For people with pet ferrets, warm, humid weather can bring one potential problem: fleas. These small, parasitic insects can cause serious discomfort and other health problems in your pet. And with flea eggs being able to remain dormant for years, a full-blown infestation can take pet owners by surprise. Luckily, there are many available treatments out there which can quickly solve the problem.
How to Tell If Your Pet Ferret Has Fleas
A quick combing through or blowing of your pet ferret’s fur can reveal if fleas are stuck on the skin. They range in color from dark red to black and are about the size of a pen tip. Dark, dirt-like flecks can also be present in the fur. These are flea droppings and are one of the first signs that you may have a full infestation in your hands. The fleas and their residue are often found in between the shoulder blades and on the stomach area, so these are good places for you to check if you suspect you have a flea problem.
Fleas chew on the skin and suck blood from your pet’s wounds. Because of this, they can also be the cause of more serious health conditions. They cause the skin to itch, so check for heavy scratching behaviour. This is especially true if your ferret is allergic to fleas and their droppings. The scratching can lead to bald spots and inflamed skin. In some ferrets, there is also major blood loss and anaemia, which can cause stumbling and weakness. Other symptoms include diarrhoea, anorexia, vomiting, and drooling.
It should also be noted that any of the symptoms above can be caused by other factors, so before rushing into any kind of treatment, be sure that you have actually seen the fleas on your pet.
Causes of Flea Infestation
Although infestations are more common during the summer, the eggs can be in the vicinity of your pet long before that. Fleas can come a variety of sources:
Other pets: If you suspect that your ferret has fleas, it is likely that it came from the other animals in your home. If you have dogs or cats, check them for any of the symptoms mentioned above. You should also note that fleas hop from one host animal to the next, so any animal in contact with your pet, even pets of neighbours or visiting family and friends, can transfer the fleas onto your ferret. Humans: While fleas prefer other animals as hosts, they have also been known to bite humans.
You can be a carrier as well, so aside from checking your pets you should also check if you have a flea problem. Old Furniture: Even objects can transport fleas from one place to another. If you have bought any furniture from second-hand stores, you have an increased risk for flea infestations.
If possible, check your furniture for eggs before bringing them into your home. Rodents and other pests: Having a rat or mouse problem in your home often increases the risk that your pets with get fleas, so contacting an exterminator is a must. Even visiting wildlife like raccoons or possums can be carriers. Unfortunately, wild animals may be beyond your control especially if you live near forests, so you will just have to carefully monitor your house pets.
How to Get Rid of Fleas
Once you have confirmed that your ferret has fleas, bathe it immediately with flea shampoo. Make sure that the shampoo you use is suitable for kittens — its active ingredient should be pyrethrins. Shampoos containing organophosphates, petroleum distillates, or carbamates can be harmful to your ferret, so avoid these.
To remove fleas from the ferret’s face, use a comb, keeping the soap away from your pet’s eyes and nose. Alternatively, you can use flea towelettes, which have all the benefits of a flea shampoo without the hassle of rinsing. For young ferrets, some people also recommend using Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. Although it does not specifically target fleas, the parasites hate the taste of the shampoo, so they will jump off your ferret. Johnson’s is a mild alternative to traditional flea remedies and is easy to find.
You can also try applying a small amount of organic insect repellent (such as Burt’s Bees Honey Insect Repellant) on your ferret’s fur. If you think it may be too harsh for them, apply it first on your hand then dab small amounts of it on spot areas of their body, avoiding the head. Generally, you should steer clear of flea sprays and powders, as they can maybe toxic to your ferret, There are some notable exceptions, though, such as the following: Frontline: An economical product that works on fleas and ear mites.
For ferrets, 1 spray per pound is an ideal dosage Advantage: A popular product among ferret owners because of its efficacy. Apply this to shoulder blades, but not after washing as it is water-soluble. Revolution: Highly effective against fleas, ear mites, and skin mites. For safety, make sure that your ferret passes a negative cardiac worm test before use. After using. shampoo and other topical treatments, your ferret should feel relief for a few weeks.
If you want a long-term relief though, you can also try flea pills or suspensions, which are mixed with your pet’s food. It is advisable to take one whole dose with meals; in fact, the medication has been found to be more effective when taken with food. If possible, remove the ferret from your home and use a bug bomb spray around its cage and furnitures in the house. Together with IGR (insect growth regulator), you can target fleas at all life stages. When used correctly, these should be able to remove all the fleas, eggs, and larvae within two applications.
Just ask your veterinarian to provide you with these. You can also add some apple side vinegar to your pet’s water. This makes the ferret’s blood taste unpleasant to the fleas and ticks. You can start with a small amount and gradually build up to a full dose if your pet doesn’t take too well to the taste of the vinegar.
Preventing Future Infestations in Your Home
Once you have eradicated the fleas from your pet, it’s a good idea to do some additional measures to prevent the fleas from coming back. These are also general preventive measures to stop fleas from entering your home at all.
Keep wild animals away from your yard. All your efforts to get rid of fleas will be in vain if an infected animal makes contact with your pet. Fleas are so easily transferred from one host to the next, so don’t take any chances by letting feral animals near your home.
Build fences or put up screens where necessary to keep strays at bay and don’t leave any food lying around which can lure them. Speaking of yards, it is important to landscape your garden and regularly trim shrubs and bushes. Messy gardens are possible hiding spaces and the perfect breeding ground for parasites of all kinds, so a simple trim can make a lot of difference. Thoroughly wash all beddings, curtains, and cushions.
Even if you have gotten rid of the adult fleas and larvae, flea eggs can still be embedded in any cloths you have around the house. Wash them in hot soapy water to make sure the eggs die. You should also wash your beddings regularly to prevent future infestations. Exercise caution when buying antique items and furniture from second-hand stores. Clean all of these items throughly with soap before even bringing them into your home.
If you have carpets, sprinkling salt and baking soda over them can also kill any embedded organisms. Vacuum them and flush down the waste from the vacuum bag. Regularly clean your pet’s cage with soapy hot water at least twice a week. Keep your home clean. This may seem obvious, but it is more difficult for fleas to grow if you regularly clean your furniture and vacuum your home. Comb your ferrets to remove any leftover parasites.
You can do this every day with a bucket of soapy water nearby for disposal of the fleas.Dr. Mike Merchant from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service highly recommends the use of DE or diatomaceous earth. It is a powdery substance, made with ancient marine plankton, that has been proven to dry out fleas at all life stages.
It is also organic and non-toxic for children and pets, so you can sprinkle this around your home without worry. You can find this at hardware or seed stores — just be sure to get the food-grade variant. You can also try putting a glass of soapy water near a light source, such as a lamp. The light draws out the fleas, causing them to jump in the water. The suds will kill them instantly. This tip works not just for ferrets but for dogs and cats as well.