Ferret First Aid Kit

It is highly recommended to always have a first aid kit on hand so you will be able to take care of your ferret should the situation arise.

Below is a list of required items to keep on hand;

  1. Emergency phone numbers; make sure you have the vet information easily accessible and any other contact needed.
  2. Ferret photos/vaccination records; it is also a good option to have photos of each ferret and records of vaccination on hand.
  3. List of all medications your ferret is currently taking.

Emergency food ideas;

  1. Jars of meat baby food-chicken or lamb chicken cooked/ground down in food processor/frozen in butter tubs/plastic containers (see Duck Soup)
  2. Light Karo syrup or nutri-cal (for quick calorie boost)
  3. Pedialyte or gatoraid (for de-hydrated ferret or just to keep system flowing)
  4. Can of prescription feline A D (you get this from your vet) easily digested food for the sick monsters
  5. A can of vanilla Ensure/Boost/Fortify
  6. Canola or olive oil (something to help move bad indigested stuff through)
  7. Petromalt or laxitone For hairballs use for everyday or every other day

Cleaning, Lotion or bandages;

  1. Calamine Lotion for balding ferrets, (relieves itchy skin and minor irritations from scratching)
  2. Hydrogen Peroxide (for cleaning cuts)
  3. Ear cleanser
  4. Eye wash/rinse
  5. Gauze pads Gauze wraps
  6. Washcloths
  7. Adhesive bandage tape (cloth tape holds the best)
  8. Styptic Powder or flour (for bleeding nails)
  9. Antibiotic ointment such as neosporin (for soothing and protecting cuts and scrapes)
  10. Bene-bac (for replacing beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract after illness or diarrhea) – can be purchased com
  11. Desitin (for rash and burn relief) or Any Diaper Rash Ointment 

Petroleum Jelly (to help move a blockage through and for easing in the thermometer)
  12. Kaopectate/pepto bismol/pesid/tagament (for diarrhea and soothing the tummy)
  13. Immodium liquid (for diarrhea)
  14. Ferretone or linatone (for mixing with medecine)
  15. Baby wipes (for general cleanup)
  16. Pediatric Liquid Benadryl ( for counteracting allergic reactions)
  17. Heating Pad ( to help maintain body tempature in a young or sick ferret)

The Long Way Home

As a shelter mom, I hope that every adoption is perfect and that the ferret(s) are going into their forever home.

In reality, life can throw us curve balls and the adoption breaks down.  The MFA has a clause in the adoption form which states in part that the ferret(s) must be returned to the shelter if the person can no longer look after them. I check out Kijiji regularly for ferrets up for sale, I am checking to see if one of my adopted ferrets has shown up on Kijiji.

Approximately 2 years ago, two very special girls that I had adopted to a good home showed up on Kijiji.

Numerous attempts were made to the ferret owner to get him to comply with the legal adoption form he had signed.  I was finally told the ferrets were going to a family member. Even my offer of a full refund fell on deaf ears. I was heartbroken and dearly hoped that they were in fact going to a family member and would be well cared for.  I confess that it ate at me and I kept my eye open for them on Kijiji but I am not on the site every day.

About two weeks ago I was on Kijiji and I noticed two ferrets for sale. The ad caught my attention because these two girls were described as spayed but not descented! The pictures took my breath away.  They were my two special girls and they were back on Kijiji again! My heart broke to think how many times they had been passed from hand to hand.

To make a long story short, I contacted the ad and through e-mails I was able to prove that these special girls had come from my shelter and that I in fact had their mothers, these two girls were replicas of their mothers.  The couple had acquired them off of Kijiji but the girls had not settled in as they had hoped and they were looking to re-home them. This wonderful couple was gracious enough to give them back to me.  I made a donation in their name and purchased them to show that I would never re-home them.  These special girls were going to live out their lives with me and their mothers. This couple was rewarded with  two year free membership for their kindness, for being true ferret people and saying what was best for the girls was the most important thing!

