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2005-43

Dear Frank B. Ferret

Our ferret, Jazz, is now a senior. What diseases should we watch for?

Frank Responds

Life expectancy for most American ferrets is five to eight years. As we age, we are at risk of developing several troubling conditions.

One is a hairball large enough to block the gastrointestinal tract. To prevent hairballs, give Jazz a cat hairball laxative (squeeze one-half to one inch from the tube) every two or three days.

If Jazz’s coat becomes dry and brittle, add a fatty acid supplement to the diet. Ferotone or Linotone, one-eighth to one-fourth teaspoon, may be added to the food daily.

Another problem that sometimes arises during a ferret’s senior years is an adrenal gland tumor which produces hair loss and sometimes itchiness. Females develop swollen vulvas, and we males urinate with difficulty.

A geriatric ferret also can develop an insulinoma, a pancreatic tumor that produces excessive insulin and lowers blood sugar. Signs of hypoglycemia include lethargy, hind leg weakness, staring into space, difficulty awakening, collapse (often during exercise) and seizures.

An additional concern is cardiomyopathy, a type of heart disease that causes lethargy, weight loss, coughing and decreased energy during exercise. Sometimes the abdomen swells with fluid.

Finally, senior ferrets are at risk of lymphosarcoma, a type of cancer.

So it’s important that your veterinarian examine Jazz every six months – or more frequently if you see signs of these diseases.

 

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