Monthly Archives

December 2018

Common Illnesses of Ferrets

By Exotics No Comments

Do you own or are thinking of owning a pet ferret? It’s always an excellent idea to familiarize yourself with the most common health issues associated with your pet ferret so that you are prepared and ready to know when they may require veterinary attention.

Adrenal Disease

Adrenocortical disease is arguably the most recognized disease in pet ferrets today. “Adrenal disease” is the umbrella term for when a condition causes the adrenal gland(s) in the ferret to overproduce estrogen and/or progesterone steroid hormones. The most common characteristic sign of this disease is loss of hair (alopecia). This hair loss is commonly first observed on the ferret’s tail, causing a rat-tail appearance, and moves upwards along the ferret’s body. The hair loss is typically most obvious in the early springtime. Other clinical signs can include enlargement of the female external genitalia, overall total body itchiness, and sometimes difficulty urinating/urinary issues in male ferrets.

Adrenal disease is most common in older ferrets over 3 years of age. Adrenal disease varies in severity and presence of concurrent medical conditions, so diagnosis and treatment is decided on an individual basis. If you notice your ferret appears to be losing hair or appears itchy, your veterinarian will need to examine your ferret to rule out other possible causes including normal seasonal hair loss or an ovarian remnant (when female ferret that has not been spayed, or was spayed improperly).

The cause of such high rates of adrenal disease in pet ferrets is currently under debate. Suggested causes under research at this time include early neutering, too much artificial light, a genetic predisposition, as well as inappropriate diet. Speak with your veterinarian for further information about risk factors for your ferret developing adrenal disease.

Gastrointestinal Disease and/or Foreign Bodies

Ferrets make excellent pets due to their goofy unique personalities, their playfulness, and their relatively straightforward husbandry. Unfortunately along with their unique personalities comes a tendency towards naughtiness, and sometimes ferrets will get into things and may consume things that they shouldn’t be eating. It is important to “ferret-proof” your home to help prevent your ferret from gaining access to small items that they may ingest, leading to gastrointestinal blockages that often will require surgery to resolve, and can sometimes be fatal.

Ferrets are also prone to developing stomach and intestinal issues due to infection, inflammation, ingestion of toxins, or even cancer. Clinical signs of gastrointestinal disease or obstruction typically include lethargy, weakness, reluctance to move, and ferrets will commonly refuse to eat or eat less than usual, may lose weight, and may develop diarrhea. If you detect any one or more of these signs bring your ferret to a veterinarian immediately.


In North America, insulinoma has been recognized as the most common type of tumor in pet ferrets. Insulinoma is a tumor of the pancreatic cells that produce insulin, leading to an overproduction of insulin released into the blood. This overproduction of insulin into the bloodstream causes the ferret’s blood sugar to drop, a condition called hypoglycemia. Common clinical signs include lethargy and weakness, drooling, collapsing, walking abnormally, as well as seizures. Any one of the above clinical signs should prompt an immediate visit to your veterinarian, as hypoglycemia can become severe and fatal. A ferret with a diagnosis of insulinoma may require surgery, usually followed by long-term medical care.


Lymphoma, or cancer of the lymph tissues, is the most common malignant form of cancer in pet ferrets. Lymphoma can occur at any age in ferrets and the clinical signs associated with it will vary depending on the organ(s) affected by the tumors. Surprisingly, lymphoma is sometimes an incidental finding in a ferret coming to the vet clinic for another seemingly unrelated health reason, such as adrenal disease or dental disease, or even at an annual wellness vet visit. Treatment is often not curative, but is more commonly aimed at reducing the amount of cancer in the ferret’s body and maintaining the ferret’s quality of life. Treatment can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and different medication to keep the ferret comfortable and feeling well.

Dental Disease

Domestic ferrets in North America appear to be prone to developing disease in their teeth and gums. It is speculated that this high occurrence of dental disease may be due to consuming dry kibble as the mainstay of their source of nutrition, causing abrasion and wear-related damage to the ferret’s teeth. Ferrets are also known for chewing on toys and the bars of their cage, which can lead to damage to their teeth as well. Ferrets will sometimes break the tip of their canine teeth off due to inappropriate chewing of hard objects. Dental disease is commonly overlooked in pet ferrets due to generally lacking obvious clinical signs. Your veterinarian will check your ferret’s teeth during their annual wellness physical examination.

It has been suggested that moistening down the dry ferret kibble may reduce weathering of the ferret’s teeth. For more information on diet and nutrition in ferrets, please see previous blog post on ferret husbandry and care.