There seemed to be some recognition when the mothers and daughters met.  However, one of the daughter’s Rico was not in good health. I suspected Cardiomyopathy and started her on Lasix.  The other ferret Yippy was a plump girl, bright eyes, good coat but she would come out and do the “flat” ferret.  Clearly all this re-homing over the last month had taken it’s toll on her.

Today Yippy is back to being a normal ferret in that she will run through the tubes and hide the stuffies.  She will not go far from Rico and when Rico puts herself to bed, Yippy will drop everything to go and cuddle up next to her.  Because of Rico’s heart issue I could not follow through with my plan to have the mothers and daughters in the same cage.  That is my long range plan once I have Rico stable.  I do let them all out together for short periods of time to interact.  I am very worried that should I loose Rico to heart failure, Yippy may follow with a broken heart! I really want her to have a strong connection with her Mom and Aunty.

As of today Rico is holding her own.  The fluid is gone from her abdomen but she is not eating much.  I have started her on duck soup and that is not going well.  I have to balance forcing the duck soup with her heart issue!  Fortunately Rico loves Ferretvite and I am hoping the Ferretvite will stimulate her appetite.  Rico is really not doing well so folks, please send your prayers her way.

Sadly, my Rico lost her battle before I could finish this post, rest in peace sweet baby. I got to hold you and love you – you came home.

Ginger & Snip, the moms

Ginger & Snip, the moms

Yippy

Yippy

How to make Duck Soup /Soupies

As a shelter mom for over fifteen plus years, I am sure I  have made enough duck soup to fill a child’s swimming pool. The smell of the pureed kibble is not wonderful and in the early years thanks to my sensitive nose I did gag, persevere – your’s ferret’s recovery depends on it.

Supplies will you need;

  • A large bowl to soak your 2 cups of kibble
  • a kettle of boiling water
  • a blender
  • ice cube trays or small ziplock snack containers

Food used;

  • minimum of 2 cups of your ferret’s kibble mixture
    • It is easier to do multiple batches then to double or triple your supplies. I burnt out my first blender.  I now have an industrial blender and that allows me to make huge batches as I do have lots of furries!
  • a container of yogurt
    • vanilla flavor is recommended as your ferret’s tummy is already upset
  • Ensure or the diabetic version Glucerna in Vanilla
  • (optional) Ferretone
    • For those stubborn ferrets that won’t eat the duck soup unless it is drizzled with Ferretone!

Making the duck soup:

  • Pour boiling water over the two cups of kibble
    1. Enough to cover the kibble by one inch
    2. Let soak until kibble is soft and can be broken down with a fork, you may need to add more boiling water as the kibble soaks up the moisture
  • Put 1/2 cup of the mushy kibble in the blender, add enough hot water to help the blender puree.
  • Repeat until the 2 cups of kibble have been pureed.
  • Pour the pureed kibble into the containers you have selected and cooled pureed kibble then freeze

You can keep pureed kibble frozen until needed, just thaw in the fridge

pureed ferret kibble

pureed ferret kibble

vanilla yougurt

vanilla yougurt

IMG_1135

Vanilla Diabetic

Preparing the duck soup for your ferret:

  • Put one heaping teaspoon of the Vanilla yogurt in a dish
  • Put one heaping teaspoon of the pureed kibble in the dish
  • pour just enough Ensure over the mixture to cover. Use more Ensure to make the duck soup liquid if you are giving it by syringe. The duck soup is normally like thin pudding
  • warm your duck soup in the microwave for a few seconds (10 to 15 seconds) **stir with your finger to ensure there are no “hot spots” that can burn your ferret’s tongue. You want the duck soup warm not hot or “cooked”.
    heaping teaspoon of yogurt

    heaping teaspoon of yogurt

    heaping teaspoon of pureed kibble

    heaping teaspoon of pureed kibble

    IMG_1138

    How much ensure to add

    IMG_1140

    Consistency

    IMG_1141

    Finished duck soup

Giving your ferret the duck soup:

