MSD Manual

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Pet Owner Version

Emergencies of Ferrets


James K. Morrisey

, DVM, DABVP (Avian), Companion Exotic Animal Medicine Service, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University

Reviewed/Revised Jan 2020 | Modified Oct 2022
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Whenever a ferret appears to be lethargic or there is a sudden change in its behavior, a visit to the veterinarian is recommended ( see Table: When to See a Veterinarian When to See a Veterinarian When to See a Veterinarian ). Ferrets may hide signs of illness or discomfort until the illness is advanced, so a sick ferret can rapidly become critically ill.


Ferrets with an intestinal blockage will stop eating and defecating and may cough, choke, or begin vomiting with advanced disease. Any ferret with vomiting or diarrhea that lasts for more than 24 hours should be evaluated by a veterinarian because ferrets can quickly become dehydrated and weak. An occasional soft or irregular stool is not usually a problem. Bloody droppings can occur in both young and old ferrets for different reasons. Whatever the age of your ferret, if you notice bloody or dark, tarry droppings, you should seek veterinary care for your pet right away.

Poor eyesight and insatiable curiosity make ferrets susceptible to falls and other types of trauma, which may result in broken bones or internal injuries. Bent or disjointed limbs, limping, or difficulty coordinating the back legs may indicate a broken bone or other problems. There are many problems in ferrets that can lead to weakness of the back legs; any time this problem is seen, a veterinarian should be consulted.

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