One of the most common conditions to occur in ferrets is adrenal disease. Growths or enlargement of the adrenal gland typically require surgery. External signs are a loss of hair, usually starting at the tail and working forward. Sometimes the back of the neck loses hair. In some cases, the vulva of females becomes enlarged. Left untreated, it’s fatal. Prospects for recovery when caught early are very good, though.
Aleutian Disease Virus is a parvovirus that can infect ferrets and their cousin species, such as minks. It produces excessive and rapid weight loss. There’s no cure and it can be fatal, though in many cases it produces symptoms that are treatable.
Since it can be transmitted through urine and feces, it’s possible for one ferret who is a carrier but not affected to infect others. Tests can show whether an animal has the virus and it’s helpful to have one done before bringing a new ferret into an existing ‘family’. CEP or CIEP (Counter Immune ElectroPhoresis) is the most common test.
Epizootic Catarrhal Enteritis, also known as Green Slime Disease, is an inflammation of the mucous membranes. It produces green, slimy, foul smelling feces during diarrhea (hence the name). Yes, all feces smell, but ferrets can get greenish diarrhea for a number of reasons. These are distinctive. The causes are not entirely understood.
It may last only a week or two and go away untreated. But in about 20% of cases it can become more serious, leading to wasting away. In either case, owners should seek treatment as early as possible. Only known for a little over 10 years, it’s still under intensive research. Treatments vary, such as the use of slippery elm bark powder, but should be applied by a vet.
Keeping your ferret’s ears clean is important, but simple. Wax can build up, or they can get ear mites and other conditions.
A weak solution of ear cleaner helps loosen wax, then (like a dog) they will shake their heads vigorously expelling the wax.
Treating ear mites requires only a little ear cleaner, then Tresaderm.
The procedure should be repeated every day for at least a week. Careful examination with a flashlight and magnifying glass can help reveal any substance that might still be in the ear. A ferret’s ear canal is L-shaped, so piercing the ear drum isn’t a common problem. But they are delicate, so take care.
Older ferrets, around 4 years or more (like other aging mammals) are prone to develop tumors and other cancers. Some of these are treatable by surgery, others eventually take the life of the ferret. But ferrets are no more prone to cancer at a young age than a dog, cat or humans.
Still, since they are very curious and exploratory, it’s helpful to ensure they don’t come into contact with common household items that can encourage cancers. Benzene and other organic solvents are known to increase the risk. Be sure to ferret-proof your house.