Heart Disease

Similarly to humans, middle aged and older ferrets are at risk of developing heart disease. Ferrets with heart disease most commonly show lethargy, difficulty breathing, may lose weight, may stop eating, and may cough. For unknown reasons, ferrets with heart disease may show weakness in their hind-legs. If you see any of these signs in your ferret, your veterinarian needs to examine your ferret, listen to their heart with their stethoscope, and they may recommend taking an x-ray of your ferret’s chest to examine the size of your ferret’s heart and the condition of your ferret’s lungs. Your veterinarian may also recommend an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) for a more detailed look at the valves in your ferret’s heart. Depending on the diagnosis, your veterinarian will prescribe medications to help support your ferret’s heart.

Though uncommon in this location, ferrets can become infected with heartworm. It is prudent to discuss risk of heartworm in your area and the potential need for heartworm prevention in your pet ferret with your veterinarian.

Thank you for taking the time to read about these common ailments to keep in mind when caring for your pet ferret. Of course this list of ailments does not cover everything that can affect your ferret’s health, so it is important to have your ferret checked annually by a veterinarian!

Happy Holidays!!

By Clinic news No Comments

Everyone here at Scott Veterinary Clinic would like to extend season’s greetings to you and your family!

What a year of growth and change we have had at the clinic since January! We have seen a huge increase in the number of avian and exotic pets that come through our doors. We love meeting new and exotic critters every day and helping to set them up for a lifetime of good health.

We have also seen a huge increase in the number of dental surgeries we are performing since upgrading our dental suite. We are able to complete much safer and more comprehensive dentistry, especially with the aid of the new dental x-ray.

This year we decided that we would like to use our skills and knowledge to give back to our community. We have developed a relationship with Hobbitstee Wildlife rescue. Hobbitstee is a registered wildlife custodian and a custodian of migratory birds. They rescue, treat, rehabilitate and release native Ontario wildlife of all sorts. Many of you have seen our posts on Facebook with some common and some not so common wildlife creatures. We help them by treating and caring for them as needed and hope with Hobbitstee’s skilled rehabilitation program they will one day be living wild again. This gives us great pleasure!


With all of this growth and change at the clinic we have decided that we needed more help. We gladly welcomed Dr. Justine Forbes to our clinic family in July.

Justine is a recent graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College and has a special interest in avian and exotic patients. She is very excited to begin getting to know all of our clients and patients. Sadly, Dr. Forbes had a motor vehicle accident in August which resulted in a badly fractured ankle. She has been off since then. She is recovering nicely at this point and you can expect to see her back in action early next year! We can’t wait!



You will also be seeing a new friendly face at the front desk over the next few weeks. We welcomed Laura to our clinic family just a few short weeks ago. Laura and her husband recently moved to Brantford. Laura gave up her veterinary receptionist position in Oakville to join us. Laura has 3 dogs Diego, Cash and Bailey and 4 cats Leonard, Sophie, Dexter and Manini. Laura is great with all types of pets and always has a smiling face to greet you. Please say hi to her the next time you visit.


The rest of the clinic family has all been doing well over the past year!


Dr. Lee’s twins, Aubrey and Colton turned 4 this year and have started Jr. Kindergarten. Her daughter Brooke has gone on to grade 4. Wow! Their puppy Max, that joined their family last year, has grown in leaps and bounds. He towers over all of the kids now and is especially adept at commandeering stuffed animals from them. (Santa is watching Max!) Dr. Lee attended the avian and exotic conference in Atlanta, Georgia this fall and brought back with her plenty of new knowledge and information that we will be able to use in our practice. She is also attending the North American Veterinary conference in Orlando in January which should be equally rewarding.



Dr. Mantle grew another beautiful flower and vegetable garden this year. Unfortunately, the deer that frequently visit her yard promptly ate most of it. Dr. Mantle still has her horse Victoria and her flock of chickens are doing well. All of her house felines keep her on her toes with their special needs. Dr. Mantle has also been to a conference this year. She attended the World Small Animal Conference in Singapore this fall. She plans to introduce some of the things that she learned to our practice next year.  



Holly spent the summer with her horse Frosty and her dogs Pepper and Willow. She kept busy practicing her riding skills and going to horse shows. She and Frosty worked hard and did very well. They are reserve champions in pole bending and dash for cash.  Holly has been very busy at the clinic developing new forms and charts for us to use with our patient care. She is so terrific at those things!



Sue has been doing a lot of work at home. She and her husband have been doing some renovations and home improvements. They also grew a beautiful garden this year that included a lot of Sue’s orchids that got to spend the summer outside. Sue’s cats Baxter and Rufous are constantly on the go. They are still young active cats and I suspect that they have something to do with all of these “home improvements”.

Sue is still the go to person for anything to do with surgery or dentistry. Sue has spent the last 25 years perfecting her skills in these areas and continues to learn new things every year.  Now if she would just give us a map to where she keeps everything!