  • place a towel on your lap
  • hold your ferret in one hand and offer the duck soup dish with the other hand
  • your ferret should slurp down the duck soup

How to teach your ferret to like the duck soup:

You are offering your ferret it’s own kibble, bland vanilla yogurt and bland vanilla Ensure and your ferret is refusing to touch it. The reason for this is the texture, ferrets need to get used to the texture of a “grainy pudding” which is where Ferretone comes in.

If your ferret is not interested in the soup at all, drizzling a little of Ferretone on it will make the soup enticing. (It goes without saying if your ferret has never had Ferretone before this won’t work)!

Some other options are;

  • Apply a little of the duck soup mixture to the tip of your ferret’s nose. The ferret will automatically clean it’s nose. You may have to do this repeatedly  for the first week while your ferret is in reality managing to lick off maybe a teaspoon worth of duck soup.
  • Dab your finger in the duck soup and offer your finger to your ferret. Perhaps even rubbing your duck soup coated finger along the ferret’s back gums. I have known ferrets who enjoy this method that they demand this royal treatment long after they have learnt to like the duck soup.
  • You may have to scruff your ferret, suck up some duck soup in a syringe and apply the syringe to the back corner of the ferret’s mouth. Slowly, gently squeeze the syringe as you do not want to have your ferret “inhale” the duck soup.
    • Never offer the syringe via the front of the ferret’s mouth!
  • Using a baby’s spoon (think Dollarama)  put a little duck soup on the spoon and offer the spoon to your ferret. Believe it or not I have had ferrets who will finish a full dish of duck soup one spoon full at a time, but will not touch the dish itself.

It typically take several days for the ferret to learn to like the texture of the duck soup and willingly lick it right from the dish. Please note that if you go months without offering duck soup you will be back to square one as the ferret will no longer ‘remember’ liking this texture.

Give your ferret a teaspoon or two once a week so that he will see this as a weekly treat. If your ferret is sick, the duck soup mixture can be offered every 4 to 6 hours depending on whether the ferret is also still eating some hard kibble.

In the shelter sick ferrets get a dish of duck soup for breakfast, supper and bedtime.  A critically ill ferret may be offered a thinned duck soup by syringe every hour to two hours until the crisis has passed.

Miscellaneous Questions:

Q: Why am I using my ferret’s own kibble?

A: Because he is familiar with the taste and smell, if the first time your ferret is having duck soup is during an illness this is not the time to introduce a new food and cause further stomach upset.

 

Q: Why the vanilla yogurt?

A: The yogurt contains live active bacterial cultures that your ferret needs to replace in it’s gut due to having diarrhea

 

Q: Why the Ensure?

A: Ensure is a ‘high protein’ food. You don’t want your ferret using more energy to crunch and eat hard kibble than what he is going to benefit from nutritionally, licking Ensure burns minimal calories so the  nutrition stays on the positive side.

 

Q: How long should I give my sick ferret the duck soup? You give the duck soup as long as the ferret is too sick/weak to eat his dry kibble. Once the ferret is feeling better (watch the litter box) you will know to slowly reduce the servings of duck soup until you are back to offering it as a weekly treat.

 

Q: Can I give duck soup every day to a healthy ferret?

A: I would not recommend this as the ferret’s teeth will quickly get a build up of plaque from the soft food.  I don’t know of any ferret owner dedicated to brushing their ferret’s teeth after each duck soup feeding.

 

Q: My vet told me to give my sick ferret a can of their AD brand wet food – should I?

