Canine distemper is a serious viral disease that affects dogs as well as other types of animals like raccoons, coyotes, and skunks. Even pet ferrets are susceptible to canine distemper; here are four things you need to know about this disease.
How do ferrets get canine distemper?
Ferrets contract canine distemper through exposure to infected animals. The virus can spread through respiratory secretions, so if a sick animal sneezes near your ferret, your pet could get sick.
The virus can also spread through infected secretions. As you probably already know, secretions are body fluids and include things like saliva. If your ferret plays outside and comes into contact with soil, water, or other items that are contaminated with these secretions, they could get sick. You can even bring the virus into your house on your shoes if you've walked across an area that was contaminated by an infected animal's secretions.
What are the signs of canine distemper?
If your ferret gets canine distemper, they'll look sick immediately. You'll notice that their eyes and nose are running and crusty. Your ferret may keep their eyes closed due to the associated discomfort. Infected ferrets also tend to develop swollen, painful feet, and you'll notice crusts on their foot pads.
In the later stages of the disease, infected ferrets have convulsions and fall into a coma. If you notice these signs, take your ferret to an emergency vet right away.
Can vets treat it?
It's hard for vets to treat canine distemper in ferrets, and the mortality rate is close to 100%, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual. However, some treatments are available. Your vet can give your ferret immunostimulants to help their body fight off the virus, as well as supportive care like painkillers and intravenous fluids to keep them comfortable. If these treatments don't work, your pet will need to be euthanized.
How can you prevent canine distemper?
Since canine distemper is frequently fatal to ferrets, the best course of action is prevention. Your vet may recommend having your ferret vaccinated against canine distemper. Distemper vaccines that are meant for dogs are dangerous for ferrets as their bodies are quite different, so make sure that your pet is given a vaccine that is specially designed for ferrets.
After receiving the vaccination, your ferret will have a strong immunity against canine distemper. This immunity has been shown to last for as long as several years.
If your ferret is showing the symptoms of canine distemper, take them to an emergency animal hospital immediately.