-Medical Isle-

[ choosing the right vet | keeping your ferret healthy | first aid kit | poisonous plants | health problems | vaccines | no worries | poop chart ]

Welcome to the Medical Isle of Hugawoozel. I hope you will find this section useful. For I am not a Veterinarian, I am not going to list diagnosis, symptoms, procedures, etc… in this section. For those wanting this kind of information I suggest you go talk to your ferret-smart Veterinarian. If you need help choosing a good Veterinarian, please visit the “choosing the right vet” section. Although I do offer descriptions of health problems on this page, the information should only be used for research, not in replacement of your ferret-smart Veterinarian. Please do not email me questions about your ferret’s health or well-being. Once again, I am not a Veterinarian. This section is strictly and only for people who are interested in knowing what types of medical problems ferrets can get, not for people trying to decide which medical problem their ferret has! Please see your vet if your ferret shows any abnormal signs of behavior.


Here are some tips on how to find the very best Veterinarian for your fuzzy.

First of all, make sure the vet. treats ferrets. You cannot use the same doctor for your ferrets as your dog or cats doctor, (unless of course your cat/dog doctor treats ferrets). Talk to the vet. over the phone so that you get an idea of how she/he acts towards you, after all, it is important that you as well as your pet get along with your doctor.

It is a good idea to ask your vet the following questions:

  • Do you treat ferrets regulary?
  • How many ferrets do you treat a day/week?
  • Do you keep a complete stock of vaccinations such as the approved rabies vaccine (imrab 3)?
  • In case my ferret needs to be hospitalized, do you have the proper facilities to house a ferret?
  • How much do you charge for routine checkups and vaccines?
  • Do you preform rountine surgeries (such as spaying and neutering)?
  • Can you handle and treat the common diseases of the ferret?
  • Do you preform more difficult surgeris (such as adreanal surgery, and other tumor removals)?
  • How do you keep up to date on the latest developments in ferret medicine and surgical techniques?

The answers, as well as the general tone of voice should give you a good idea if this vet is ferret friendly or not. If you do not feel comfortable with him/her, chances are, your fuzzy won't either. Schedule a meeting with your new doctor to go in and actually talk to the vet. in person. Sometimes it is just not the same on the phone as it is talking face to face. Bring your fuzzy along if you feel it would be a good idea.

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Any information given here does not insure your ferret's health. This information should be used for research only. Please see your veterinarian if your ferret shows any sign of illness or abnormal behavior.

Vaccinations - Distemper vaccinations should be given to your ferret at 8, 12, and 16 weeks, and then at 1 year of age. Annual distemper booster vaccines should be given yearly after this series of vaccinations. Ferrets from Marshall Farms have already received a single distemper shot at 5-6 weeks of age. Reactions to the approved distemper vaccination are common. You should stay at least 30 minutes following distemper vaccines given to your ferret in case of a reaction. A rabies vaccination should be given to your ferret at 16 weeks of age, and a yearly booster vaccine should be given after this.

Spay/Neuter - The recommended age to spay or neuter a ferret is 6 months of age. This allows kits to develop their normal sexually influenced size and body characteristics. Ferrets from Marshall Farms have already been Spayed/Neutered.

Descenting - Ferrets are “descented” to keep them from “spraying” or “skunking” when frightened or scared. This process is unnecessary for most ferrets, unless there proves to be a problem. Ferrets from Marshall Farms have already been descented.

Annual Examinations - Yearly exams by a ferret-smart veterinarian are absolutely necessary for a ferret’s wellbeing. The importance of annual examinations grows as a ferret gets older. Early detection is vital in treating diseases. Ferrets age 3 and over should be seen by a veterinarian every 6 months. At age 4, it is recommend that laboratory work should be done. On a healthy ferret a complete blood cell count and a fasting blood glucose test should be given as the minimum work-up. This should be done once a year. Additional laboratory work, a blood chemistry profile, and an x-ray, may also be done especially if your ferret is showing signs of illness. Discuss this with your Veterinarian.

Diet - Ferrets are obligate carnivores. Their diet must contain a good source of animal protein and animal fats. Healthy dry kibbles include: Mazuri Ferret formula, Totally Ferret, Marshall Farms Ferret food, Shepherd and Green ferret food, 8 in 1 ULTIMATE ferret diet, Science Diet Kitten formula, or Iams Kitten formula. Grocery store bought cat or kitten foods often contain too little animal proteins and fats.

