By Megan Carfino of Mustelid Madness
Update: an Australian lab working on the Corona virus has found ferrets to be “susceptible” to SARS-COV-2. Tests are still in progress. There is still no information about whether or not they will be able to contract it via direct human-to-animal or animal-to-animal contact, outside of a lab environment. Please continue to follow basic influenza prevention and preparation protocols.
Here is the excerpt from the article about ferrets: “Labs working on ferrets say they should also have initial results soon: a team led by virologist S. S. Vasan at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong has found that the animals are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. The researchers are now studying the course of infection, before testing potential vaccines. Ferrets are a popular model for influenza and other respiratory infections because their lung physiology is similar to that of humans, and researchers hope they will mimic aspects of COVID-19 in people, such as its spread.”
With the global concern over Covid-19, it’s a good time to talk about keeping our ferrets (and ourselves) healthy. It is known that ferrets are capable of contracting covid-19, however, there are not yet any cases of natural transmission that we are aware of. Knowing that it’s potentially possible, precautions should still be taken.
We do know for a fact that ferrets can contract Influenza from us, so at the very least, these precautions & tips should be helpful for dealing with influenza and other viruses.
The flu in ferrets can be self-limiting (meaning they will recover on their own), however, it can rapidly turn into pneumonia and become life-threatening to the poor little weasels. I’ve had it go through my crew, and it was quite terrifying to hear them cough and wheeze, and I was up all hours caring for them (all made a full recovery).
The best thing you can do for yourself and your ferrets, is follow a few simple, standard precautions.
– Hand washing! Scrub-a-dub those digits thoroughly for at least 20-30 seconds. Wash often, and wash well.
– Get the flu vaccine each year, especially if you are the ferret’s primary caregiver. Because there are multiple strains of Influenza, getting the vaccine (usually limited to 1-2 strains) will not guarantee that you will not contract the flu, but it will reduce your chances of contracting it.
– During flu season, and currently during the concern over Covid-19, it may be best not to add any new ferrets to your business, arrange play dates, or bring your ferret out in public. Pet store ferrets in particular may have a high level of exposure due to being handled by so many different people.
– If you do choose to add a new ferret to your business at this time, please follow STRICT quarantine protocols: keep the new ferret completely separate from your existing business, in a separate area of your home. Thoroughly wash your hands and even change your clothes after all interaction with the new ferret. Quarantine protocols should be followed for a minimum of 3 weeks.
– If you become ill, try to minimize contact with your ferrets as much as possible. Don’t cave to those pleading eyes- it’s for their own good!
– If you are ill & are the primarily/only ferret care taker, sanitize/wash your hands immediately before cleaning/feeding/watering. Wear a basic mask to help limit the spread of your germs (*note: wearing a basic mask before being sick in an attempt to keep from getting sick, is not very effective. However, wearing a mask when actively sick WILL help reduce the spread of your germs to others & your ferrets 😷)
– Have an established vet, and at least one back-up vet. It’s best to establish your ferrets at a vet before they have a major illness or injury. If you don’t yet have a vet, call around & have a well-visit done for your ferrets. This is a great practice in general!
– Have an emergency aid kit for your ferrets. Unflavored Pedialyte, Oxbow Carnivore Care, a sub-q kit, and a humidifier are great items to have on hand.
– Have an extra space/cage that you can use as a hospice/quarantine for any sick/recovering fuzzies that may need an extra level of care.
For more information on dealing with viruses such as COVID-19 see: