Blockages in Ferrets

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Blockages in ferrets can be lethal.

As I have already said, do not have any objects lying around the house which your ferret can chew on – no soft rubber or plastic objects or sponges and no foam rubber items.  A foam rubber pad from ear plugs is one of the worst things if swallowed because if a vet suspects a blockage, it won’t show up in an X-ray so it could cause more problems by delaying the prognosis.

Read this heart wrenching article about an owner who thought she was doing a good thing for her babies but it ended up killing one of her ferrets :'(

It’s also not rubber or foam that ferrets love to chew on. Read about our Snoopy and that olive pit she swallowed!! I still can’t imagine what she found attractive about putting a dry old olive pit into her mouth 🙁


“Except the vine, there is no plant which bears a fruit of as great importance as the olive.” — Pliny[wp_ad_camp_2]

snoopy

I absolutely love olives and would agree wholeheartedly with Pliny. In fact, my love for olives, especially those large green ones with great big pits, was the reason for Snoopy’s visit to the vet!

Of all the many ferrets we have had over the years, not ONE ever showed any interest in an olive, let alone a dried, discarded olive pit! But, as I am sure you are beginning to see – with ferrets, there is ALWAYS a first time

I had been working on the computer and eating olives. Not having any reason to think otherwise, I threw the pits into the rubbish bin by the side of the desk.

Unbeknownst to us, Snoopy decided to get into the rubbish bin during the night and had swallowed a pit. Of course it was not just any old pit, but a great big one!!

She did it just after getting the stitches out from being spayed so she kinda tricked the vet into thinking it was connected to that procedure.

There was a new vet at the surgery I take my ferrets to and he wasn’t familiar with ferrets at all. I suggested that it might be a blockage, but he thought that he was gastro which was connected to her recent surgery.

He gave me some antibiotics for her and a packet of electrolytes to make sure she didn’t dehydrate. As with most ferret dramas, it was a Friday afternoon and I went back home feeling a little unsure of the diagnosis.

By the Sunday she was really, really sick so we took her to the 24-hour vet and I voiced my concerns about a blockage.

The duty vet felt her stomach and – lo and behold – actually could feel something which she thought was, indeed, a blockage. They X-rayed Snoopy and came back to show us this whacking great object which was stopping up her guts.

The vet had to call the specialist surgeon into the surgery to do the operation! Fortunately it all went well but she had to stay in hospital for 5 days, because they wanted to make sure there were no complications, as the build-up of noxious gasses in her stomach during the blockage had been cause for concern.

Still, she was released and returned home as good as new, thank goodness!


It just goes to show that different ferrets have different habits, so never get complacent.

Here’s a picture of an olive pit – look and be amazed that something so small can cause such so much trouble in a ferret’s gut!

You can see Snoopy’s X-rays here, showing a very distended stomach caused by the build up of gas when the olive pit blocked her gut!


Blockages can be caused by a number of things, some of which are:

  • Foam rubber from ear plugs, etc
  • Rubber from erasers, etc
  • PVC – chewed off soft toys, etc
  • Balloons
  • Material from T-shirts, etc
  • Styrofoam peanuts
  • Hairballs
  • Olives and other small stone fruit

My old gang of ferrets didn’t seem to have any interest in rubbery things, thank goodness, but they are like magnets to my present crew 😮

Kimiko loves to chew the little plastic nose pads on our glasses, as you can see from this photo…

I doubt that the little piece she bit off my nose pad but one of the pads from my husband’s glasses is missing.  Did Kimiko swallow that or did it get vacuumed up? Just to be safe, I gave her some hairball laxative to encourage a good bowel movement

Pens, especially those with a rubber grip, can be very dangerous, as you can see from this picture ….

And we’ve all heard about ferrets stealing the remote! Stealing it is fine, as long as you find it again, however do take care that the buttons aren’t missing when you find the remote – LOL!

I had to pull out the hairball laxative again when I saw the right arrow was missing.  There was no evidence in the litter tray to show that Kimiko swallowed it so I’m hoping it got sucked up in the vacuum cleaner.  I was so hoping I’d fine it so we could use the remote properly but, alas, to no avail ?

And the rubber keyboard that Philip just carelessly put on a low shelf in the study … look at what they did to that ?

I think an angel was looking after my ferrets as despite not being able to find all the missing keys, none of my guys showed any symptoms of a blockage!  Phew!

Keep an eye out for some of the following symptoms if you suspect your ferret has a blockage:

Skinny poop
Greenish poop
Lethargy
Vomiting
Lack of appetite
No bowel movement
Distended stomach
Teeth grinding
Dehydration

You can download a pdf about blockages here.

Take your ferret to the vet immediately, if you suspect anything wrong because if you wait, it might be too late.


