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Life With Our Ferrets

Tunnels and Tubes Top

Ferrets love squeezing through tunnels and tubes. It's in their nature. That's one of the reasons they're so hard to keep out of things.

Our little fuzzbeans have numerous heavy cardboard tubes to climb through that are lying here and there on the floor of our upstairs where the ferrets are free to run. Poster tubes and carpeting tubes work well.

Ferrets also love dryer hoses as they make great tunnels. However, in our household dryer hoses are supervised toys only as our ferrets love to chew on them as much as romp around in them as evidenced both by Squirt doing his best to chew this dryer hose and by the general condition of the hose itself after being subjected to our ferrets for several months on a once-in-a-while basis. Dryer hoses are nice, but heavy cardboard or PVC tubes are safer.

Squirt Destroying a Dryer Hose
Atlas Enjoying a Poster Tube

Glossy Magazine Pages Top

All of our ferrets are interested in smooth, cool surfaces to body surf on. Squirt shows a special interest in this as he is the one who spends more time body surfing than any of the others.

The surface of choice is magazines and catalogs with super glossy pages. Squirt dives right in! He noses through the pages until he finds one he especially likes and off he goes, surfin' away! As you can see in this picture Squirt is contemplating the television science fiction show Babylon 5 (a show we happen to like a lot) as he prepares to start surfing.

We also have a big, plastic tub that has a smooth bottom inside that the fuzzbeans body surf in whenever we happen to leave it out. So if you see your ferrets rummaging through your Frederick's of Hollywood catalogs or nosing through your new special edition Spider Man comic, look out! No telling what they'll be up to next!

Squirt Reading Up On Babylon 5

Squirt's Rabies Vaccine Reactions Top

In early 1993, when Squirt was one year old and our only ferret, we took him to the vet for his annual check up and vaccinations. He received a clean bill of health and both his canine distemper and rabies vaccinations. After leaving the vet's office and getting down the road about a mile we noticed that Squirt was being rather quiet. We looked in on him and saw that he was lying flat on his tummy and not moving. After pulling the car over, we took him out of the carrier and noticed that he was vomiting, urinating, and deficating uncontrollably. His gums and tongue were also turning from pink to white to blue, and he was litterally as limp as an overcooked noodle. We immediately turned around to return to the vet's office.

When we made it back to the vet's office two of the vets immediately looked him over and decided that he was having a severe reaction to one of the vaccinations. He was treated with a cortizone and an antihistamine, and I snuggled him in my jacket to keep him nice and warm. The vets had us sit in one of their offices where it was nice and quiet for over an hour to make sure that Squirt was going to be okay. He eventually came around and we took him home. He slept for the rest of the day and was mostly recovered by a couple of days later. However, it wasn't until several months later that we felt he was fully recovered.

Squirt Lying Flat on the Floor

One year later, in early 1994, when it was time for Squirt to go back to the vet's again, we separated the two vaccinations by two weeks to find out which one was causing the problem. The vet also pre-medicated Squirt with a cortizone and an antihistamine before each vaccination as a precaution. Squirt received his canine distemper vaccination with no ill affects, and we were much relieved. The rabies vaccination, unfortunately, was a different story.

Two weeks after successfully getting his canine distemper vaccination, we brought Squirt back to the vet's for his rabies vaccination. After receiving the pre-medication followed by the rabies vaccination ten minutes later, Squirt started exhibiting symptoms of another severe reaction -- muzzle and ears turning bright red followed shortly by vomiting and uncontrolled urinating and deficating. Squirt was taken into the back room by the vets and given more medication, oxygen, and put into an incubator to help stabilize him. After more than thirty minutes he was brought back out to us because he was recovering and beginning to be restless in the incubator so the vet thought he was well enough to finish his recovery in our arms in the waiting room to make him feel more comfortable.

Several minutes after being returned to us Squirt's symptoms returned, and he had to be taken into the back room and put on oxygen and into the incubator again. After another twenty minutes Squirt was back in our arms looking a bit bedraggled, but much better overall. We stayed around the vet's office for another twenty minutes or so before deciding that Squirt was recovered enough for us to take him home.

Squirt recovered much more quickly this time, probably due to the fact that he was pre-medicated and that we were still at the vet's office when his reaction kicked in. Overall, we feel that Squirt's constitution has been taken down a few notches due to his two severe reactions, but he is now as vigorous as ever, and we hope that he will remain healthy for the rest of his life.