Supplements - If fed a good meat-based diet, a ferret will not need any supplements. Ferretone, Ferretvite, and Nutri-cal are popular ferret supplements, which can be used as treats and training aids.

Caging - It is a good idea to cage a ferret when you are not around to supervise his/her activities. I cage my three ferrets when I am not in their room, or when I am sleeping (in case of an emergency). Cages should be quite large, (I recommend Martins Cages) and easy to clean. They should have multiple levels with long sloping ramps. All wire floorings and ramps should be covered to protect sensitive ferret feet.

Litter - There are a few bad types of litter that can cause many health problems if used. Avoid the following types of litters:

  • Clay or clumping litter – Causes upper respiratory irritation (dust), dry dirty coat (from rolling in it), and airway obstructions (gets in nose and mouth).
  • Cedar or pine - contains vaporous pine oils and chemicals that cause upper respirator irritation, have been shown to cause liver enzyme elevation.
  • Corncob - harbors mold, is not digestible, and can be a source of intestinal impaction if swallowed.
I recommend using a paper based litter. A few good litters include: Yesterday’s News, Crown Animal Bedding, and Care Fresh. Your ferret's litter pan should be cleaned out every day. If you have multiple ferrets, you should consider cleaning it twice or more a day.

Bedding/Cage - Hammocks, beds, shirts, etc… should be washed at least every week. The whole cage should be stripped down and cleaned about every month.

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You should have the following things on hand:

  • Q-Tips and ear cleaning solution (for cleaning ears *DO NOT USE Q-TIPS WHERE YOU CANNOT SEE*)
  • Vaseline or a Laxative (to PREVENT hairballs)
  • Ear Mite Treatment (For Ear Mites)
  • Nailclippers (For Clipping Nails)
  • The telephone number to the vet and other important phone numbers (Just in case)
  • The vaccination cards and other medical information for your ferret/s (You want to be prepared)
  • Syringes (To measure and give medicine)
  • Brush (To PREVENT hairballs)
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste (To PREVENT dental disease)
  • Pedialyte (For dehydration)
  • Carafate (For Ulcers)
  • Hills A/D (For weight gain or older fuzzies that do not like to chew hard kibble anymore)
  • Karo Syrup or Honey (For in case a fuzzy has an Insulinoma shock. It can be a quick treatment until getting to the Vet)
  • Neosporin (for cuts & scratches)
  • Baby Food - chicken & rice (for Ulcers)
  • Styptic pencil (For in case nails get clipped too low)
  • Clean sterile cage (For a sick ferret)
  • Popscicle sticks (For splint)
  • Heating pad (For after surgery or when a ferret is too cold)
  • Pepto-Bismol or pepcid ac (For stomach upset)
  • Hydrogen peroxide (For infections)
  • A&D ointment or antibiotic ointment (For cuts or burns)
  • Band aids (For some small injuries)
  • Duck Soup (For sick ferrets)
***IMPORTANT NOTICE! Consult your ferret-educated Vet. before the use of ANY of the above!***

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Poisonous Plants

Compiled by Leslies2Babies

Aloe Amaryllis Asian lily Avocado Azalea Bird of Paradise Buckeye Buddhist Pine Caladium Ceriman Charming Dieffenbachia Chirstmas Rose Clematis Corn Daffodil Day Lilly Deadly nightshade Easter Lily Elephant Ears English Ivy Foxglove Gladiolas Golden pothos Hearleaf philodendron Holly Horseshead Philodendron Hyacinth Hydrangea Iris japonese yew lily of the valley macadamia nut mauna loa peace lilly mistletoe morning glory mother in law narcissus nightshade oleander onion orange day lilly philodendron pertusum poinsettia red lilly rhododendron saddle leaf satin pothos stargazor lilly tiger lilly tomato plant tree philodendron tulip variable dieffenbachia variegated philodendron wood lilly Yew American yew Baneberry Bittersweet nightshade Black locust Bloodroot Buckthorn Buttercup Calla Lily Cherry tree Christmas Candle Clematis Cowslip Daphne English yew Golden chain or Laburnum Hemlock Henbane Honey locust Horse chestnut Indian Turnip Jack-in-the-Pulpit Jimsonweed Larkspur Locoweed Lords and Ladies May apple Monkshood Morning glory Mountain Laurel Nutmeg Pokeweed Rhubarb Rosary peas Snowdrop Snowflake Sweet pea Tobacco Water Hemlock Western yew

