My Ferret Has Fleas: How To Treat Fleas In Ferrets

Ferrets are known to get external parasites, therefore seeing fleas in ferret is quite common. If your ferret is only indoors, the chance of getting fleas is significantly smaller. Fleas and ticks are more typical in ferrets that go outside or are in contact with other animals that spend time outside.

If notice fleas in your ferret, they will become itchy. As a result they will develop red patches on their skin, sores and lose hair. If the flea infestation becomes severe, it can lead to blood loss and extreme lethargy.

Infestations need to be treated aggressively and never hope it will go away on its own. The treatment must involve the ferret, the home environment, and all other pets must receive the correct anti-flea treatment.

The most common parasite that can affect ferrets is the cat flea. If you allow your ferret to go outside, they are more likely to get infected. If your pet or yourself have allergies towards fleas, the reaction will be much more severe.

Unfortunately, there are no approved products to treat fleas in ferrets. The good news is that cat flea treatments have been proven to be successful. If your pet ferret has fleas, you should consult your vet regarding the best course of treatment.

What Are Fleas

Fleas are dark in color, small parasites that use other animals’ fur coat as environment to live and feed on their blood by biting them. They infest dogs, cats and ferrets. The flea’s bite can lead to skin irritation and itchiness, bold patches.

In addition to that it can lead to lethargy and weakness. Most ferrets won’t exhibit symptoms but if they have allergies, their reaction could be more severe.

Fleas lay eggs quickly and will multiply continuously until the problem is addressed and eliminated. Once the fleas are in your house and living in your ferret’s fur, they can spread to soft furniture in the house such as carpets and sofas.

To prevent such flea infestation, you should take your pet to the vet the moment you notice the first symptoms of fleas.

Symptoms

  • Biting, scratching and nibbling – you might notice your ferret scratching or biting their skin and fur. We all have an itch from time to time, so it’s normal for your ferret to scratch but if you notice this behaviour to be more than usual and especially if they are nibbling on their coat, it’s very likely they have fleas. If you have more than one animal in the house, you might notice the same behaviour from them aswell.
  • Flea dirt.  – flea dirt is a mix of the flea’s fecal matter and dried out blood. You’ll be able to spot this on the skin of your ferret. It will look like a red/brown bits/drops. In addition, you can use a damp towel and wipe it across your ferret’s fur and skin. If you see those drops on the paper and some reddish colour around them, it means that’s flea dirt and therefore your ferret has fleas. 
  • Live fleas. In some cases, you might be able to see the fleas crawling on your ferret’s fur and skin. You can purchase a special comb that you can run through the ferret’s fur and see the fleas on the comb. Usually the fleas hide around the tail.     
  • Anaemia. In some extreme cases, when the fleas have been biting the ferret for a long period of time, there can be a lot of blood loss. Subsequently, this can lead to anemia. You’ll notice your ferret becoming lethargic, weak and their gums starting to look pale. 
  • Hair loss and scaling – As your ferret will become very itchy and anxious, they will start scratching and biting themselves any chance they get. As a result of that, their fur will start to fall out and you’ll notice patches of bold areas on their coat. You can prevent this by purchasing a plastic cone to put around their head, so they can’t reach and bite whilst their flea treatment is on-going.

If your ferret develops anemia due to the blood loss, this can also result in a secondary infection. It’s especially important to take your pet to the vet and keep a close eye if they are responding to treatment and de fleaing them daily.

The secondary infection can lead to dangerous conditions such as tachycardia which is a rapid heartbeat.

Causes

There are a lot of different flea species. What type of flea your ferret will attract, depends on their environment. If your pet goes outside, it can get fleas from wild animals.

However, the most common flea that they can get is either the cat flea, also called Ctencephalides felis or the dog flea, also known as Ctencephalides canis. They are more prone to be exposed to the cat or dog flea if they live with other pets or alternatively you can even bring the fleas into the house on your shoes.

To summarise, the most common reasons a ferret will get fleas are the following:

  • If the ferret lives with another pet and this pet catches fleas, then the fleas will jump from pet to pet
  • If they have contact with wild animals

Diagnosis

The best ways to diagnose this condition by yourself is to check if your ferret has any of the symptoms. Most of the time you’d be able to see the fleas either on your ferret or even on your furniture.

However, you should still take your ferret to the vet not only for the diagnosis but also to get a recommendation for the best course of treatment.

Treatment

One of the most recommended treatment is to wash your ferret with a flea shampoo once a week for up to 3-4 months. There are also other options available such as:

  • Spot on treatments
  • Topical creams
  • Sprays

It’s important to take your ferret to the vet, so they can prescribe the most effective course of treatment depending on your ferret’s condition. If your ferret has any skin redness or irritation, your vet might prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication.

Lavender oil is a herbal treatment that can be used to calm skin redness and irritation. 

Living and Management

Completely removing fleas from your household can prove to be extremely difficult. Fleas are very stubborn pest as they reproduce quickly. Therefore, if you only treat your pet but not your house, then the new eggs will hatch and will latch on to your pet again.
It’s essential to do the following:

  • Treat your ferret
  • Treat any other pets in your household
  • Wash all animal’s bedding, cage and anything your ferret comes in contact with
  • Wash all human bedding
  • Hoover extensively daily whilst the flea treatment is on going

If you live in a place with a colder climate, you’ll find that it’s easier to get rid of fleas as the cold keeps the parasites away. Whereas, if you live in a warm climate, you’ll probably have to use flea products throughout the year.

How Does It Affect My Health

Once you have fleas in your household and they are using your pet as a host, the fleas will also start crawling and jumping on your soft furniture and bedding.

Subsequently, the fleas could start biting you aswell. In most cases this will result in itchiness and bumps on the skin. It can get extremely uncomfortable to sleep or to have skin on show, as that’s what the fleas are looking for.

In worst scenarios, a person can develop a condition called Bartonella, also known as cat scratch disease. A person can contract this by accidentally ingesting flea faeces or the faeces getting into an open wound on the skin. Bartonella is similar to the flu, so people wouldn’t always know they have it. It usually resolves on its own.

The symptoms of Bartonella are the following:

  • Low fever
  • Swelling of lymph nodes
  • Joint aches and swelling
  • Skin rash

In worst case scenarios, this disease can cause extreme fatigue and chronic headaches.

Tips and Overview

  • Treat all your pets in the household with the flea treatment – if one has it, all have it
  • Treat ALL of your home – wash and hoover daily
  • Use flea killing spray that you can spray in your house and on the furniture (make sure your ferret and other pets are not around as it can block their airways)
  • Clean all carpets and sofas
  • Wash fabrics at a temperature of over 60 degrees in order to kill any fleas 
  • Clean and disinfect your ferret’s cage and bedding

By using the flea treatment on your ferret and other pets their skin will be toxic to the fleas and it will kill any adult fleas before they get the chance to lay eggs. In addition, by cleaning regularly and using flea killing spray, you will remove the flea eggs before hatching.

You need to continue doing this religiously for several months in order to avoid any eggs hatching or adult fleas surviving for long enough to lay eggs. By following those steps, you will reduce and hopefully eliminate completely the fleas in your house.

Read more about diseases in ferrets by clicking here What Diseases Do Ferrets Get

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