Most Common Diseases in Ferrets

Ferret Pets

Maintaining the health of our naughtiest pet is always a tough task. Ferrets are prone to diseases and most of the diseases can kill the ferret if untreated. There are some most common diseases that affect your ferret that are mentioned cut to clear in the article.


Campylobacter is bacteria that can make people and animals sick with a disease called campylobacteriosis. It most often spreads to animals and people through the feces (poop) of infected animals, contaminated food or water, or the environment. People can become infected if they don’t wash their hands after touching a ferret or its poop, food, toys, or habitat.


Ferrets that are young or have weak immune systems may be more likely to get a Campylobacter infection. Ferrets may show no signs, or they may have diarrhea (that may be bloody), lack of appetite, vomiting, or fever.

Ferret 2


Cheyletiellosis is a mild skin infection caused by parasitic mites feeding on skin cells. Cheyletiellosis is spread through contact with animals that have mites (for example, ferrets, rabbits, cats, and other animals).


These mites typically don’t cause disease in ferrets, but if affected ferrets may have hair loss, dandruff, or itching because of skin irritation from the mites. Adult mites may be easily seen on an affected ferret. They are often white and may look like walking dandruff if observed moving.


Giardia is a parasite that can be found on surfaces or in water, food, or soil that has been contaminated by the poop of an infected person or animal.

Giardia spreads through swallowing microscopic poop containing the parasite after contact with an infected person or animal, or by drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated with poop from infected people or animals.

Signs in ferrets:

Some ferrets with Giardia may not seem sick, so it’s important to wash your hands after playing with ferrets and to take your ferret to the vet regularly.


Influenza, or flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Flu viruses that commonly spread among people (human seasonal flu) can also affect ferrets.

Other (non-human) flu viruses are found in different animal species, such as chickens and pigs, but these flu viruses are not known to circulate among ferrets. Flu spreads through droplets when coughing, sneezing, or talking. You can also get flu by touching a surface or object with the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or possibly eyes.

People can spread the flu to ferrets through droplets made when coughing, sneezing, or talking, or through direct contact (touching). Animals and people infected with flu viruses may be able to spread flu to others before they develop symptoms.

There are no reports of flu spreading from ferrets to people, but because ferrets can get sick with human flu viruses, it may be possible for them to spread flu viruses to people.

Stinky Ferrets


Ferrets are very susceptible to human flu. Ferrets with flu can have a variety of symptoms, including fever, thick clear or dried discharge from their nostrils, sneezing, coughing, decreased appetite, and weakness. There is no flu vaccine for ferrets. A veterinarian can help develop a treatment plan if your ferret gets the flu.


Rabies is a deadly neurologic disease caused by a virus that spreads primarily through bites of infected animals. Ferret owners should get ferrets vaccinated against rabies. Rabies spreads through contact with saliva or brain/nervous system tissue from an infected animal, usually through scratches or bites.

Signs in ferrets:

Ferrets with rabies often have a sudden change in their behavior followed by a progressive paralysis. Animals with rabies typically die within a few days after symptoms start.


Ringworm is an infection caused by fungus that can infect the skin, hair, or nails of people and animals. Ringworm spreads through direct contact with an infected animal or person (touching), or from the environment.

Signs in ferrets:

Kits (baby ferrets) and young ferrets are most commonly affected by ringworm and can have circular areas of hair loss anywhere on their bodies.


Salmonella is bacteria that can make people and animals sick with a disease called salmonellosis. People can become infected with Salmonella by eating contaminated food, or through contact with animal poop or an animal’s food. Salmonella infection in ferrets is usually associated with feeding them raw or undercooked meat or unpasteurized milk.


Salmonella infections are not common in ferrets. However, ferrets that do have an infection can have diarrhea (that can be bloody), conjunctivitis (red eyes), and anemia (low red blood cell count).

Dirofilariasis (Heartworm Disease)

Ferrets are susceptible to heartworm infection, but due to the fact that most ferrets are kept indoors, cases are still uncommon. Due to the small size of the ferret heart, as few as two heartworms may result in fatal cardiac insufficiency.

Ferret 1

The small numbers of heartworms in these animals also necessitate the use of occult heartworm tests due to the low levels of circulating microfilaremia. Lesions of heartworm disease in the ferret are essentially the same as cardiomyopathy, as infection commonly results in heart failure in this species.

Aleutian Disease

Aleutian disease is caused by the same parvovirus that causes Aleutian disease in mink, however, the disease is quite different between these two species. In mink, AD results in rapidly life-threatening immune-mediated glomerulonephritis, vasculitis, and hypergammaglobulinemia.

In ferrets, there are notable similarities, including a hypergammaglobulinemia, and in late stages of the disease, immune complex glomerulonephritis; however, the disease is much more insidious, with a progression of as long as 2 years.

Gastric ulcers

Ferrets are extremely susceptible to stress-related gastric ulcers. This is a common finding in animals with other systemic diseases and often contributes to debility in older animals.

Gastric ulcers are often seen in association with gastric Helicobacter mustelae infection, however, a definitive cause-and-effect relationship has not been proven in this species. Two distinct forms of gastric ulceration may be seen in the ferret. The most common form is the presence of digested blood within the stomach lumen.

Ulcers are pinpoint, extremely difficult to see, and are present in the highest numbers in the pyloric region of the stomach. The second, less common form, is the presence of a single, focally extensive, ulcer in the pyloric stomach. These large ulcers may result in sudden death due to erosion into the submucosal blood vessels.

Islet cell tumors

Islet cell neoplasms are the most common neoplasm of this species. These neoplasms generally result in hypoglycemia as a result of inappropriate secretion of insulin. Clinical signs include lethargy, stupor, ptyalism, and ataxia, and may progress to coma and death. Non-functional islet cell tumors are commonly seen in older animals at necropsy.

Proliferative colitis

Proliferative colitis is an uncommon disease that is usually seen in male ferrets under one year of age. The disease is sporadic. Clinical signs include tenesmus and the production of small, frequent bowel movements which often contain frank blood and mucus.

The disease is caused by a campylobacter-like organism which results in asymmetrical proliferation of immature epithelium, causing marked thickening of the wall. This condition is subject to periodic periods of recrudescence, often during times of stress. If untreated, it may be fatal.