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Fleas - fleas are small, blackish brownish creatures with strong back legs used for jumping. They are attracted to heat, and love to nestle up in cozy ferret fur. They use their mouths to suck blood from the ferret's skin, causing a lot of discomfort for a ferret. When fleas suck warm blood from your ferret, it triggers the female fleas to lay thousands of eggs all over your pets and house.

Ticks - Ticks look like very, very small crabs. When filled with your ferrets blood, they look like raised moles on your fuzzies skin. Sometimes ticks will hide in ferret ears. The tick actually embeds its entire head under its victims skin, where it then sucks blood.

Ear mites - Ear Mites are common in ferrets. They are blood-sucking just like fleas and ticks, and they hide in a ferret's ear canal. If left untreated ear mites could cause serious problems and can even cause deafness. Ear mites look like blackish to orangish blobs of ear wax.

Sarcoptic mange (scabies) - Sarcoptic Mange is an external bug that is in the mite family. It is easily passed from aniaml to animal or to human. Sometimes this mite will only attack the feet, resulting in Foot Rot. Foot Rot can cause claws to fall out if left untreated.

Ringworm - Ringworm is a fungal infection that affects the skin like many external parasites do. It can pass from animal to animal or to human.

Intestinal worms - Ferrets are prone to many intestinal worms including roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, flues, and lung-worms. These bugs live inside your ferret's intestines. They can be passed from animal to animal or to animal to human. Fleas can also pass along these bugs.

Giardia - This protozoan can get into your ferret through infected water sources (lakes, streams, ponds, tap water, etc...) or through the ingestion of infected poop. Once in your ferret's intestines, this bug will start eating away at the inner lining of the intestines.

Coccidia (coccidiosis) - Protozoan infection caused by the ingestion of infected poop.

Helicobacter mustelae infection - Bacterial gastric infection which eats the stomach lining. It is very common in ferrets and is caused the the ingestion of infected poop and it can also pass from a mommy ferret to her kit.

Heartworm - Ferrets can get heartworm from the bite of an infected misquito. These parasites then travel the the ferret's heart and can produce devastating results.

Toxoplasmosis - This is a parasite that is passed along to ferret's through the ingestion of infected cat poop. Cats are the only known animal to host the reproduction of this parasite. Ferret's can also get Toxoplasmosis through ingesting undercooked meat or the flesh of an infected animal.


Canine distemper - This disease is 99.99 percent fatal. The only treatment for this miserable disease is prevention. The disease is transmitted to ferrets by other infected animals.

Cardiomyopathy - This disease is rather common in ferrets over the age of 3. It is a heart disease that causes the outer lining of the heart muscle to harden. The heart will eventually weaken and the blood flow will decrease. The cause of Cardiomyopathy may be from birth, result of a virus or other problem. This disease generally has no cure, however there have been scattered reports of the curing of this disease.

Common cold - The influenza virus is the most common respiratory infection in ferrets. In healthy ferrets, recovery takes about five days, but in old or ill ferrets, recovery can take weeks. Sometimes the common cold can take a turn for the worst and turn into bacterial pneumonia. Try not to handle your ferret if you have a cold.

Dental disease - This disease is very common in ferrets especially over the age of five. It may be caused by a canned or wet diet, other diseases such as lymphoma, and lack of dental scrapings or tooth brushings.

ECE (epizootic Catarrhal Enteritis) - ECE is the inflammation of the mucous membranes of the intestines. Ferrets most susepticle to ECE include older ferrets and very young ferrets. Ferrets with other illnesses already are also prone to ECE. Ferrets with ECE are unable to properly digest water and food. ECE is transmitted through air, bodily fluids, feces, handlers, or direct contact with another ferret. It can take weeks or months for a ferret to recover with proper treatment. EcE can go from bad to worse, and can kill your ferret if proper treatment isn't taken.