A: What my experience has shown is that this is a food that is foreign to the ferret and so he most likely will turn his nose up at it and may even gag.  If your vet indicates the wet canned food is necessary then add it to your duck soup mixture in the blender. The idea behind the canned wet food is the same reasoning as for Ensure.  You want your ferret to burn as few calories as possible eating a high protein food so that the ferret is not expending more energy to eat than what the ferret is gaining. Canned wet food is a source of high protein food in an easy to digest formula.  You would then want to have your ferret get used to the canned wet food while he is healthy.  Canned wet food can be to expensive in a multi-ferret home. Most ferret wise vets will be happy to hear you have introduced them to the duck soup blend and will tell you that your duck soup will work just as well as the AD canned wet food.

 

Q: Why do I keep smelling the duck soup long after feeding my ferret?

A: Well, I would say you are ‘wearing’ some duck soup in your hair, on your arms, maybe a smudge of it across your cheek where your ferret rubbed his face!  If I have had a ferret fight me to take his duck soup I will look like I rolled in the stuff – but I am a crazy ferret mom and will do what it takes even if it means my ‘perfume’ has all the dogs in the neighborhood drooling over me!!

I hate Duck Soup!

One of my shelter ferrets who came to me this summer is Molly, turns out Molly is a boy! His previous mom was told he was a girl and so for 6 years she thought she had “a big girl”. When I pointed out the “belly button” which only boys have she was speechless. Now Molly know his name very well and will come running so Molly keeps his name. Molly was very bonded to his first mom. She had been allowed to take him to school with her every day and he even slept with her. It broke her heart to bring him to me but she had not been able to find pet friendly housing in Saskatoon where she was heading for university.

I was very worried that I would loose Molly to a broken heart once he realized his mommy wasn’t coming back. I set up a small cage and placed it by my bedside. I put my well worn and smelly nightie in his hammock. I wanted him to bond with me and my smell. The first week was up and down. It was obvious that he was pinning for her but slowly he came out of his funk and started playing.

I tried over and over to introduce Molly to other furries hoping a playmate would give him some needed company. He went from running in fear to simply avoiding the other mild ferrets but he didn’t connect with anyone. Eventually Molly was doing so well that he moved into the main shelter room so that he could continue to be immersed in the other ferrets smells. His cage was right by the door entrance and he could see me coming and going down the hallway.

On Thursday Ivan and Loki arrived at the shelter. These two 5 year old boys put me at capacity and I was wondering who to move them in with. I often get the cage donated with the surrendered ferret(s) but it’s not the lack of cages but the lack of space to put them. Lots of donated cages are sold to help with the costs of food, litter and medical care. Ivan and Loki came in with a Ferret Nation cage which is the cadillac of ferret cages. I want to eventually have all Ferret Nation cages as they are so easy to clean. To set up the Ferret Nation cage I had to do some moving around and retire the last of the Midwest cages currently in use.

The long and the short of it I moved Molly into a different cage and moved it out of the shelter room to accommodate the Ferret Nation cage. Molly moved into another room. All seemed fine. The new boys settle in, met Napoleon and Indie and became instant friends. Great, love when that happens because in reality older ferrets are set in their ways and often don’t want any new friends.

Molly seemed fine in the different cage. Friday was busy day. I checked on Molly in the am before heading out to a funeral. His cage was pristine. Red flag! There should be crumbs on the shelf where the food is. Hmmm. I went from the funeral to Deer Lodge Centre to visit my brother in law and so didn’t get home till after 5:00 pm. I checked on Molly, cage is still pristine. I checked the litter box and found some loose pudding poops. Ok, he is stressed out about the move. I let him out to have some one on one play time with me. Molly made one circuit and found a hidey hole to sleep. I left him to sleep in my bedroom, closed the door and started my Med rounds which takes me an hour.

I offered Molly his favorite treats when I put him back to bed and he took them willingly. I had given him extra cuddles and treats. He would be fine.

I don't like DUCK SOUP!

I don’t like DUCK SOUP!

