This article is intended for ferret owners who have already taken their ferret to a veterinarian for diagnosis. If your ferret is vomiting, lethargic, has diarrhea, is not using the restroom and just backs in a corner and does not produce stool and/or urine, paws at his/her mouth or has a seizure, TAKE HIM/HER to a veterinarian IMMEDIATELY for diagnosis and emergency care. Ferrets can die very quickly and go into shock with some conditions and only your veterinarian can determine what is actually going on. Do not assume it is a GI bug or cold if your ferret is out of sorts. Do not assume you can clear a GI blockage with a ferret laxative and delay going to the veterinarian. Make sure you find an emergency vet in your area who can care for your ferret. I have had to take my ferrets to the vet at all hours of the night and morning. Waiting several hours or overnight for an appointment can be lethal for your ferret.
Caring for a sick ferret can be a scary, challenging, and rewarding experience. Whether it is a cold or a life threatening illness, ferrets really benefit from constant attention and love. It is imperative that you contact or take your ferret to a veterinarian any time it is sick. What may seem like a simple bout of vomiting or diarrhea could end up being a GI blockage, pneumonia, insulinomas, severe dehydration or any number of other critical illnesses. Ferrets can go down hill very fast.
Be sure to check with your veterinarian before administering any "over the counter" pet store or human medications. For example, aspirin and other human pain medications can be lethal to a ferret and should not be given. Human cough or cold medications can also kill or make your ferret very sick if they contain certain ingredients or are given in incorrect dosages and should not be given. Your veterinarian can tell you which medications are safe and the correct dosages to give. Don't put your ferret's life in jeopardy to save time or money. Below I have listed some tips I have used in caring for ferrets who were recovering from an illness diagnosed by a veterinarian. I am assuming that your ferret has already been to the veterinarian for diagnosis.
Keep your ferret warm, comfortable and caged separately from any other ferrets. If your ferret has a contagious virus, any other ferrets you own could catch it as well. Wash all communal toys and bedding to avoid spreading the virus. You should always have an extra cage available in case separation is needed. Ferrets who are recovering from surgery should also be caged separately to avoid ripping or snagging the stitches during play. Most ferrets want quiet time when they are ill (except for your pampering). Keeping them caged during an illness makes keeping an eye on them a lot easier as well. A sick ferret may curl up under a piece of furniture or under a cabinet for privacy, making it very hard to find them. Make sure your ferret has something warm to snuggle up in as well. Do not place your ferret on a heating pad.
Make sure your ferret stays hydrated. You can tell if your ferret is dehydrated by pulling up the skin on the "scruff" area of the neck and letting the skin fall. If the skin doesn't snap back into place, or takes a long time to snap back, you ferret is probably dehydrated (older ferrets tend to have skin that may naturally snap back slowly. Get to know the normal skin behavior of your ferret.). You can also feel your ferret's tongue and gums to see if they are lacking moisture. Often, ferrets will act disoriented and lethargic if dehydrated. If you suspect your ferret is dehydrated, please take it to a veterinarian. Once a ferret is very dehydrated he or she can not drink enough water to solve the problem. Intravenous or under the skin fluid injections are often needed. Just a few bouts of vomiting or diarrhea can cause dehydration.
Make sure your ferret is taking in food. If your ferret is recovering from an intestinal virus, low blood sugar, surgery or other disease, he or she may not be eating enough to maintain body weight. If your ferret is refusing to eat on it's own, you may need to hand feed prescription diet canned food or a suitable replacement, such as chicken baby food.
For more information on caring for a sick ferret and ferret health conditions, check out The EverythingFerret Complete Guide to Ferrets and Ferret Care.