Influenza, also known as the flu, is a well-known illness among people, but you may not know that it can also affect your pet ferret. Here are four things you need to know about ferrets and influenza.
How do ferrets get influenza?
Ferrets contract influenza in the same way that people do: through exposure to infected respiratory droplets. When a person or ferret that has influenza coughs or sneezes, infected respiratory droplets become airborne. Breathing in these droplets can lead to infection. These droplets can also contaminate surfaces, and if a ferrets touches an infected surface, they can get sick.
What are the symptoms of influenza in ferrets?
Ferrets react to influenza in much the same way that people do; in fact, researchers use ferrets to study human influenza because the reactions are so similar. If your ferret has influenza, you'll notice that they have a fever, are lethargic, and aren't interested in their food. Sick ferrets tend to sneeze and cough frequently and produce nasal discharge.
Ferrets experience one influenza symptom that humans often don't: neurological symptoms. This may include things like uncontrolled movements or losing control of their legs. If you notice these signs, make sure to see an emergency vet, such as the Bramalea Animal Hospital, right away.
Can it be treated?
Your vet can offer supportive treatments to keep your pet comfortable while their immune system fights off the influenza virus. Supportive treatments include things like intravenous fluids or painkillers. If your pet develops a secondary infection, like pneumonia, your vet will prescribe antibiotics.
Human flu medications can also be given to ferrets. For example, antivirals like amantadine can be used. With these treatments, ferrets with influenza tend to get better within seven to 14 days.
How can you keep your pet healthy?
If you have the flu, or if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, keep your distance from your pet because ferrets can get influenza from people. If possible, have a healthy friend or family member look after your pet until you're not contagious anymore. According to the CDC, people with influenza are contagious for 5 to 7 days after symptoms start.
If your only option is to look after your ferret while you're sick, make sure to wear a mask and gloves to protect your pet. It's also important to wash your hands frequently. With these precautions, you can reduce the risk of giving your ferret influenza.
If you think your ferret has influenza, take them to an emergency veterinarian right away. With treatment, your ferret should be healthy again in no time.