Can Ferrets Get Heartworms?

ferret in a casino

Ferrets are amazing, healthy and friendly creatures. However, it does not mean that a ferret is not susceptible to illnesses. If anything, I have talked vastly about common ferret illnesses before. However, when well taken care of, ferrets lead a normal healthy life. Today we are going to focus on one question that I have received from multiple ferret owners, can ferrets get heartworms?

The answer to this question is simply yes. Ferrets are susceptible to contracting heartworms, especially in areas prone to mosquitoes. Heartworms are transmitted through mosquito bites.

Heartworms in ferrets

Now, heartworm disease is a dangerous illness caused by heartworms. Once a mosquito, the intermediate host, bites your ferret, it transmits the worm, Dirofilaria immitis. This worm will plant itself on the walls of the pulmonary artery of your ferret.

As time goes by, the worm grows larger, enlarging the blood vessel. As a result, this causes a serious malfunction in your ferret’s lungs and heart. Your ferret will have high blood pressure and sometimes could have blood clots.

The heartworm disease can be life-threatening if not treated early. Unfortunately, this dangerous parasitic disease can affect ferrets of any age. Therefore, if you live in an area prone to mosquitoes, you must take preventive measures. I will outline these measures later on in this article.

Symptoms of heartworms in ferrets

As I have mentioned above, heartworms are fatal for ferrets. This is especially because a ferret has a relatively small heart. Thus, heartworm infestation could lead to fatal heart failure. Sometimes this illness can lead to death.

Well, you need to keep an eye for these symptoms of the heartworm diseases:

  • Rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • Depression
  • Fluid in the lungs and abdomen
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Your ferret might refuse to eat

Note that it is difficult to diagnose the presence of heartworms in ferrets. This is because your vet will only be able to detect the presence of heartworms by performing an antigen test. Unfortunately, this can only detect the adult Dirofilaria immitis.

It is a dangerous illness because it disrupts the normal flow to the lungs and overall body. If left untreated, his lungs could collapse among other organs.

Is heartworm disease treatable?

Above, we have discussed the symptoms and dangers of heartworms in ferrets. The good news is that you can treat the heartworm disease. However, as I have mentioned above, it is a difficult illness to detect.

You should take your ferret to the vet should you notice any of the above-outlined symptoms. The better you catch the infection, the easier it is to treat. However, if your vet has diagnosed your ferret with the heartworm disease, they will administer medication to kill the worms.

Note that treating the heartworm infestation can be expensive especially if your ferret is put on worm killing therapy. This is a treatment method that will kill the heartworms quickly. Medication to manage the condition may kill the worms but way slower, putting your ferret’s life at risk.

Anti-parasitic medication is important to revive the lung functions. Your vet might also prescribe prednisone medications to assist the functions of a ferret’s lungs as well.

If your ferret has suffered heart problems as a result of heartworm infestation, your vet might hospitalize him. If he is having trouble breathing and exhibiting symptoms of heart failure, your vet will need to stabilize him.

As you can see, the heart-worm disease is quite serious and must be treated as early as possible.

Heartworm prevention in ferrets

Well, if you live in an area prone to mosquitos, I suggest you take preventive measures. These will minimize the risk of your ferret developing this dangerous illness. As discussed above, heartworms are transmitted from one animal to another through mosquito bites.

The best and most effective preventive measure is to keep mosquitoes out of your house. Ensure that your house and backyard are clear of bushes as well as stagnant water. As we all know, these are some of the most common breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Alternatively, administer heartworm prevention medications at least once a month. This is especially important for people living in mosquito prone areas. The most popular heartworm prevention medication include Selamectin and Ivermectin.

Also, if you take your ferret outdoors occasionally, consider administering these medications. Remember to administer these drugs monthly.

Recovery from the heartworm disease

Treating heartworm disease is both risky and expensive. Most ferrets do not make it through the treatment, especially if the disease was fatal. However, those that do need extra care to ensure that the illness does not recur.

Upon treatment, I urge you to refrain from physical activity. I mean, the heart and lungs of your ferret need some time to recover. Physical activity will stress out his organs, which could also be fatal for your ferret.

Also, keep your ferret indoors at all times. Protect him from any mosquito bites and thus refrain from going outdoors.

Do not forget to follow up with your vet. Your vet will need to examine your ferret to make sure that the illness is clearing up from your ferret. Besides, since heartworms affect the way the ferret’s heart functions, he must be kept under observation.

The recovery of a ferret from this illness could take some time. Keep your ferret indoors and limit activities for about 4-6 weeks. This way, you will prevent your ferret from getting another heartworm infection or straining the recovering organs.

The heartworm disease is difficult to recognize until it is too serious. Therefore, I suggest you get preventative medications if you are afraid that your ferret could be at risk.


Ferrets will lead to a healthy life when well took care of. Every ferret owner should be aware of the common health issues in ferrets. This way, you can always take preventive measures to keep your ferret safe.

If your ferret makes it through the risky and expensive treatment, you should be extra cautious to prevent a recurrence of the same. Besides, recovering ferrets will need special care until they are healthy again.

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