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Hi, I'm Sandra! Ferrets 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.

My name is Chance. Vaccinating 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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