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You can read more on Blockages in Ferrets on these sites …

Gastrointestinal Obstruction in Ferrets (Pet Care Veterinary Hospital)

Ferret Foreign Bodies (Unusual Pet Vets)

How to Deal with Gastrointestinal Obstruction in Ferrets Co-authored by Deanne Pawlisch, CVT (Wikihow)

Blockages by Katt Crouch (Holistic Ferret Forum)

Hair Balls and Foreign Objects in Ferrets by David Perpiñán (The Veterinary Expert)

Gastrointestinal Disease in Ferrets (Pet Care Veterinary Hospital)

 

I’ve been told by several ferret owners that if you think your ferret has hairballs or has swallowed something like a balloon, you should give it pure canned pumpkin.  You can read more about that on THIS PAGE.

(Last updated November 2019)


DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this page is not meant to replace seeing a veterinarian if you think your ferret is ill. It’s only meant to supply general information on a particular illness which was obtained either from personal experience with my sick ferrets, or from books and/or the Internet.


20 thoughts on “Blockages in Ferrets”

  1. Hello, my ferret coonie recently ate about 4 inches of a bra strap, about 3 days ago. She is still eating drinking and playing. I have her about 2finger scoops of vasoline through the past 3 days. I am buying the pure pumpkin tomorrow. I can’t get her into the vet until after the 1st of July. Any other suggestions to get her to pass this?

  2. Oh Kyle! That’s not good 🙁
    I hear so many incredible stories about what ferrets end up eating and I just wonder what they find appealing about swallowing things like a bra strap 😮
    Have you seen any evidence in Coonie’s litter tray that might show she’s passing bits of bra strap in her poop?
    Do use the pure pumpkin and watch the litter tray, also make sure she doesn’t get dehydrated.

    http://www.all-about-ferrets.com/dehydration-in-ferrets.html

    I’ve given my guys cats’ hairball laxative to lick or even coconut oil and both have “lubricated” my ferrets’ bowels so removed any small problems.
    I hope all goes well with Coonie and that she won’t need to have an operation to remove the strap!
    Wishing you all the best and hugs to Connie from her new friends down under 😀
    Cheers
    ~Nona

  3. I found pieces of rubber band in my ferrets poop a few days ago. I found the source under the bed and it was a a rubber band ball with several pieces chewed off. They are eating but their poop is a bit smaller. They are laying down and resting more during play time. I have a vet appointment tomorrow morning–but I am such a worried ferret mama!!

    How soon do these things have to be checked out?
    Any good ferret story will help me out!!

  4. Hi Ferret Mama
    Have you read the ferret owner’s story about pure pumpkin? It might be good if you could get a can and feed some to your ferrets 🙂

    http://www.all-about-ferrets.com/the-wonders-of-canned-pure-pumpkin.html

    Another ferret owner. whom I’m friends with on FB, told me her girl ate a balloon ( 😮 ) so she gave her a little bit of organic coconut oil to lick and that worked magic. Belle the ferret pooped the whole balloon out eventually!
    It’s hard to say how dangerous the rubber band is as I guess you don’t know how much was eaten and how big the pieces were.
    Hopefully there is nothing big enough to block their gut – that is the dangerous thing – and they’ll poop out everything in time.
    When Snoopy ate that olive pit it was touch and go after her operation but she did pull through. What an idiot! I’m still at a loss to know how a dried up olive pit tempted her to swallow it 😀
    Hope all goes well with your vet visit!
    Hugs to your gang from their new friends down under 😛
    Cheers
    ~Nona

  5. I have a 5 month old ferret and I’ve done everything to ferret proof and I had peeled and Apple for my son and didn’t realize some of the apple peel fell on the floor which she ate I immediately looked it up and what I read is they are carnivorous animals and cannot Digest properly and of course the sugar it was not a big piece it was a very thin peel I hope I see poop in the morning or soon after she wakes up sometime tonight like she usually does after she wakes up I’m really worried about her

  6. Hi Jeff
    It sounds like the apple peel won’t get stuck in your little girl’s stomach from what you said but I would advise keeping an eye out on her poop.
    If it looks skinny or a different color from normal (like greenish in color, both of which *could* mean a blockage) then I would suggest that you give her some pure canned pumpkin …

    http://www.all-about-ferrets.com/the-wonders-of-canned-pure-pumpkin.html

    I’m sure your little one will be fine but please get her to a ferret-savvy vet if you’re worried about anything!
    Hugs to your girl from my boys down under 🙂
    Cheers
    ~Nona

  7. Hi Stephanie
    I’m sorry but I cannot remember how long it took Snoopy to poop after she had her blockage removed as it was so many years ago. However I don’t recall anything happening which worried me 🙁
    Keep an eye on your ferret and if you don’t see it pooping anything, then please take it back to the vet to be checked over.
    Apologies for not being able to give you a definite answer!
    Hugs to your sick ferret from its new buddies down under 🙂
    All the best
    ~Nona

