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Ferrets/Ferret dry heaving


QUESTION: Hello, I am have a 8 month old male ferret that I am a bit concerned about. Every now and then (not very often or constant) he will cough and make a hacking noise, this normaly only happens for a few seconds and he's done, however, last night he starting coughing and hacking again but this time it lasted a little bit longer. He also looked like he was dry heaving to me, which is what really concerns me. I took him into the other room to watch him for the night and whenever he starts to cough he will run away from me and hide under a blanket as if he thinks hes doing something wrong or is ashamed.  I was able to feed him some ferret Lax in the event that he has a hair blockage it would help push it out. He continues to eat, drink and play as normal but his last stool was a orange color. His stomach does not seem to bother him when i pick him up or put a slight amount of pressure and he does not seem to be having any difficulties going the bathroom. Are these signs that something else could be seriously wrong with him?

ANSWER: Dear Elizabeth,

Ferrets sometimes hack and make a coughing or sneezing sound for some of the same reasons we do; dust, allergies, etc.  However, I'm concerned about the dry heaving which could be a symptom of a blockage of some sort.

But first, I'd like to address the orange poop. Most often orange poop is the result of the food a ferret is eating.  Some foods and treats contain dyes, even though the color may not be apparent in the food it will show up in the little guys poop.  If your little guy's poop is nice and soft, but hold shape, and is definitely not runny, the problem is more than likely a color issue rather than a medical one.  But, make sure the poop is not green, dark green or black. These colors are an indication of blood in the stool and requires the immediate attention of a vet.  So, if your little guy has passed the poop test, together with normal ferret behavior, ie, eating well, is active - playing okay, no runny nose, I would be concerned only about the dry heaving.

If the dry heaving continues, don't wait more than a day, please take him/her to a vet.  When these little guys have an issue they tend to go down hill very quickly.  Waiting until you are positive things have taken a serious turn, can be too late.  Why take a chance.

I hope I've helped somewhat, Elizabeth.  I sincerely hope the best for you and your furry little friend.  Please let me know how things go as I am concerned for both of you.

Warm Regards,

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I have not seen him dry heave since the last time, however he still sounds a bit wheezy and has a slight cough and I am concerned about his breathing. My 3yr female ferret does not (nor has she ever) coughed or hacked like that but she'll have sneezing fits every so often so maybe he's a little more sensitive to the dust in the house then her(?).
I have recently changed the brand of ferret food I have been feeding them, putting half of the old food in with half of the new to get them used to the taste but I have not noticed a change in my females stools like his (however there is a good chance she is picking out the old food and avioding the new brand, she is rather picky).
The stools that he passed last night were not a strange color, however it is very gelly like, which I am assuming is his laxative coming out the same way it went in, I did find some hair but no a whole lot.
How would I tell if he has a runny nose? His nose has always been really wet since the day I brought him home and I am not sure I would know the difference.

Hello Elizabeth.  I'm glad the dry heaving has stopped but I'm still a little concerned with the wheezing, due to the other issues.  Ferrets are very sensitive to dust, and, also to laundry detergents, fabric softeners, perfumes, air fresheners - to mention a few.  So, his blankets, hammock, toys, could be part of the problem.  When these things are washed, you can rinse them in a light solution of water and white vinegar.  Forget the fabric softeners.  However, he could have a cold and if he does it needs to be treated right now.

It's hard to tell what's going on with the poop because you've given him a laxative.  However, if that's the cause of the jelly-like stool it should clear up by tomorrow.  Just make sure it doesn't get any worse.  Sometimes a jelly-like or slimy looking stool is due to actual illness and I know you don't want to overlook that possibility.  

Ferrets noses are usually not wet.  Because he is wheezing, has a wet nose and there has been something unusual going on with his poop, I would certainly have a vet look him over.  Better to be safe than sorry.  Remember, when these little guys get sick, they go down hill very quickly.  

You are wise to change foods gradually, but considering the whole picture, changing foods could have added to the problem.  Please be on the safe side and take him to a vet.  If it were me, I would.

You are a wonderful ferret owner, Elizabeth.  It is obvious that you care a great deal about your furry little friend.  He's lucky to have you caring for him.  Let me know how he does.  If I can help further just let me know.

Warm Regards,


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Janet Russek


I can answer questions re: Feeding(keeping that body weight up) General Care, Safety, Behavior, Best Cages, Proper Toys, Dangers to Ferrets (ferret proofing your home), Play Area/Room Suggestions.


I've raised ferrets very successfully for approximately twelve years. I usually kept three at a time. I presently have one. I've tried a variety of cages, habitats, toys, treats.

Highschool grad with some college.

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