When I got up Saturday morning and checked on Molly, his cage was pristine. The litter box had a scant blob of pudding poop! Ok, I have a sick ferret. Not one crumb means he is not eating. I warmed up some Duck Soup and added a little Ensure to make it even soupier. Lots of folks call their duck soup by the name soupies. What is duck soup or soupies? You take your ferret’s dry kibble (2 cups)) and add boiling water to cover the kibble by an inch. Once the kibble is mushy, process it through the blender to make it smooth like pudding. You may need to add some warm water to make it the right consistancy. Some people will add a bottle of Ensure at this point – I don’t anymore as I want to control the amount of Ensure the ferret is getting. Pour the duck soup/soupies into small containers or even ice cube trays and freeze. Now you can pop out a cube as needed or for multiple ferret homes, you have just enough to share with the furries without it spoiling.

I offered the warmed duck soup to Molly, he turned his face away going so far as to push my face away with his front paws. Molly has never had duck soup and I had not had a chance to introduce him to it since he had arrived. Now I have a sick ferret who is going to have to learn to like duck soup on top of feeling yucky, not a stress free way to start.

I tried to offer duck soup off of my finger, wore it across me cheek, I filled syringe and gently squeezed some into the back corner of his mouth. The gagging that ensued would have been funny if I wasn’t so worried. No matter what I tried, the pudding texture of duck soup was not passing his lips. I was wearing the duck soup in my hair, on my arms and Molly was giving me the “why are you trying to kill me look”

On to plan B – Ensure

Ensure is my go to ” food” that has saved many a critically ill ferret, after warming I scruffed Molly, put the syringe at the back corner of his mouth so he wouldn’t inhale the Ensure in to his lungs. I slowly squeezed the syringe dry. Repeat times 5. Now he has something in his tummy but this is not enough to keep him alive, ferrets need to consume 90 cc over the course of a 24 hour period to live. The fight to take the Ensure exhausted Molly so I tucked him back to bed.

Plan C – Trying to think like Molly

So, I lost my familiar cage, I got moved from the familiar room. Molly was pining, he felt “lost” abandoned again,  I could not put him back in the shelter room cage it had been replaced by Ferret Nation cage.

Fortunately, I had the cage he used when he first came in. I set up the cage, added his favorite toy and my nightie. I rolled the cage in to my bedroom and set it up right beside my side of the bed.

After getting another food dish I added the Marshalls food that he came in on. Molly had transitioned to the shelter food and most of the shelter furries don’t care for Marshalls so I always have a bag in my freezer from donations. I went and got Molly and we simply snuggled for awhile. Then I warmed up the Ensure and made him take 5 more 1 cc.

Tucked Molly in to the cage in my bedroom, I did one more thing, I kissed him and told him it was not his time to leave. I needed him to stay and love me for a little longer in return I got lick on the nose. Molly got several more feedings of straight Ensure but if I tried the duck soup he would gag.

IMG_20140908_113640

I tell you I did not get much sleep as I lay there praying for the sound of a ferret crunching his kibble. In the wee hours of Sunday morning I heard that blessed sound. I peeked and Molly was eating from the Marshalls food dish, I fell back to sleep knowing that he wasn’t going anywhere just yet.

It has been 3 days now and we are still fighting the duck soup, the faces he makes make me want to laugh, you would think I was trying to feed him poison! He is now taking the Ensure without a struggle and I am grateful for that. Molly is eating some kibble but not enough yet; I am still using only paper towels in his litter box so that I can monitor his out put.

use paper towels to monitor sick ferret's output

use paper towels to monitor sick ferret’s output

We are getting pudding poops, so the tummy is on the mend. At 6 years old, this is going to be harder for Molly to get over than say a 3 year old ferret, it could take a couple of weeks to bring him back to health!

Let’s just say, that Ivan and Loki, the 2 new boys are going to be introduced to duck soup this coming Saturday, better they get used to it now without the stress of being sick!

Proper Ferret Nutrition

Written by Dr. Thomas R. Willard, 1996 Ferrets USA

Make sure the food you choose for your ferret is “complete and balanced for all stages of a ferret’s life as determined in actual animal feeding tests.” A food that has been developed for ferrets for all of their life stages should contain a minimum of 36 percent protein and 22 percent fat, plus a maximum of 2 percent fiber. These portions make up a balanced diet for young, growing and active male and female ferrets.

Most dry cat foods and virtually all dry dog foods exceed 3 percent fiber, which leads to large, smelly stools when fed to ferrets.

Ingredients to look for;

Chicken and poultry byproduct meal, meat meal, whole eggs, liver, poultry or animal byproducts are all excellent primary sources of protein for ferrets. Chicken and poultry byproduct meal or whole chicken meat should always be the first ingredient of a quality ferret food.

A high-quality, simple carbohydrate, such as rice flour or brewers rice, should be the second or third ingredient. These help give the food the correct texture for the best taste, plus improve the digestibility of the food.

Fat from chicken, poultry or other animals should be the third of fourth ingredients. Other important and useful fat sources – such as vegetable oils, lecithin, corn oil or fish oil – should also be present, but further down the list. Wheat, corn of the flours of these grains may also be listed, but generally should not be higher than fifth or sixth from the top of the list.

Some fish protein, such as herring meal, should be listed further down the ingredient panel because it provides high-quality protein to offer nutritional balance. Vitamins, minerals and individual amino acids, such as lysine, methionine and taurine, will also be listed toward the bottom of the label.

What not to feed;

Because ferrets are obligate carnivores, they do not digest vegetables or fruits (like bananas, raisins, apples) or other high fibre foods that humans like to offer as treats or snacks. Most ferrets will not refuse such a snack, but the snacks offer no nutritional benefit over a well-balanced dry food. If given in moderation, an occasional snack will not harm your pet.

Regardless if they are for ferrets, cats or dogs, supplements (oils with or without vitamins and minerals, nutritional tablets, enzymes or powders) should not be necessary if a properly tested and balanced food is being fed.

Other foods or ingredients to avoid are those that contain a high level of vegetable protein, such as soyflour, soybean meal, corn gluten meal or wheat gluten. Foods with high levels of such ingredients should never be fed to a ferret.

Also, a food that lists ingredients in categories as “animal protein products,” “plant protein products” or other collective terminology should never be fed to ferrets or any other companion animal. These are nonspecific, least-cost formulas and usually contain many ingredients that are of poor quality for ferrets. The manufacturer should be able to explain any ingredient you do not understand. Call and ask.

Fact: 

Ferrets do not come to shelters because of behavior problems. 

Ferrets are surrendered to shelters for the same reasons as other pets. Owners may move to a new apartment where pets aren’t allowed, experience a change in work schedule that doesn’t leave enough time in the day to take good care of the ferret, or the most common reason: owners simply get tired of the ferret. Most times the ferret is a wonderful animal who simply wasn’t wanted in the former home.

Food Chart;

Foods such as breads, breakfast cereals, cakes and cookies should not be fed. Many of these items contain refined sugars, which can cause damage to the ferret’s pancreas, resulting in diabetes. Unfortunately, ferrets love sweet foods and may beg for these treats, but you take a serious risk with your pet’s health in offering them.

Because ferrets pass food through their bodies at a rapid rate, they need to eat frequently. Obesity is rarely a problem. Allow the ferret access to dry food at all times in a heavy crock-type bowl or a hanging feeder.

Ferrets have a tendency to develop hairballs, particularly if more than 1 year old. Unlike cats, ferrets do not vomit these masses of hair and can develop intestinal obstructions or become severely debilitated.

To lubricate the hair and keep it moving out of the stomach before it forms a large mass, give the ferret about 1 inch or 1/4 teaspoon of a cat hairball laxative every three days. Ferrets generally love the taste of this sticky substance.