Written by Mike Corcoran, DVM, DABVP (R/A), CertAqV
Ferrets are prone to heartworm, just the same as cats and dogs. Heartworm is usually fatal in ferrets, but fortunately it is also easy to prevent with a monthly topical product applied to the back of the neck.
Two vaccines should be given to your ferret:
Distemper is a virus that affects the respiratory and nervous systems and is almost always fatal in ferrets. The vaccine is given every 3 weeks until 12 weeks old (at least 3 as a baby), then boostered every year.
Rabies is given at 12 weeks of age, then annually. This is state law in Massachusetts. It is also good defense against a fatal disease. If not vaccinated and your ferret bites someone, even at play, they could be subject to strict quarantines or euthanized.
Ferrets do have more frequent reactions to vaccines, though the vaccines of today are far safer than previous years. To be safe we often give an injection of Benadryl prior to the vaccines and may not do both vaccines the same day if your ferret has a history
Just like dogs, cats, and us, ferrets get only one set of adult teeth. These teeth will build up tartar and calculus. This material can irritate the gums and cause infection. The bacteria from the gums can get into the bloodstream and affect other organs.
Ferrets usually require a professional cleaning and polishing periodically, just like you do. This is done under general anesthesia to ensure a good cleaning.
Between professional cleanings, and to reduce the frequency of those cleanings, you can teach your ferret to allow you to brush his/her teeth. Be sure you use a very small soft toothbrush and a toothpaste designed for pets.
Start by allowing your ferret to eat a small amount of Ferretone or Nutri-Cal from the toothbrush or finger brush. Slowly introduce the idea of rubbing the brush along the teeth. Start with the front teeth alone for 1-2 weeks and gradually move around to the sides so that all the teeth are brushed. It may take several weeks to build up to the tooth brushing, but be patient. Most ferrets will learn to have their teeth brushed and the health benefits are worth the effort!