Monday, January 17, 2011

Ferret Vaccinations


     Vaccines are an important part of caring for our beloved animals. Some of our pets need more than others and in rare occasions are not required to have any vaccines because their physiology isn’t know well enough to know how things will work with them.

     We all should be aware of the fact that cats and dogs are required to have the rabies vaccine but what many new ferret owners don’t realize is that they should have their little buddy vaccinated against rabies as the disease is always fatal to the ferret.

     Most states do not put a ferret  into quarantine after it has bitten someone. The ferret is destroyed and studied. The rabies vaccine of choice for most veterinarians is Imrab-3. This is also the same as the rabies vaccine given to both dogs and cats.

     Another vaccine ferrets should have is for distemper. There are two distinct types of distemper, canine and feline. While ferrets are susceptible to canine distemper they don’t seem to catch the feline version.

     Distemper is an RNA virus (1) and is not stable enough to live in the environment very long. This virus is spread from sick animals by sneezing or coughing in the vicinity of a healthy one. The incubation period of distemper is between six to nine days. During the incubation time a ferret may not show any signs of contracting this disease.

     Distemper is often mistaken as the human cold in a ferret because many of the symptoms are very similar. A ferret showing signs of being depressed, develops a skin rash, nasal and eye discharge should be immediately by a ferret knowledgeable vet before the disease’s nerve degeneration begins.

     Distemper is almost always fatal in ferrets because owners may believe their ferret is suffering from just a cold and do not seek medical treatment. There have been a few cases where the ferret was saved from distemper but because of the high fever that accompanies this disease usually around 104 degrees their personality was never the same due to brain damage.

     Distemper is 100% preventable with vaccination. The recommended vaccination schedule is that a ferret be vaccinated with his/her first shot at 6-8 weeks, which is given when baby ferrets are shipped from breeders to the pet stores. The booster shot should be given at 10-12 weeks and then is given yearly. The vaccine that is approved for ferrets is Purevax manufactured by Merial, Inc.

     While there have been reports of ferrets having a severe reaction to the vaccine many ferret knowledgeable vets will be able to talk to you about the chances of your little one having a reaction.

     The best procedure is to stay at the vet’s office for a minimum of thirty minutes after the vaccine is given so that if the need for emergency care is needed you are in the right place.

     Yearly vaccination is recommended but if you are worried that your ferret will have a reaction or are just concerned that he/she really doesn’t need the vaccine there is a test called a serum titer.

     A sample of blood is drawn from the ferret and tested for the antibodies known as titer against the distemper virus. This could be a costly option as it takes a lot of skill to draw blood from a ferret, as their blood vessels are so tiny.

     The dosage of each vaccine is 1 milliliter or approximately 15-20 drops (2). Some vets will give both vaccines at the same time and others rather give one then wait a week before giving the other.

     Depending on where you live the cost can be almost nothing or up to a hundred dollars. For my boys the cost is around $70 but that includes the office visit and wellness certificate that I need to have for them to travel on an airplane.

(1) RNA is one of the 3 major macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life.

(2) Dosage information and other research from Dr. Hines 

     We would also like to thank Dr. Shawn Finch DVM for clarifying information and answering our many questions. Dr. Finch writes for .


Have a Chittering good day,



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