Like dogs, cats and other mammals, ferrets can acquire dangerous viruses. Sometimes those are fatal. But that result can usually be avoided by a proper vaccination schedule, using the right vaccines.
As in humans, dogs and so forth, vaccines work by stimulating the immune system to produce antibodies against a disease organism before it occurs. That makes them present in the blood stream to attack the virus should it be introduced. But, also like human vaccines, they can produce reactions. The proper schedule and vaccines are essential.
Ferrets are typically vaccinated against rabies and canine distemper.
The first is rare, even rarer in ferrets. But the fear of catching rabies from a bite is so intense that many will choose to get the shot for their ferret anyway. It helps protect the animal, the owner and ward off lawsuits from visitors who might accidentally get their fingers in a ferret’s playful mouth.
Canine distemper is much less rare, and it is airborne. So even if your ferret never comes in contact with another animal, the vaccination is important. Canine distemper can be transmitted from one ferret to another (or a dog to a ferret) by a sneeze. It survives in the air fully long enough to infect the animal. There are other transmission routes, as well.
Heading off these possibilities is simple.
Most ferrets will receive their first shot at the ferret farm at around 6-8 weeks after birth. If you’ve acquired yours from a private owner, however, they may not have done this. Ask. The second shot should be given when the ferret is between 10-12 weeks old, then a third at 16 weeks.
Rabies vaccinations are given yearly. Most states require this and it’s a good idea anyway.
Though it costs a bit more for separate vet visits, it’s a good idea also to give the vaccinations at least two weeks apart. If the ferret suffers a reaction, it will be possible to identify which one produced it. As with dogs, reactions are not common, but they’re easily treated. In fact, many vets will pre-treat a ferret (as they do with dogs) with Benadryl to head off any problem.
To lessen the chances of a reaction, be sure to find and use a ferret-knowledgeable vet. Ensure they use the appropriate vaccines. Don’t be intimidated into remaining silent. Ask polite but appropriate questions.
Of course, depending on when you read this, it’s possible for the technology to have evolved. Ask your vet about the latest options. Both canine distemper and rabies are fatal if contracted. A vaccination can turn a life-ending disease into a minor expense.