Can Ferrets Get the Flu?
Despite warmish weather and lots of rain instead of snow, it is still winter in south central Pennsylvania and that means it’s flu season. While there are specific strains of flu viruses that affect dogs and cats, they are mostly safe from human influenza viruses. However, ferrets are highly susceptible to human flu viruses, and, in rare cases, an infected ferret could spread the flu to a person, so, use caution if you own ferrets and also have the flu.
Transmission of flu virus to ferrets is similar to how it is transmitted in humans: direct contact with an infected person or other infected ferret or airborne in droplets expelled when coughing or sneezing. Flu symptoms in ferrets are also quite similar to what people with the flu experience including fever, sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Symptoms can last from 5-14 days. The flu can be quite serious in ferrets and very young or very old pets could die from the flu, especially if serious complications such as pneumonia occur.
As with humans, supportive care such as keeping your pet hydrated with plenty of fluids and syringe-feeding your ferret if he is not eating. Severe cases may require hospitalization on IV fluids. Antibiotics do not cure the flu as it is a virus; however, antibiotics may be prescribed if concurrent bacterial pneumonia is suspected. Unfortunately, there is no flu vaccine available to protect ferrets at this time.
If you own a ferret and have the flu, avoid contact with your ferret if possible. If you must handle your ferret or if it is your ferret that is ill with the flu, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, especially after contact. Hand washing is the best way to prevent spreading or contracting the flu as well as many other infections. It also helps to isolate sick ferrets from other ferrets to prevent spread of infection.
Stay healthy this year and keep those pets healthy too! If you own a ferret and suspect she has the flu, contact your veterinarian for proper care.
This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital, serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities.