Heartworm Disease in Ferrets

Although it’s rare, ferrets can have heartworms. The same mosquito that infects a dog or cat can bite your ferret and transfer the disease to him/her.

While all mosquitoes are not carriers of heartworm, it’s impossible to tell which ones are by sight. Because of their size, mosquitoes can easily get into your home through tiny cracks. If you take your ferret outdoors often, there is a greater risk of being bitten.

When heartworms are present, the heart enlarges placing pressure on the chest which in turn makes breathing more difficult. The enlarged heart cannot pump blood normally.

Symptoms of heartworm disease in ferrets are difficulty breathing, coughing, lethargy, weakness. If heartworm is suspected, your vet will take an x-ray to determine if the heart is enlarged and the disease’s progression.

Although there is no cure for heartworm in ferrets, there is monthly preventive treatment called Advantage Multi that kills fleas as well. It can only be applied to ferrets weighing at least 2 lbs. Discuss with your vet to see if your ferret is a candidate for the medication.

There are some other ways to prevent heartworm. Early morning and in the evening are when mosquitoes are most active, so keep your ferret indoors at these times.
Make sure holes in screens are repaired and any cracks filled in.

As stated earlier, heartworm in ferrets is rare but since there is no cure, it’s well worth taking precautions against the disease.

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