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Why Ferret Owners Need To Know About Canine Distemper Virus

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Canine distemper virus (CDV) is a condition that dog owners must be aware of, allowing them to take the necessary precautions to protect their pets. You might not give CDV all that much thought because you don't have a pet dog—you in fact have a pet ferret. However, it's all too possible for CDV to actually infect a ferret, and the results can be fatal. What do you need to know about CDV and your ferret?

Risk Factors

CDV is transmitted by infected bodily fluids, which can be feces and urine, as well as nasal and oral fluids expelled as aerosol droplets. There's little evidence to suggest that a human can carry CDV and infect an animal, so infection is usually via an infected animal. If your ferret has no interaction with other animals, the risk of infection is extremely low. However, should your ferrets be cared for by someone else (such as during a vacation), or you have other pets in the household who interact with other animals outside the house, then a risk—however small—exists.


If there's any risk of your ferret becoming infected with CDV, then some precautionary measures become extremely wise. Vaccinating a ferret against CDV is perhaps one of the lesser-known animal health services that your local vet clinic offers, but vaccinations exist. To reach the maximum immunization that the vaccine permits, your ferret will need several booster shots after receiving its first vaccination. But what do you need to do if an unvaccinated pet ferret begins exhibiting signs of a CDV infection?


Conjunctivitis, accompanied by a discharge from the eyes, can be an early warning sign of CDV in ferrets. Your ferret may become listless and generally lethargic. As the virus continues to attack your ferret's immune system, the skin around their chin and lips will thicken and become irritated. Eventually, the virus will overwhelm your ferret's central nervous system, and both cognitive and motor functions can be affected. You should seek treatment as early as possible.


CDV will be confirmed with an antibody test, and treatment must begin immediately. Your ferret is likely to need strong antibiotics, along with assistance in eating, fluid intake, and ongoing monitoring for several days. It must be acknowledged that early treatment is essential for recovery from CDV; however, it's possible that the thickening of key patches of skin will remain. Should your ferret's cognitive abilities and motor functions be irreparably compromised, euthanizing your ferret may be the kindest option. In short, don't delay seeking treatment. 

Although the worst effects of CDV in ferrets can be offset with vaccination, and the risk of infection may be low, it's important for ferret owners to be aware of the considerable danger that CDV can pose to their pets. To learn more or to have our pet examined, contact local animal health services today.