How it is even possible to be a veterinarian is something of a mystery. Being a physician that treats humans is challenging enough. They spend years learning anatomy and physiology, pharmacology and a dozen other major subjects. Yet medical doctors have only one species to study. Vets are expected to know a half-dozen or more. Many, of course, do specialize to a degree. And, dogs and cats are the most popular pets so these are the animals they most commonly treat. But since the 1980s, ferrets have become increasingly popular domestic companions. Finding a vet knowledgeable about them, especially in a smaller town or city, can be tough.
Yet, they do exist. You can search the Internet these days, naturally. With the growth of something called ‘Local Search’, it’s possible to type in ‘ferret vet’ and get back listings that are unique to your zipcode. Using something like the Ferret Vet Zip Code Locator at www.ferrethealth.org/vets/ is also a good option.
In fact, finding a vet BEFORE you get a ferret is a very good idea. At some point, you’ll need one and you don’t want to have to hunt one down during a time of emergency. If you can’t locate one you prefer in your area, you might consider holding off on getting one of these unique pets. Once you find a potential vet, one who at least claims to be able to treat ferrets, you’ll want to ask a few probing questions. The interview would be much as you would have in choosing a vet for your cat or dog, or any other.
You’ll want to ensure they’re familiar with the common diseases and conditions that ferrets tend to acquire or endure. ECE (or Green Slime), ADV (Aleutian Disease Virus), adrenal and a long list of other diseases are commonly found in ferrets. Note, that doesn’t mean that ferrets are commonly disease ridden. They suffer no more than any other domesticated species.
You’ll want to get an idea of how the vet approaches treatment. They may educate you in home care to save you time and money, and them from being overwhelmed every time the ferret sneezes. Though, sneezing can be a symptom of upper respiratory infection. Your vet should be able to advise you on ear cleaning, proper diet and other ferret-specific issues.
Like cats and dogs, ferrets need vaccinations. Viruses are known to occur among ferrets just as they do among those other common domestic companions. But it’s possible, just as with dogs and cats, for ferrets to suffer allergic reactions to vaccines. It’s important for your vet to be knowledgeable about this area. Ignorance can accidentally kill a ferret.
Surgery is sometimes called for. Ferrets love to explore and will chew on just about anything. That opens the possibility of swallowing bits of plastic, Styrofoam cups and a wide variety of other common household items. That can lead to intestinal blocking. They also, as they get older, can be prone to certain tumors. Your vet should be qualified and experienced in performing surgery to treat those issues.
Review your options just as you would for any other pet, and don’t be shy about asking potentially uncomfortable questions. Better to have answers you don’t like, than results you would hate.