After Squirt's two incidents with rabies vaccinations, we decided not to vaccinate him any more for rabies. Both our vet and ourselves felt that the risk to his life on an annual basis far outweighed the possibility of him becoming infected with rabies and/or passing it on to anyone else. If Squirt ever did become infected he would most likely die of it in a very short time given his past experiences. Squirt still receives canine distemper vaccinations with proper pre-medication, and has suffered no bad reactions to date. We strongly urge every ferret owner to vaccinate their ferrets against rabies. The decision not to vaccinate a ferret against rabies can only be made on an individual basis, and the best default course of action that can be taken is to vaccinate until such a time as it proves to be more dangerous to the ferret's life than the possibility of contracting the disease. Many things must be taken into account in the making of such a decision, including, but not limited to:

  • The ferret's lifestyle -- 100% indoors, or sometimes outdoors
  • The severity of the vaccine reaction
  • The health and medical history of the ferret
  • The local, state, and federal laws regarding this issue
  • The local attitudes toward ferrets
  • The adivce of ferret-experienced veterinarians
  • The communicability of the disease in question
  • The interaction of the ferret with people other than yourself
  • Your attitude toward what will happen to your ferret if a bite incident does occur after deciding not to vaccinate

The worst part of our decision to no longer vaccinate Squirt against rabies is that he can no longer be the great ferret ambassador that he once was. We try to protect him from even the possibility of a biting incident with strangers by not letting others handle him any more. We are very very disappointed at this turn of events because he has always been our most gentle ferret and a terrific poster child for the ferret cause wherever we've taken him.

Atlas' Canine Distemper Vaccine Reaction Top

In early 1996, when Atlas was one year old, we took Atlas to the vet's for his annual check up and vaccinations. At this point in our ferret experiences we do not have both rabies and canine distemper done at the same time. Instead, we separate the administration of the two vaccines by at least two weeks. Atlas was going to be getting his canine distemper vaccine on this trip to the vet's.

Squirt received his usual pre-medication and canine distemper vaccine, and we were keeping an eye on him while vaccinating the others. Hijinx was vaccinated. Atlas was next, and then while Pippi was receiving her vaccination, Atlas started turing red in the muzzle and ears, and vomiting uncontrollably. The vet took Atlas into the back room where they medicated him with a cortizone and antihistamine, and put him on oxygen, and into an incubator.

Atlas Posing on the Bed

Almost an hour later Atlas was brought out to us. He was still a bit out of it, and as a result very sleepy and snuggly. We waited a bit longer at the vet's to make sure he was going to be alright, and then headed home. Atlas stayed in our arms all the way home, keeping warm by being snuggly. We kept an eye on him for the rest of the weekend, and by the next day he was up and running around like normal.

This coming year, in early 1997, we will have him pre-medicated before he gets his canine distemper vaccination and see how he makes out. If he has a severe reaction again even with pre-medication, then we will be in a bit of a pickle as to what to do the following year in 1988. Canine distemper is extremely fatal to ferrets, and can be spread very easily. A dog carrying the virus can pass through your back yard, and then you can walk through the same area and bring it into the house on your clothes. The thought of either not being able to vaccinate Atlas against canine distemper, or putting him through life threatening reactions every year is not very cheery.

We hope to post an update here after Atlas receives his canine distemper vaccination in early 1997 to let everyone know how he makes out. Wish us and him the best of luck!

Update: Well, here it is 1997 already, and we've taken Atlas to the vet's for his annual checkup and shots. We continue to give the rabies and canine distemper vaccinations for all of our ferrets separately just to be on the safe side.

Atlas had no problems with his rabies vaccination on his first visit, and was pre-medicated before his canine distemper vaccination on the second visit. We waited at the vet's office for almost 45 minutes after his vaccination shot was administred. During that time Atlas exhibited the following symptoms:

  • He became a bit more sedate that usual.
  • The pads on his feet became a bit warmer than usual, and so did the top of his head.
  • The pads on his feet turned a slightly brighter shade pink than usual, but did not turn bright red.
  • His ears seemed slightly brighter than ususal as did his muzzle, but less so than the pads on his feet.
  • The right side of his face below his eye down near his muzzle became slightly puffy.

Other than that he seemed to be okay. So, we took him home, and later that day he was back to normal, romping around with everyone else. We hope that he makes out as well next year in 1998, but we'll keep y'all posted regardless of what happens.


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