Crystal is now settled into her new home. She and her husband Dave have been working on a few things too. Crystal has started doing some gardening and decorating and I think she’s got a knack for it! Everything always looks great! Crystal’s puppy Steve is all grown up now but continues to get into a lot of trouble. Her other dog, Tanner and cat, Baby just ignore him and go back to sleep.

Since Sue has been busy in surgery, Crystal has been in the lab and the radiology ward lately. Crystal always takes gentle care of your pets when getting a blood sample or taking a radiograph. She is a kind heart.


Kelly has been up to her usual stuff. She learned to surf in Hawaii this fall. Her pet family and human family are all well. Meadow is keeping Alejandro and Julian on their toes and Piper has been watching. Kelly’s chickens have cooped up for the winter. They are terrified of snow!  

Kelly continues to know all of your names and faces when you come in the door.   She has been working with the wellness plans as their numbers continue to grow. If you don’t have one yet, you should ask her about them the next time you are in.  

Our part time girls, Sam and Alyssa are still with us as well. Alyssa was married this summer to her fiancé Ryan. Alyssa and Ryan have a St Bernard named Nala, a Basset Hound named Willard and a cute kitty named Pickle. We are not sure when Nala is going to stop growing; the last time we saw her she was the size of a pony! 


Sam has also had an eventful year. She moved into a new place and adopted a crazy cat she named Chester to keep her other crazy cat Bandit busy. It worked out well-they are the best of friends, tearing up the house together! 



Spookie and Zeta have been keeping up their responsibilities around the clinic this year too. Zeta has been asking for a raise in her food rations because she feels her years of experience and her high skill level is deserving. That is debatable. The girls at the front think it would be a better idea to promote her to head technician so that she can work at the back and stay out of their paper work!


Spookie has entered her senior years, thus reducing her workload at the clinic. She is mostly in charge of monitoring the basement from a cozy stack of blankets. Occasionally Spookie makes a guest appearance in the exam rooms to do quality control of the cat treat (a job Zeta has been relieved of). 


Thank you for being part of our clinic family-we are so happy to have you.

We hope that we have served you well in the past year, and that we have in some small way made a difference in your life and the life of your pet. We truly care for each one of them as if they were our own. We wish you the happiest of holiday seasons and all the best for the New Year.



Ferret Husbandry and Care

By Exotics No Comments

The topic of this blog post is near and dear to Dr. Forbes’s heart: Ferrets! Although unconventional, ferrets are known to make wonderful pet companions. Ferrets have huge personalities, are capable of being litter-trained, and are intelligent enough to train to perform tricks! Pet ferrets tend to gain a bad reputation for looking like a combination of a rat and a snake, with the bad smell of a skunk. But despite this negative image, ferrets are known to be silly, fun-loving pets by those who own them.

If you or a family member is considering adding a new small companion into the household, a ferret may be the ideal pet–but only after careful consideration.

Did you know…

  • Ferrets were originally kept for rodent control purposes. It is very important to keep your ferret separated from prey species such as hamsters and rats!

  • Ferrets are escape artists! Any gap wide enough to accommodate their skull, typically the rest of their body will fit through as well.

  • Ferrets are mischievous, and are known to collect items around their living space and hide them. One ferret owner once found a stash of money their ferret had been hiding!


Each ferret is an individual and will have it’s own individual temperament. Overall, ferrets are known to be playful, curious, and energetic. They love to play and romp. When excited, a ferret will perform a “war dance” where they arch their back and leap and hop around, often bumping into the things in the process! Contrary to their playfulness, ferrets are similar to cats in that they sleep the majority of the day. Ferrets will sleep up to 18 hours a day and tend to be most active early in the morning and in the evenings. Some ferrets, particularly young ferrets, may be nippy, and therefore it is important to learn proper handling and be cautious when allowing children to handle them.

Finances & Vet Care.

The initial costs of purchasing/adopting your pet ferret will be considerable. This includes the cost of the ferret itself, a proper ferret enclosure with all associated dishes, toys, litter boxes, etc. Ongoing expenses will include proper nutritious food, litter, cleaning supplies, and replacement toys.

It is important to keep in mind that owning a pet ferret will be associated with veterinary bills. It is highly recommended that ferrets receive annual wellness examinations by a ferret-experienced veterinarian to ensure that your ferret is in good health. Just like us people, your pet ferret can get sick and may require veterinary care to ensure it lives a long, happy, and comfortable life! Ferrets are required in Ontario to have their rabies vaccination. Ferrets are also vaccinated for distemper. Both of these vaccinations must be boosted annually. Ferrets are prone to developing dental disease, and may require dental cleanings under anaesthesia by a veterinarian.