Enlarged spleen - The spleen acts as a blood purifier. Enlarged spleens are common in ferrets, espcially as a ferret ages. No one knows why this happens. A ferret can have an enlarged spleen with no other problems. Your Veterinarian should be able to tell wheter or not your ferret has an enlarged spleen. Usually if the spleen is not causing any discomfort or other problems in your ferret, it does not have to be removed. You should discuse this disition with your ferret-smart Veterinarian.

Cataracts - Cataracts appear as a filmy lining or your ferret's pupil. Unlike with humans, cataracts cannot be removed. A ferret with cataracts will eventually go blind. Blind ferrets are not that much different from seeing ones, so don't get mad if your ferret does develop cataracts. If your ferret is under the age of 1 and developes cataracts, it may be the result of poor breeding. Some cataracts are caused by improper diet, disease, or an injury.

Tiny eyeballs (microphthalmia) - The title explains it all! Some ferrets are born with tiny eyeballs. The cause of tiny eyeballs is genetic. Other ferrets with microphthalmia have tiny eyelids, making it appear as though the eyeballs are tiny. This disorder doesn't seem to harm ferrets, except that these ferrets are more prone to cataracts then normal ferrets.

Hairballs - Ferrets are extremely prone to hairballs. Unlike cats, ferrets can not hack up a hairball. They can throw up, however the hairball usually becomes too big to either force up or down. Hairballs, if left untreated can cause your ferret to become seriously ill, or can lead to death. I suggest giving your ferret a laxative daily in order to prevent hairball blockages.

Intestinal and stomach blockages - Blockages are the number one cause of death in ferrets 2 years and younger. All ferrets, but especially young ferrets prone to swallowing things to big to keep going down the digestive tract. These objects just get stuck and start clogging up your ferret's digestive tract. I suggest giving your ferret a laxative daily in order to prevent deathly blockages.

Rabies - While ferrets are most likely not to get rabies, it is still a good idea to vaccinate your ferrets from it. There have only been less than 20 cases of ferrets with rabies since 1954. There are two types of rabies: Dumb rabies and furious rabies. Dumb rabies makes the animal lethargic and deathly ill. Animals with dumb rabies do not attack and usually die quickly. Furious rabies causes biting, aggression, and foam at the mouth. Although ferrets infected with rabies are extremely rare, studies show that ferrets exhibit dumb rabies, and die about a week later after being infected with it.

Ulcers - Ferrets who exhibit stress, possible bacterial infection, and ingest ulcer-causing substances including alcohol, aspirin, and certain medications are prone to ulcers. Ulcers cause the unability to digest food properly, and the oozing of internal blood vessesls. Early treatment is important because ulcers are a painful condition that can lead to death.

Urinary tract problems - Bladder problems are caused by the E. Coli bacteria found in poop (so clean that litter pan!). Staphylococcus is another bacteria that can lead to bladder problems. Females in heat and females with adrenal disease are more prone to this infection then other ferrets. Early treatment is imperative because bladder infections can travel to the kidneys and cause major damage that can lead to death. Prostate problems can be diagnosed by your Veterinarian by just feeling for an enlargement. This male condition is often a result of adrenal disease and may go away once the other condition is cured. Bladder stones are not that common in ferrets. The cause is still unknown. Some experts believe that bladder stones are caused by improper diet having too much ash or plant based protiens. Other ideas include a bacterial or viral infections or genetic links. If bladder stones get to big or collect in the same place, blockages can occur. This is deadly because your ferret will not be able to pee. Your Veterinarian may be able to diagnose this by feeling an enlargement in the bladder or actally the stones themself.


Adrenal disease - Adrenal problems are very common in ferret, but no one is for sure why this is. Some think early neuturing is the cause, others think prolonged light exposure is responsible, and yet others think that too much stress may also be a factor. The adrenal glands produce nessicary hormones that increase blood glucose levels, regulate electrolyte levels, increase musculature, and produce adrenaline. Basically, these are what gives your ferret his/her energy! As you can imagine, the adrenal glands are very important. With adrenal disease, a tumor forms on the adrenal gland and basically slows a ferret down. Most tumors occur on the left gland, which is easier to remove than the right. Once the gland is removed, symptoms usually gradualy disappear.

