In Australia, ferrets tend to be thought of as senior citizens when they get to their 6th birthday. I guess that would be about the same in the UK. However I understand that in America, 3 is considered old.
Sleep Patterns : Older ferrets sleep more but they still play when they are awake. Should you find yours doesn’t seem interested in playing, or seems to spend its whole time sleeping, then it would be prudent to take it to the vet for a check up.
Bumps and Lumps : Check your ferret monthly for anything that looks suspicious. A good way is to scruff it and then just gently run your hand down over its body so that you can feel if there are any unusual bumps or lumps, either on or under the skin. If you find anything untoward, take it to the vet for a check up.
Hair Loss : As ferrets get older, their tails seem to look very ratty. Friskie lost a lot of fur at the tip of her tail when she turned 8, and her coat looked pretty thin and ‘old’. As long as the hair loss doesn’t look like it is caused by adrenal problems, you shouldn’t get too worried but, of course, if in doubt, take it to the vet for a check up.
Hair coloring : You’ll notice when your ferrets get older, they’ll start getting gray flecks in their guard hairs (if they’re sables or silvermitts), especially on their flanks. You might even find your ferret’s mask becomes lighter. With albinos and other ferrets with white coats, you might find that their tails start looking yellowish, instead of creamy white.
Hind End Weakness : A couple of my oldies tended to shuffle around the house and seemed to look like they were ‘slipping’ on the tiles. Again, it is a sign of old age but could also mean something else, so get it checked out if you notice your ferret finding it hard to walk.
Dental Problems : Fortunately there were no problems with any of my oldies regarding their teeth, or eating their dry food. Every time I took them to our vet for a check up, she would say that their teeth were in excellent condition. I am a little reserved about the concept of having older ferrets’ teeth cleaned, as I have heard of several ferrets dying after that procedure. It could’ve been because they had an underlying problem which wasn’t noticed. However there is always a chance that the anesthetic can cause problems so if you find that there is excessive tartar build up on your ferret’s teeth, discuss it with your vet.
Cataracts : Chucky got cataracts when he was 7 and although his eyes were very cloudy, that didn’t slow him down when it came to moving around the house. Mash also developed cataracts towards the end of her life but, being an albino, it wasn’t very noticeable and, like with Chucky, it certainly didn’t stop her from scuttling around the house!
Your ferret relies on you to look after it – in sickness and in health. Make sure you don’t let it down.
Keep an eye out for anything strange and if you suspect any problems, whisk it down to your vet immediately. It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry!
You can read more on Elderly ferrets here …
Senior Ferrets From joys to sorrows, find out what to expect as ferrets age – by Mike and Arita Morrett
Living With An Elderly Ferret by L Vanessa Gruden
Elder Care by MD Ferret PAWS
Senior Ferret Care(Pet Care Veterinary Hospital)
Caring For Your Senior Ferret by Holly Nash, DVM, MS (PetEducation.com)
A good video showing how to syringe feed a sick ferret (petcareveterinary)
DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this page is not meant to replace seeing a veterinarian if you think your ferret is ill. It’s only meant to supply general information on a particular illness which was obtained either from personal experience with my sick ferrets, or from books and/or the Internet.