as your infected pet. It can also spread to humans, making it increasingly important to wear gloves when handling your infected ferret and washing with soap and water after each encounter.
-Petco: Signs of Parasites
-Doctors Foster & Smith: Internal & External Parasites
-Pet Care: Parasites of Ferrets