Chordomas - These tumors typically develope of ferrets age 3 and over. Embryonic tissues that don't develope into skeletal structure rest in between the vertebrae. These tissues sometimes continue to grow and form chordomas, which are tumors. There are two types of chordomas. The most common type of chordoma seen in ferrets is located at the tip of the tail, which looks like a hard lump. The rare and more severe type of chordoma is located near the head of the ferret.

Insulinoma - Ferrets with insulinoma have cancer cancer of the pancreas. The pancreas regulate the sugar level in the bloodstream. Cancer of the pancreas can cause too much sugar to be produced. Ferrets can get insulinoma as young as 2 but it more often strikes in ferrets 5 and older. There is no proven cause of this cancer.

Lymphosarcoma - This cancer is common in ferrets. Lymphosarcoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. There are two types that affect ferrets: Juvenile lymphosarcoma, which affects kits usually under the age of 14 months, and classic lymphosarcoma, which affects middle-aged and older ferrets. The cause is unknown, but some experts beleive that it could be genetic or enviromental. Others beleive that this cancer could be viral, able to pass between ferrets.

Skin Tumors - Skin tumors in ferrets come in all different shapes and sizes. Most tumors are benign, or noncancerous, although all are capable of becoming malignant, or cancerous. The three most common skin tumors are mast cell, basal cell, and sebaceous cell tumors. Mast cell tumors are formed by mast cells that migrate, for unknown reasons, to form tumors on any part of the ferret's body as a single tumor or multiple tumors. They are round, raised, often with no hair covering, and often bleeding. Your ferret may scratch these tumors because of the constant production of histamines, which will cause the tumor to ooze blood, and eventually scab over. Most of the time these tumors are benign, very rarely do they become malignant. Basal cell tumors are slow growing, wart-like, raised tumors with a little crater in the middle of each tumor. They are easily scraped or moved and can grow anywhere on the ferret. Sebaceous cell tumors can grow anywhere on the ferret. They are generally tumors of the skin's oil gland or hair follicles. They often grow rapidly and can become cancerous. They are odly shaped, sometimes branching out from each other. They appear as tan, brown, or blue lumps beneath the skin.

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There are two basic vaccines that your ferret will need to get: a rabies vaccination, and a canine distemper vaccination. The only one USDA-approved Rabies Vaccine is Imrab-3. There are two USDA-approved Canine Distemper Vaccines, Fervac-D and PUREVAX. There is also another Canine Distemper vaccine often used on ferrets called Galaxy-D. Most veterinarians like a particular vaccine, usually depending on the number of adverse reactions ferrets have using one or the other. Please discuss this option with your veterinarian. Because adverse reactions can occur, some veterinarians recommend that the Canine Distemper and Rabies vaccinations be given 2 weeks apart to minimize reactions. Remember to always stay at least 30 minutes in your vets office after vaccinating your ferret so that if your ferret does have a reaction, your veterinarian will be right there to assist.

KITS (0-1 year of age)

Canine distemper - A kit should receive his/her first canine distemper vaccination at 8, 12, and 16 weeks, and then at 1 year of age. Annual Yearly booster distemper vaccines should be given after this series of vaccinations. Usually the breeder, whether private or one of the large farms, has already given a kit its first Canine Distemper Vaccine.

Rabies - A kit should receive his/her first Rabies vaccine at 16 weeks of age, and yearly booster vaccines thereafter.


Canine distemper - An adult ferret with unknown Canine distemper vaccination history is recommended to receive two canine distemper vaccinations three weeks apart and yearly boosters thereafter.

Rabies - An adult ferret with unknown Rabies Vaccination history is recommended to receive one Rabies vaccination, and yearly boosters thereafter.