It is typical for ferrets in North America to be provided by large breeding facilities, which have their ferrets spayed or neutered as well as descented prior to sending them for sale at pet stores. Descenting a ferret is the practice of removing the anal glands as an attempt to decrease odour, however this practice is not performed in the UK due to the majority of the odour coming from the sebaceous or skin glands of the ferret.

Common ailments of ferrets will be discussed in the next blog post so keep an eye out!


Typical lifespan of a ferret is 6-12 years, with majority of ferrets in North America living 6-8 years. The range is so broad as lifespan tends to vary heavily with the source of the ferret (where it was bred/it’s genetics), proper care of the ferret, and often just plain luck. Ferrets are susceptible to a small group of diseases, which occur very commonly, and will be discussed in our next blog post for your interest.

Care and Husbandry.

That brings us to our next point, read on to find out what is involved in the care for a pet ferret!


You can purchase a ferret enclosure from most pet stores that sell pet ferrets. It is important that your enclosure is large (at least 24x24x18 inches) and offers ample enrichment. Ferrets should not always be confined to their enclosure and should be permitted ample playtime (min 2 hours/day) in a ferret-proofed area. Ferret-proofing requires ensuring that there are no gaps or holes in the room allowing escape into the walls, out of windows, into floor or wall vents, etc. Ferrets are capable of fitting into very small spaces and enjoy squeezing through gaps and tunnels. Enrichment ideas include playing with toys, playing with other ferrets, use of hammocks and tunnels, giving a variety of appropriate foods, hiding treats and foods, and providing unique materials such as boxes and bags for the ferret to enjoy. Provide multiple litter boxes for your ferret to do their business. Ferrets tend to prefer their litter boxes be placed in the corners of their living space. Use a pelleted litter material instead of clay or clumping.


It is known that ferrets, like cats, are obligate carnivores. This means that they require nutrients obtained from consuming meat only. This means that like your cat, your ferret cannot survive on a vegetarian or vegan diet. There are many commercial diets available at pet stores for your ferret. Feeding a commercial diet for a ferret is typically the preferred method of feeding a ferret, as they provide meat-based nutrition that has been formulated to meet a ferret’s specific nutritional needs, and these dry foods are convenient to purchase and feed. It is also possible to feed a good quality dry cat food to your ferret that uses meat sources and not grains. It is important to ensure that the food that is high in protein (30-35%) and fat (15-20%), and is low in carbohydrates and fibre. Some owners feed whole prey to their ferret. Do not give live prey to your ferret as there is the possibility of the prey biting or injuring your ferret, and though it is mimicking nature, it is not particularly humane. The suggested ideal diet in literature is currently to feed a high quality commercial ferret kibble, offer a freshly killed whole prey food item once weekly, and offer occasional canned cat food or alternate texture such as raw egg. It is vital to maintain proper hygiene when handling whole prey as raw meat can contain and grow harmful bacteria.

It is important to keep food available or offer food often, as ferrets have short digestive tracts and digest their food quickly. Ferrets, unlike cats, do not tend to over gorge themselves, though it is still important to ensure your ferret does not become overweight and has ample opportunity to be active and exercise. Keep clean, fresh water available at all times as well. Ferrets enjoy playing in water so it is important to ensure the water dish is not easy to tip over.


Ferrets are very social animals and typically prefer to be in pairs or small groups. It is possible to own a single ferret as long as you are capable of offering it plentiful playtime and enrichment. It is important to interact with your ferret often and offer positive interactions such as giving them treats (within reason), and playing with them using toys. Do not encourage your ferret to play fight with your hands as this can encourage nipping and biting. Never use punishment with your ferret, as punishment has been associated with the development of fear and aggression.

Ferrets are known to be a bit stinky, but they are actually very clean animals. Clean your ferret’s litter boxes daily and perform a full thorough clean of the entire space your ferret occupies at least weekly. You can bathe your ferret with a gentle ferret shampoo occasionally, but avoid bathing too frequently as this can actually stimulate production of oils and make your ferret more odourous!

Here at Scott Veterinary Clinic we would be more than happy to answer any questions or concerns you have about the husbandry of your pet ferret, or if you wish to discuss further if a ferret is the right pet for you!

If you are considering purchasing or adopting a pet ferret, please make sure that you check the by-laws associated with your municipality. Some cities and townships in Ontario have regulations that do not permit the ownership of ferrets at this time.


Some Ferret Facts!

  • Here in Canada our wild counterpart of the ferret is the black-footed ferret! They live across the prairies and grasslands of North America and are currently listed as an endangered species by the IUCN.

  • Female ferrets are called jills, males are called hobs, and babies are called kits.

  • A group of ferrets is called a “business”.

  • Ferret-legging was a competitive game said to have been popular in England, where people would put a ferret down their trousers and the winner would be the person to keep the ferret in their trousers the longest!