By Vicki Temple BVMS, MRCVS
If you, like me are a ferret owner, I am sure you know that your pet is very susceptible to the types of influenza (‘flu) viruses that affect humans. This means that they are also susceptible to swine flu but don’t worry, it is no more severe in ferrets than other types of ‘flu.
If you are unwell and suspect you may have flu of any kind, it is best to get a friend to feed and care for your ferret until you are well.
Signs of ‘flu in ferrets are similar to those in people with colds:
Normally, even in swine ‘flu, the disease runs its course in 4-5 days but, like us, if they get a bacterial infection on top of the virus, it can last longer. The illness is normally quite mild in adults but can be worse, even fatal in young ferret kits.
The risk of a ferret with flu passing it on to you is low and from a healthy ferret is negligible, much lower than the risk of catching it from another person!
If you think your ferret has caught ‘flu and is showing any of the symptoms above, you need to contact your veterinary surgeon. It is not known if antiviral drugs are safe in ferrets and they usually recover with supportive treatment such as plenty to drink, tasty, easy to eat food and anti-inflammatories. Often treatment can be given at home but in rare cases, your ferret may need to be hospitalised for more intensive treatment.
If you are worried about your ferret then it is best to phone and speak to your vet. Don’t forget to tell us if your ferret has been in contact with someone with swine flu so we can take the necessary precautions to prevent further spread if the virus.