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These are things that almost all ferrets do. You *generally* do not have to worry about:

  • Excessive Sleeping (ferrets usually sleep 18-20 hours a day)
  • Yawning
  • Itching
  • Wiping butt on carpet right after poopin'
  • Wiping mouth on carpet right after eating something that is now smeared on face of fuzzy
  • Loose stools after a food change or water change
  • Lazyness just after a nap
  • Shivering right after a nap
  • Sneezing just after going into a dirty place
  • Hiccuping
  • Coughing: Coughing is usually a sign of minor iratation to the throat, or a piece of kibble swallowed too quickly and coughed back up. If coughing persists, contact your vet. Persistent coughing could be a sign of many illneses. So always be safe than sorry, and take your ferret to your vet if he starts coughing more than usual.
*REMEMBER: I am not a vet! You should not use ANY of this information on this site in place of your vets advice!*

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Every so often your ferret is going to have a bad poop. This is normal for ferrets to do, espcially because some ferrets can stress easily. Then there are times when these bad poops last for more then one or two poops. If this is the case, you may want to go in for a vet checkup. So, what is it that is making these poops bad? It depends on how it is shaped, what is in it, the consistency, frequency, color, and smell of the poop to really *try* and determine what is causing it. The *best* thing to do when your ferret is having bad poops is to take him to see a veternarian. Your vet is the best advice to give. This poop chart is just for trying to determin what is causing your ferrets bad poops. In no way do I try to take the place of your vets knowledge, so *please* do not use this chart in replace of your vet!!! Thank you! I am still in need of many poop photos. If you have any, please email them to me. Thank you!


Healthy poop photo copyright: Kristine


  • Black tarry poop: This usually means gastric bleeding, which is most commonly (in this case) caused by gastric ulcers. The black that you see is actually swallowed blood, usually occuring in the stomach. Your ferret has to have a lot of bleeding in the stomach for the poop to turn black. Consult your veterinaian immediately.

    Ulcer Stool Photo from http://www.afip.org/ferrets/ulcers.html

  • Bird seed poop: This is a very non-specific poop. It could come from many diseases that severely affect the small intestine. Usually when seen, your ferret's foods nutrients are not being abosorbed correctly and there for are not being digested right. Bird seed poop is most commonly seen with ECE. The little seeds are undigested fat and starches. You may want to consider removing your ferret from his regular kibble and feeding him/her a bland, easily digested diet (like chicken baby food) for awhile. Contact a veternarian.

  • Watery: suggests small bowel wall irratation. This could mean severe infections/toxins.

  • Foamy and bubbley: suggests a bacterial infection.

  • Greasy (often with oil around the anus): Indicates defective absorbtion of nutrients from the intestinal tract.

  • Excessive mucus (a glistening or jelly like appearance): This indacates colonic origin.

I know, it is really hard to determine the smell, but, it may help. TIP: the more watery the stool, the greater the odor!

  • Foodlike [or] Sour milk smelling: suggests both that the food is moving through the digestive system too quickly, and, that the nutrients your ferret is eating are not getting aborbed very well.

  • Decomposed and foul-smelling: suggests an intestinal infection.

  • Pasty, light colored: indicates lack of bile (liver disease).

  • Greenish (Dark or light) yellowish poop: This probably means that food is moving through your ferrets system too quickly. There are many things that could cause this: ECE, rapid food changes, lymphoma, almost anything. Know what is "normal" behavior for your ferret. If you also see lethargy, loss of appetite, or any other abnormal behavior, consult your veterinarian.

    Stool photo on the bottom: copyright Krista. Stool photo to the left: copyright Ruth.

  • Large, gray, rancid-smelling stool-indicates inadequate digestion or absorption (malabsorption syndrome).

  • Ribbon thin poop: Partial obstruction. Consult your veterinarian immedeately. Pick through your ferrets poop (you can use water for this) to see if you can find anything that your ferret may have swallowed that he should not have swallowed. Some ferrets will eat fabric, almost all ferrets like to munch on rubber, which he a huge no no!! To PREVENT your ferret from getting a blockage, give them a daily dose of laxative, about a one inch strip. This can help prevent hairballs too. Ferrets, unlike cats, cannot hack hair up; which is why laxative is so important for a ferret to have.

  • Straining/no poop: Think obstuction! Ferrets who are straining or have no poop at all need to seek veterinarian care immediately!

  • Several in an hour: suggests inflamation of the large bowel.

  • Three or four times a day (each large): suggests small bowel disorder or your ferret is not abosorbing his foods nutrients correctly.

  • Blood in poop: If in small amounts - This usually means a large bowel or rectum. See a vet for this. If seen in large amounts - This is either from shock or severe gastric bleeding. This is very serious and you will need to see a veterinarian right away.