  8. Hi Nona, my 8 months boy recently won’t eat his dry food. I’ve been giving them Wyson ferret diet and he enjoyed eating and reached a weight of 1500g.
    But days earlier, I noticed from his urine that he didn’t drink as much as before and then I observed that he barely eat dry food. Maybe only 1 ot 2 times per day and spend most time sleeping and therefore he lost 90g weight last week. He still loves egg yolk, treat(chew sticks), chew lax and ferretvite. I’m so worried and made appointment to the vet (But I cannot do tomorrow).
    But I gave him some Marshall dry food today and I’m so glad to see he was eating that. Is this a sign of getting better? I’ll take him to the vet but it’s really expensive( I spent 300 USD vaccinating 2 ferrets).

  9. Hi Chen
    I’m afraid I can’t tell you what might be wrong with your little guy ?
    I would think that if he had a blockage, he wouldn’t be interested in eating any food and his poop would look gassy, green and thin. However if he DOES have a blockage, he needs to see the vet ASAP as every moment counts!
    I would seriously recommend you taking him to your vet to be checked over. I know vets are expensive but I’m sure you would be devastated if your boy got really sick and died because you didn’t take him ?
    There is a story which another ferret owner shared with us so you might like to take a look at that to see if your boy might be helped with a dose of pure pumpkin …

    http://www.all-about-ferrets.com/the-wonders-of-canned-pure-pumpkin.html

    You said he likes his Ferretvite. May I suggest you don’t give him lots of that as it contains Malt Syrup and too much *could* cause insulinoma when he’s older. It’s really important to limit a ferret’s intake of sugary/sweet things as they really aren’t good for them ☹️
    I’m sorry I can’t give you any definite answers as to what might be wrong with him but hope the vet will check him and give him a clean bill of health.
    Good luck ❤️
    Hugs to your babies from their new friends down under.
    Cheers
    ~Nona

  10. Hi Nona,
    Thanks for your replying. Just wanna share an update with you. I took him to the vet and the vet think he might got urinary tract infection becausing I metioned he will go into and out of the litter box many times before he finally urinating or pooping. We took X-ray and see nothing. His blood glucose and weight is normal( she said he used to be overweight). The urine test shows some white blood cell and very little of crystals. But no blood or other thing and the PH of urine is 6 which is normal. The vet said the crystal maybe caused by infection.
    The vet gave me some antibiotic medicine and told me I can feed some cranberry juice or treat to help dissolve the crystals.
    Although he still not eating kibble, he loves the fomula vet gave me. I’m glad he’s not having a big deal and I wish he can be better soon.
    Thanks for your suggestions again Nona! Have a great day!

  11. Hi Chen
    Thanks so much for letting me know about your little man’s visit to the vet – am so happy for you that there doesn’t seem to be anything horrible going on ?
    Wishing him many more healthy and happy years with you! So good to know that he’s got such a caring owner!!
    All the very best
    ~Nona

  12. hey, my little boy has been lethargic n not eating properly. at first i thought it was a blockage, but after syringe feeding him water and mush he seemed to have gotten better. his poop is normal looking but scarce and he still refuses to walk for more than a few seconds at a time. we took him to the vet but didn’t have the funds to get an x-ray, but he’s much better than he was when we took him so i hope he can finish his recovery. is it possible he has blockage, or a real bad ferret fever?

  13. Hey Rose – it’s impossible for me to figure out if your boy has a blockage or is just unwell, sorry ?
    A few years ago I thought my ferret Dash had a blockage because his poop was skinny and greenish. He was also off his food and not walking much ? Took him to the vet and they did x-rays, which didn’t show anything obvious so they did an ultrasound on him. That showed he had lymphosarcoma and he only lasted 6 weeks after he was diagnosed ?
    I hope your little guy doesn’t have that disease, as there is no cure, but if he does … ?‍♀️
    What I would suggest is that you give your boy electrolytes to drink, as that is way better than plain water. If you have to syringe it into him, please be careful you don’t squirt any water into his lungs!
    Then get some kitten/cat furball medicine, put a 1″ line on your finger and get your boy to lick it all off. If he has something in his gut that might be able to shift it. If nothing for one day, give him another 1″ line the next day and keep an eye on his poop.
    There is a wonderful “meal” for sick ferrets called Carnivore Care …

    https://www.oxbowanimalhealth.com/our-products/professional-line/carnivore-care/

    We can’t get it in Oz because it has egg in it so our quarantine department won’t let it into the country but I have heard only good reports about it helping sick ferrets to get back onto their feet. I’d suggest you give it to him and see if it’ll pick him up.
    Oh, and there’s also a probiotic which I recommended to another ferret owner who has a sick ferret – it would be great if you could give that to your boy too!

