TEN THINGS FERRET OWNERS SHOULD KNOW
#1: DISTEMPER AND RABIES VACCINES
absolutely must be kept current on their canine distemper
and rabies vaccinations. Canine Distemper is 100% fatal in
ferrets; there is no cure. There is, however, a foolproof method
of prevention: vaccination. Kits need a series of three distemper
vaccinations to start off with, then ferrets need an annual vaccination.
There are two proven effective, approved canine distemper vaccines
available for use in ferrets: Fervac-D from United Vaccines and
Purevax from Merial. If either vaccines are unavailable in your
area, Galaxy-D is also acceptable, but has not been USDA approved.
If you intend to show your ferrets, be warned that some organizations
that host shows will not allow your ferret into the show hall unless
it has been vaccinated with a USDA approved vaccine. Encourage your
vet to carry Fervac-D or Purevax for use in ferrets!
You may be wondering why, if you do not have a dog and your ferret
has no access to dogs, that you need to vaccinate against canine
distemper. Canine distemper is an airborne disease, and your ferret
can be exposed to it in several ways. If you take your ferret out
for a walk, and he walks in the same area a dog has been previously,
he may become infected. If you come in contact with a dog, you can
become a carrier of the disease. Even if you are outdoors, nowhere
near a dog, you can still pick the disease up on your shoes and
clothing. Once your ferret comes in contact with the disease there
is nothing you can do for your pet, and it is a terrible death for
a ferret. With a vaccination, your ferret is protected.
your ferret with an approved rabies vaccination (IMRAB-3, available
from any veterinarian) is also important. While there have been
very, very few cases of ferrets contracting rabies (14 ferrets since
1958), if your ferret should nip the wrong person, it is possible
that they will press to have your ferret destroyed for rabies testing.
You should be aware, however, that most states do not recognize
the rabies vaccination in ferrets (due to the lack of shedding studies
done in ferrets) and if someone were to press to have your ferret
destroyed it could still happen. However, if your ferret is vaccinated,
it is possible that this will be a large enough deterrent to keep
someone from reporting the bite incident in the first place. Because
the likelihood that your ferret will contract rabies in the first
place is so slim, the biggest reason to have him vaccinated is to
protect him against those people who will not listen to statistics
or take the time to learn about ferrets, and who would insist on
reporting an innocent nip to authorities and subsequently having
your ferret destroyed.
Here are just a few of the FACTS about ferrets and rabies:
- Since 1958, the year the Center For Disease Control (CDC) started
reporting rabies statistics, there have only been 14 ferrets found
to have been rabid, and at least a few of these cases were attributed
to being vaccinated with the wrong rabies vaccination, resulting
in the disease. By comparison, between 1980 and 1992 alone (only
a 12 year window), there were 2,537 cases of rabies reported in
cats, and 1,996 cases reported in dogs.
- There has never been a transmission of rabies from a ferret
to a human reported in the United States.
- Ferrets are not (cannot be) left loose outdoors. They cannot
survive more than a few days out of captivity, due to the fact
that they have absolutely no survival skills left from their wild
ancestors. Because ferrets are not permitted outdoors except under
the close supervision of their human, there is virtually no chance
that they can become infected with rabies.
- It seems as though there is a natural resistance to the rabies
disease in the close relatives of the ferret, namely the weasel,
mink and ermine. During the period from 1989 to 1994, there were
10,733 cases of rabies reported in skunks in the United States,
and there were 21,447 cases of rabies reported in raccoons. During
this same period, there were exactly zero reported cases
of rabies in weasels, mink, and ermines. These statistics suggest
the possibility that there is a natural resistance to the disease
in the weasel family.
- There is a USDA approved rabies vaccine for ferrets; namely,
IMRAB-3 by Rhone Merieux.
If your ferret should ever nip or bite someone who you feel may
report the incident to authorities, or if someone is threatening
to destroy your ferret for rabies testing, CONTACT US or another
ferret shelter or organization IMMEDIATELY. We may be able to prevent
your ferret from being destroyed.
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