It is entirely natural for a ferret to have a bit of a scratch; you’ll notice this when your pet wakes up and they can go on for quite a while. However, there may be times when your ferret scratches to excess and you may be asking yourself why is my ferret so itchy?
There are several conditions that could cause your ferret to feel itchy including fleas, allergies, and irritation. The itching may also be caused because of health conditions like mange and adrenal gland tumors.
It is important to act as soon as you notice your ferret scratching a lot, but first, you will need to investigate and find out what the root cause of the itching is. In this guide, we will be exploring seven of the most common reasons that your ferret may be itching and what you can do about it.
Is It Normal For A Ferret To Be Itchy?
Ferrets are naturally very itchy animals and you are much more likely to see them giving themselves a good scratch far more often than other types of pets such as dogs and cats. This scratching will usually take place in the morning when they wake up so don’t be alarmed if you hear a lot of itching going on first thing!
You will probably notice that your ferret scratches a lot more when he is shedding and again, this is entirely normal. When they have finished shedding, the itching will stop and life will return to normal…until next time!
That said, while itching and scratching is very normal for these animals, there are times that this is accompanied by other symptoms and then it is a cause for concern. Some of the things you should look out for include constant scratching as opposed to your ferret’s normal scratching. You might also want to look out for any cuts or wounds that have developed as a result of the excessive scratching.
If your ferret also appears to be lacking in energy and is more lethargic than usual, this is also a sign that the itching is not just a regular irritation.
Reasons That Ferrets Scratch A Lot
There are quite a few things that can make a ferret especially itchy so it’s important to narrow down the potential reasons. Let’s explore some of the most common causes.
If you keep your ferrets outside then there is a chance that they might come into contact with mange. This is also possible if they have been in contact with a mangy dog. Typically, this begins in the feet and limbs and can cause severe redness along with open, weeping sores.
This isn’t something that you regularly see in ferrets that are kept indoors so if your ferret does stay in the house, it is unlikely to be the cause of the itch. Nonetheless, it is still worth checking your ferret for signs of mange to rule it out entirely.
Mange is caused by a mite which takes up residence in the top layer of the skin. This can be an extremely itchy and uncomfortable condition for your ferret and requires treatment as soon as possible.
While the mange itself can cause sore and red areas, your ferret may also injure itself when scratching which can cause further open wounds. The only way to cure this condition and sate the itching is to give your ferret medication that your vet can prescribe.
2. Poor Diet
It is essential to provide your ferret with an appropriate diet as not doing so can cause their skin to become dry. In this case you may notice that the ferret’s coat loses its lustre and becomes very dull. The result of this is that the ferret will become very itchy. If an improper diet is continued then this can lead to more severe conditions such as epizootic catarrhal enteritis which is caused by a type of coronavirus and is often fatal to the ferret.
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You will need to alter your ferret’s diet and ensure that it has all the vital nutrients but in the meantime, it may be that you have to provide your pet with a linoleic supplement until their skin improves. This usually takes around seven days.
Fleas are common in many animals and unfortunately, ferrets are not exempt from this type of infestation. If you suspect that your ferret has fleas then you should check the area between the shoulder blades as this will be where the parasites are most obvious.
You may also notice that your ferret has bite marks and red areas. It is also not uncommon for the animal to lose patches of hair which can make the fleas easier to see.
Fortunately, the solution to this problem is simple; get rid of the fleas. OK, they can sometimes be difficult to get rid of if the infestation is particularly bad but there are a lot of great flea products out there that work very well.
4. Adrenal Gland Tumor
Adrenal gland tumors are more likely to affect older ferrets, usually over the age of four years. You’ll also notice that ferrets who have been neutered are more at risk. This can be a serious cause of itching all over the body without any irritation to the skin. However, you may notice that the ferret begins to shed hair at an alarming rate around their rear end.
You might also notice that female ferrets become very swollen down below in a similar way that they would if they were in heat. This can happen regardless of their spaying status. For male ferrets, it may become difficult to pass water because of an enlarged prostate gland.
This can feel like a very alarming condition to be faced with but the good news is that there is a very high success rate where surgery is concerned. If you notice any of the signs we have discussed, you should have your ferret seen by a vet who will be able to provide the best treatment. After surgery, any itchiness associated with the tumor will cease.
A lot of people forget that animals are just at risk of allergies as humans are. That said, ferrets are less prone to allergic reactions than some other common household pets like dogs and cats. But that doesn’t mean that it is impossible and if your ferret is itching a lot, this is something worth investigating.
One of the most common types of allergies in ferrets is one to food. Some people choose to feed their ferret’s kitten food and while this does contain all the most important nutrients, it also contains dyes and soybeans that could cause a reaction.
Your ferret may even be allergic to certain fibers in the carpets or rugs in your home. This is very obvious as the reaction is typically more noticeable and occurs at points where contact with the surface has been made.
Getting rid of the itching associated with an allergic reaction is one of the most simple solutions on this list. All you need to do is remove the substance or item that has caused the reaction. It may take a little trial and error where foods are concerned but try taking away certain foods until you notice a reduction in the itching; there’s your culprit!
6. Irritation To Bathing Products
As well as being allergic to some things, your ferret may develop a skin irritation because of the products you use when bathing it. Your ferret does not need excessive baths so doing it too frequently can cause skin irritation and itching. What’s more, when you don’t rinse your pet properly after cleaning him, the remnants of the bathing products can irritate his skin.
To solve this problem, you should give your ferret another bath but this time use a much milder shampoo and ensure that you fully rinse him when you’re done.
7. Fungal or Viral Disease
Ferrets aren’t overly susceptible to fungal diseases but there is one that might be more likely than others; ringworm. This fungal infection is widely reported among ferret owners and can cause the skin to become flaky, dry, and inflamed. As a result, your pet will scratch much more than usual.
There are also some viral infections such as canine distemper which can cause the ferret’s skin to become red and itchy. In this case, you may also notice skin lesions.
The best way to tackle these kinds of infections is to have your ferret seen by a vet who will be able to prescribe medication that will clear it up.
Ferrets are pretty itchy at the best of times and you will often find your furry friend having a good scratch but there are times that this scratching is over the top. This can signal that there is a problem and it’s up to you as the owner to work out what this is and treat it.
While there are many reasons that your ferret might be more itchy than normal, the ones we have discussed in this post are among the most common. Fortunately, they are all easily treated and unless left ignored, won’t cause much harm to your pet.