It is unfortunate to say that ferrets are not immune to fleas and can catch them, just like other pets do. Whether you maintain your ferret inside your house or let it roam free outdoors, there is a possibility of picking up fleas, especially if the weather is hot.
Because of this, all ferret owners must understand how to get rid of the pesky fleas, and how your ferret caught them in the first place.
What Are Fleas?
Fleas are small wingless insects that can feed on both animal and human blood to survive and complete their life cycle. Although they originate from outdoor locations, particularly moist and shady places, such as shrubs, tree stumps, and leaves, they also attach themselves to a host to infest human homes. Since they do not provide any benefit to their host and cause harmful health conditions to them, fleas are considered parasites.
In regards to their physical characteristics, they are extremely small (measure about 3 mm in length), possess no wings, and are usually dark-brown coloured. Even though fleas are unable to fly, their hind legs are built to jump large distances in relation to their sizes. Because of this, they are capable of reaching new hosts and infesting various animals in a determined area.
Fleas attach themselves to many household pets, such as dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and ferrets. They can also bind to certain birds, like pigeons, chickens, and turkeys, which allows them to travel long distances and increase their infestation.
How do Ferrets Catch Fleas?
It is rather uncommon for a ferret to pick up fleas if you maintain it inside your house. However, if you have other pets, like a dog or a cat, it increases the probability of infesting your house. Dogs and cats are more likely to roam free outside your house or to take them for a walk or the park.
In these places, they can catch fleas and later passed them on to your ferret. Even more, the fleas can jump from your other pets to the ferret when they rough-play or come into contact. If you also allow your ferret to roam around your backyard and plants, it increases the chances of having fleas.
Because of this, Ctenocephalides felis (cat fleas) are the most common parasites that invade ferrets. Dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis) can also infest ferret fur, but it less frequent when the dog is large and fleas have no need to feast on other hosts.
Ferrets can also catch fleas from furniture that contain dormant flea eggs. Remember that fleas thrive in warm and humid places and do not fare well in cold locations or during winter. Some people believe that fleas are unable to survive in cold temperatures, but that’s not the case.
Research reveals that flea eggs can stay dormant for up to two years in particular objects, like furniture and clothing. Therefore, if you bring used furniture to your home and maintain warm conditions, the fleas can wake up and wreak havoc to your house and pets, including your ferret.
How Harmful are Fleas to Ferrets?
Fleas can cause serious health conditions in your ferret if not appropriately treated. First of all, they require blood for survival and to reproduce. Female fleas need blood to lay their eggs, and generally, do it two days later after feasting on some blood.
Severe infestations can cause anemia in your ferret since they are draining all the blood, which is vital to transport oxygen and nutrients to all the organs in your ferret’s body.
The fleas’ feces, also known as flea dirt, can cause allergic reactions since some ferrets have sensitive skin and overcoat. Their skin can be prone to papules and pustules, which leaves them vulnerable to secondary bacterial and fungal infections. Some infections are dangerous and become life-threatening for your ferret.
Finally, fleas are also hosts to other parasites and microorganisms, which can be transmitted to you and your pets when they feast on blood. For example, fleas can contain and deposit tapeworm eggs on your ferret’s fur, and they can be accidentally ingested when your ferret grooms itself.
These worms cause severe digestive symptoms (diarrhea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and weight loss) and lead to malnourishment since they absorb all the nutrients from the food.
Other diseases transmitted by fleas are Bubonic plague, typhus, tungiasis, and the cat-scratch infection. Although some illnesses are more frequent in certain countries, international affairs have made it easier for fleas to carry them all these parasites.
Symptoms Present in Ferrets
Usually, ferrets do not present symptoms in the beginning since they are quite hardy. However, you may observe that your ferret is biting or scratching itself in certain parts of their body. Allergic reactions are quite common and can produce hair loss, small bald patches, swollen red marks or sores, and discharge from secondary infections.
Your ferret may experience weakness, fatigue, tachycardia, and loss of appetite due to chronic anemia. Other symptoms, like diarrhea, fever, eye discharge, and vomiting, can be attributed to other parasites transmitted by fleas.
When you groom your ferret, you may see moving fleas on their fur and skin or falling flea dirt as you comb their fur. Flea droppings resemble pepper grains and are comma-shaped,
Is it Necessary to Visit a Veterinarian?
It is highly advised to consult your local vet before treating your ferret with shampoos and ointments. Although fleas are likely the cause of your ferret’s itching and bald patches, especially if you have seen the fleas, there could other causes of these symptoms. Your vet will be able to assess your ferret’s health and determine the best treatment.
Remember that your ferret may have other parasites infesting its body, and other medication may be required to eliminate them from their system. Even more, your vet can also detect other diseases that may be troubling your ferret, without you even knowing. There is nothing more important than providing your ferret with the best quality of life possible.
Once the vet has properly diagnosed your ferret’s health condition, be sure to follow his or her instructions so your beloved companion can recover quickly.
How to Get Rid of Fleas?
To fully eradicate fleas from your home and pets, you must make changes and apply treatments to the environment and your pets.
How to Remove Fleas from your Home?
Ideally, you must rinse all of your bedding and clothing with hot water to kill any fleas present. You must also treat the floor and carpets with flea powder and use a vacuum cleaner afterward, all the furniture and carpets.
Additionally, you must wash your ferret’s cage and bedding to remove any remaining flea eggs. They must be washed with soap and hot water and resort to replacing your ferret’s bedding at least three times a week the following month to ensure that you have eliminated all fleas.
If the infestation is too severe, you can apply a “bug-bomb” to fully eradicate all fleas in your home. This is done in two steps, and it is necessary to consult your vet about what insecticide will not harm your ferret’s well-being.
The first treatment is applied to kill all adults fleas and larvae, while the second one is to kill all the remaining eggs present in the furniture and carpet. You apply the second treatment about three to four weeks after the first administration.
It is necessary to remove your ferret and other pets out of your house’s premises when you decide to apply the bug-bomb. Although some insect sprays are pet-friendly, they can still cause certain side-effects, like nausea, vomiting, and irritability to your pets.
How to Treat Fleas on Ferrets?
The best option to treat your ferret is with a flea shampoo. It is imperative that you inspect its ingredients, and it must not contain organophosphates, distillates or carbamates. These substances are harmful to your beloved ball of fur. His shampoo must be based on pyrethrins. You must apply this shampoo at least once a week for two to three months, or until you are unable to see any fleas when you comb your ferret’s fur.
You can also use other flea products, such as powders, creams, and sprays, but it is best to seek advice from a veterinarian so he or she can evaluate what the best option for your ferret is. Additionally, your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication or antibiotics if he also has an infection or skin irritation.
You must avoid ferret flea collars at all times as it contains a substance called dichlorvos. This compound is toxic to ferrets and causes allergies and hazardous health issues. Other compounds, such as cedar oils, are harmful to many pets and ferrets and must be avoided as well.
Incorporating apple cider vinegar in your ferret’s water bowl is another approach to treat and eliminate fleas. Studies show that apple cider vinegar makes your ferret’s blood repellent to ticks and fleas and reduces the infestation.
You can accomplish this by adding three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a gallon of water and providing regular portions to your ferrets. This remedy is also recommended to other pets in the house.
It is necessary to check your house and outdoors every once in a while to verify that there are no fleas present. You want your furry friend to be as mischievous as always. Remember that a healthy ferret is a happy ferret and sometimes, you do not need anything else.