    http://www.provitalhealth.com/ferret-healthy-life/

    I haven’t given it to my guys as it’s not available in Oz but I hear good reports about it too!
    That’s all I can think of as far as ideas for you to help your little guy.
    I hope you manage to get him back to health and that he’ll live a long and happy life with you!❤
    Hugs to your man from his new buddies down under ?
    Cheers
    ~Nona

  14. hey nona, thank you so much for the recommendations 🙂 we’ve been trying our hardest to keep him on his feet, but he’s been sick for too long and though we don’t know for sure, after searching for a while we’ve realized that parvo is probably what he has. even with syringe feeding him he hasn’t gotten better and we can’t afford a bunch of xrays and medication,, we’ll be euthanizing him soon 🙁 i hope he feels better then . kiss your ferret babes for me~ i want the best for them . as with my baby, we tried out best and he did well for a while, but it’s been a big rollercoaster.. he says he loves u !

  15. Oh Rose, I am so sorry to hear that ??
    Parvo is ADV for ferrets and I saw this when checking up on the disease …

    Because there is no “cure” for ADV, your veterinarian will only treat the symptoms associated with the disease. Symptomatic therapy, which will depend on the severity of the symptoms, may include fluid therapy to rehydrate the animal, diet modification to encourage appetite, and a reduction in environmental stressors. High-calorie dietary supplements are available to improve health, and antibiotics are typically prescribed to treat secondary infections to APV.

    Would it be worth your while to try to help him before taking him to the vet for his final visit? As I said, electrolytes are great to give ferrets (my Snoopy wouldn’t have lasted the weekend if I hadn’t given her electrolytes when she had a blockage!) to get them rehydrated, and that Carnivore Care is wonderful as well. Perhaps give them to your boy and see how he goes? And then put him on astaxanthin supplements to help his gut recover?

    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/astaxanthin_b_2750910

    To put him to sleep is such a final step ?
    My last albino girl had liver disease and when my husband took her to the vet, he was told to make her comfortable as she wouldn’t be long with us!
    I got a bunch of supplements for her and kept her going in good health for another 18 months, before we had to take her for her final visit to the vet. My vet was amazed and impressed, so maybe you could do that for your man?!?!

  16. Hi, my ferret Storm has been sick for a couple of days, maybe even a week. He hasn’t been eating, we’ve been giving him soft food, pumpkin, baby food, eggs, the only thing that he is eating is pumpkin. Storm isn’t very active, he’s been sleeping almost every hour of the day. Some days he will get up for about 5 minutes and walk around. He has had diarrhea for about 2 months, and it is still happening. We have brought Storm to the vet. The vet prescribed Storm to stomach infection, the medication isn’t helping him. We tried a blockage protocol with pumpkin and Vaseline. He pooped, which is a good sign that he doesn’t have a blockage or he pooped out the blockage. We’ve tried everything, I don’t know what to do.

  17. Hi Emma
    I am so sorry to hear about Storm but I really don’t know what to suggest ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    Did you get a ferret vet to check out your little guy? I can only think that the vet might not have a lot of ferret experience so perhaps he’s given a wrong diagnosis!
    Please take a look at the ferret vet pages to see if there is a good vet near to where you live …

    http://www.all-about-ferrets.com/ferret-vets.html

    I hope that will be of help as I honestly have no other idea to share with you!
    Hoping you’ll find an answer to Storm’s illness! ❤
    All the very best
    Cheers
    ~Nona

  18. I caught my ferret chewing on a pool noodle over a week ago. I did find a bit of the pool noodle in his stool a couple of days ago. How long after exposure should I be worried about a blockage occurring? He seems fine, we’ve been doing the cat hairball remedy with coconut oil, but I can’t decide if his tummy is bloated or its just a Buddha belly. He still plays and eats and poops. He isn’t showing signs of pain.

  19. Hi CJ
    If your ferret had a blockage, he wouldn’t be eating or pooping so I think you escaped that bullet this time! ?
    So glad you thought to give him the hairball remedy as that would have helped a lot! Fingers crossed that the bits of pool noodle were completely expelled from his gut and he doesn’t have anything inside which could cause a problem ?
    The bloated belly of a ferret with a blockage comes because he can’t poop due to the blockage, so all the gases, etc, start stirring in his belly and that’s what causes the bloating!
    I’d suggest you keep an eye on him for another couple of days just to make sure everything is back to normal and, obviously, if he stops eating and looks dehydrated, then you give him electrolytes and get him to the vet asap!!
    Please make sure there are no pool noodles that he can access in the future – the foam from items like that is hard to see on x-rays so that makes it doubly difficult for the vet to know where the problem is.
    Hugs to your little man from the old granny down under ?
    Cheers
    ~Nona

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