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Ferret Diseases/Infections

Other Viral Diseases: Ferrets are not susceptible to the viruses that commonly produce upper respiratory disease in domestic cats (rhinotracheitis, calicivirus), nor are they susceptible to canine hepatitis. There is no definitive evidence that ferrets are susceptible to canine parvovirus or feline leukemia virus; therefore, vaccination against these diseases is probably unnecessary. A few cases of lymphoma and lymphosarcoma (cancer) have occurred in ferrets over the years. Some of these ferrets tested positive for feline leukemia virus, while others tested negative. Though a cause-and-effect relationship cannot be proven by such a small number of cases, the possibility exists that ferrets may become infected with feline leukemia virus. Cancer can be one possible result of such an infection. Some researchers believe that leukemia and related diseases among ferrets may be caused by a virus or viruses specific to ferrets.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis: This is another serious viral disease of cats for which ferret susceptibility is not yet known. There is no vaccine available for this disease, not even for cats. Because of the lack of knowledge regarding ferret susceptibility to this disease and the other feline diseases previously discussed, ferret owners should be extremely cautious with regard to their pet's exposure to cats, especially those exhibiting signs of illness and those of unknown health status.

Influenza: It is interesting to note that ferrets are susceptible to infection with several strains of human influenza ("flu") virus. Signs of this illness may mimic those of canine distemper (listlessness, fever, inappetence, sneezing, nasal discharge, etc). Unlike distemper, however, influenza usually passes within 5 days of the onset of illness, and ferrets recover. Bacterial infections may complicate the viral infection.

Bacterial Infections: Various bacteria can produce a variety of diseases ferrets, including botulism, tuberculosis, dysentery (caused by Campylobacter fetus), and abscesses and infections caused by bite wounds and other injuries. Judicious use of antibiotics is usually sufficient for treatment of most, but not all, of these conditions.