The 9 Most Common Ferret Illnesses

sad old man holding a white ferret

Ferrets are generally healthy pets. I mean, when well taken care of, you will rarely visit your vet’s office, unless you are going for the yearly medical check-up. However, this does not mean that a ferret will not get sick. There are common ferret illnesses that every ferret owner must be aware of.

In this article, I am going to briefly highlight some of the illnesses you might have to cope with if you haven’t already. But before I go on, let me mention that it all goes back to how well you take care of your ferret. I have written extensively about proper ferret care, which includes housing, feeding and ferret hygiene.

9 most common ferret illnesses you must watch out for

  1. Gastrointestinal obstruction
  2. Diarrhea in ferrets
  3. Vomiting
  4. Ferret Distemper
  5. Ferret Adrenal glands disease
  6. Ferret Lymphoma
  7. Dilated cardiomyopathy
  8. Insulinoma
  9. Dental Diseases

Now, as I have indicated above, ferrets can fall ill some times. Below, we will look at the common ferret illnesses to look out for. Besides, I will also include tips to prevent these illnesses.

Gastrointestinal obstruction

Gastrointestinal obstruction is one of the most common diseases in ferrets, this is because ferrets tend to chew non-food items pretty much. They are known for their mischievous nature and stealing small items.

Now, they love chewing on rubber items that they can find. It is one of the reasons I urge ferret owners to ferret-proof their houses. Should a ferret swallow these items, certainly, he will not be able to digest it. As a result, your ferret might suffer gastrointestinal obstruction.

Some of the signs of gastrointestinal obstruction include vomiting right after eating. The item obstructing your ferret’s digestive tract will not let him keep anything down. Your ferret will also refuse to eat and lose his weight drastically. Also, your ferret will refuse to play and you can also notice general body weakness.

Intestinal obstruction is a serious condition that needs immediate medical care. If ignored, it can be life-threatening. If your ferret is showing any of the above signs, you should take him to the vet. The vet will in turn order an x-ray radiograph to determine the object your furry friend may have swallowed.

While gastrointestinal obstruction is mostly as a result of swallowing non-food items, it can also be as a result of swallowing hairballs. This will need immediate surgery to remove the object or hairballs. Sometimes your vet might use endoscopic removal if the item is not as big.

Most Common Ferret Illnesses. Diarrhea in ferrets

Diarrhea is usually as a result of a secondary infection. However, it can also be as a result of dietary changes or simply medication reaction. You should watch your ferret closely if he eliminates loose stool. Also, watch out for any other changes in his overall health.

Have you drastically changed your ferret’s diet? Well, your ferret’s digestive system may not adapt to the new food instantly. It is why you should only change your ferret’s food gradually. If you are not sure, you can consult your vet.

In case you are feeding your ferret raw diet, it could be that he has caught a bacterial infection. Well, this might require a visit to the vet. However, diarrhea can also be as a result of intestinal obstruction.

If diarrhea persists, I suggest you take your ferret to the vet. After a few lab tests, your vet will be able to determine the reason why your ferret is experiencing diarrhea. Note that diarrhea can lead to dehydration. Therefore, you should be aware and also provide enough clean water for your ferret.

Vomiting in ferrets

Ferrets rarely vomit but it could happen. As with diarrhea, vomiting is usually a sign of secondary illness. However, your ferret could vomit if he cannot digest food due to various reasons. For instance, changing your ferret’s diet could make him vomit.

While it may not appear like a serious issue, it could be an indication of another illness. Well, unless it is often, vomiting is not always an emergency. However, keep an eye on him and if it progresses, alert your vet.

If you have handled other pets and animals, ensure that you wash your hands. You must take preventive measures not to spread infections such as the ferret ECE. Nevertheless, your vet should examine your ferret to determine why he cannot keep food in his tummy. Vomiting is usually an indication that something is going on in your ferret’s digestive tract.

Ferret Distemper

Even though this illness is not as common in ferrets, it is fatal. Canine distemper is the animal version of the measles virus. Most ferrets will not suffer canine distemper as they are vaccinated against the illness by the breeder. However, the vaccination must be administered a month later to boost the protection.

You should take your ferret to the vet for annual vaccination against the disease. Now, some of the symptoms of this illness might include watery eyes. The discharge from your ferret’s eyes might form crusts on his face.

Also, his footpads might be crusty. Other symptoms of canine distemper include sneezing, coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea. Well, note that this infection is highly contagious. If you have two ferrets in the same cage, they will both get infected.

Unfortunately, not make ferrets survive canine distemper. Most cases are discovered to have suffered the distemper virus during a post-mortem. Therefore, you must take those annual check-ups with your vet seriously.

Most Common Ferret Illnesses. Ferret Adrenal glands disease

One of the touchiest subjects when it comes to ferrets is their reproduction. Well, breeding ferrets is not for everyone, not unless you are a professional. It involves a lot of care and constant attention from mating them to delivery.

Well, because we do not want to breed ferrets, we ensure that we get them spayed at an early age. While this works to prevent your ferret from going on heat, it could have adverse reactions towards your ferret later on.

If your ferret suffers adrenal disease, it means that their adrenal glands are still producing the sex hormone. Now, as I have always warned ferret owners, once a ferret starts producing the sex hormone, she will stay in heat until she is bred.

This means that once the adrenal glands have been activated, they will become enlarged. There are cases where the enlarged glands become cancerous. Unfortunately, there is no cure for adrenal disease. Your vet can only advise you to manage this condition through medication and injections.

Some of the symptoms you should look out for include hair loss, and prostatic or vulva inflammation. This could cause a male ferret unable to urinate.

Adrenal glands disease can be fatal if left unmanaged. Talk to your vet if you think that there is something wrong with your ferret.

Ferret Lymphoma

Ferrets can also suffer from the cancer of lymph nodes. It will occur mostly in middle-aged ferrets and older ferrets. The very first signs you will notice are the lumps on his skin. These are his lymph nodes and are enlarges. Sadly, there is no known prevention for this illness.

And it is not only the lymph nodes that can be affected by lymphoma. Sometimes cancer can also infect the liver, or spleen and other body organs. Unfortunately, ferrets do not show any signs of lymphoma until it is at an advanced stage.

These symptoms will also depend on the organs infected with this cancerous illness. General symptoms might also include reduced appetite, lethargy, vomiting and also diarrhea. Some ferrets will also have a bloody stool and visible swellings on the skin.

If you recognize any changes in your ferret’s health, it is always best to consult your vet. This way, you can always catch any ferret illnesses as early as possible.

Dilated cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy can be likened to heart failure in humans. In most cases, these diseases are as a result of poor ferret dieting. For instance, there is an ingredient called Taurine. It is found in most commercial ferret food.

Now, when in concentrated levels, Taurine can cause dilated cardiomyopathy in ferrets. This condition can cause sudden death and thus I would consider it a fatal illness. It is characterized by a persistent cough, weakness and trouble breathing.

Well, if your ferret appears sickly, I suggest you speak with your vet. The earlier you catch the illness the faster and more effective it will be to manage. Your vet should be able to examine and diagnose your ferret to confirm dilated cardiomyopathy in ferrets.


This is rather a common illness among ferrets. It is similar to hypoglycemia whereby the pancreas overworks to produce insulin. When there is so much insulin, it means that your ferret has low blood sugar. And this is also a serious illness you must address immediately.

The symptoms of insulinoma in ferrets include occasional seizures, sleeping for more hours than usual. Also, your ferret will experience lethargy and lack of appetite. Your vet will conduct a simple blood sugar test to determine whether your ferret has insulinoma.

As with the heart condition, there is no cure for this illness. Your vet will advise you on the best management practices for a ferret suffering from insulinoma.

Dental Disease in ferrets

Most ferret owners forget all about dental care for these adorable pets. Well, in the wild, of course, no one would brush a ferret’s teeth. However, their diet in the wild consist of whole prey. This means that when he catches a mouse, he will eat everything and even chew the bones. This is a great practice for dental care.

Now, many ferret owners forget to brush or care for their ferret’s teeth. The kibble diet you are feeding him cannot care for your ferret’s teeth. Unfortunately, the plaque stuck between the teeth could cause him periodontal diseases and sometimes your ferret could lose his teeth.

Well then, I suggest that you should brush his teeth preferably weekly. Once again, I have discussed ferret dental care before. Be sure to get a ferret-specific toothbrush and toothpaste.


As I mentioned earlier, ferrets rarely get sick, but when they do, you must address the issue immediately. I urge most ferret owners to spend a quality amount of time with their ferrets. This way, you can identify any change in behavior, and especially any symptoms of an illness.

The illnesses above do not represent all the diseases a ferret could have. Rather, it is an outline of the most common health issues you might face. If your ferret is exhibiting any of the symptoms, then it is time to consult your vet.

You should not take any signs of an illness lightly. Spend a lot of time with your ferret to identify his normal behavior and personality. Also, if you are going to change your ferret’s diet, then I suggest you consult your vet first. Only introduce the new food gradually while monitoring his reaction.

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