By Matthew Humphries
Fervac-D or Fromm-D canine distemper vaccine
The manufacturer recommends shots (1 ml subcutaneously) at 8, 11, and 14 weeks. (Many vets recommend four shots, three weeks apart, because two not enough.) In addition to a yearly booster shot. While the rabies vaccination is important, the canine distemper vaccine is far more important for the health of your ferret.
Any adult who has never been vaccinated, or if their vaccination status is unknown, should receive two canine distemper shots, three weeks apart, then yearly boosters. If you are certain they’ve been vaccinated within a year, then one shot should be enough.
If Fervac-D or Fromm-D is unavailable to you, or your ferret has reacted poorly to them previously, Galaxy-D is an acceptable alternative. In the rare case that you cannot get any of these, remember you’re taking a risk, or worse, that your ferret will become sick from the vaccine that is given to them. If this is the case, make sure the vaccine for canine distemper given is a MODIFIED LIVE virus and one that is NOT cultured in ferret tissue. In addition, chick embryo culture would be best.
Imrab-3 rabies vaccine
One subcutaneous vaccination at 14-16 weeks, making sure they are seperate distemper vaccines by 2-3 weeks, with boosters yearly. In many cases this is the same vaccine used on dogs and cats, which shouldn’t make it difficult for your vet to provide. While the vaccine is good for three years in cats, it is only good for one year with ferrets. More importantly this is the only rabies vaccine approved for ferrets.
It’s important to know that ferrets do not need to be vaccinated for feline distemper, parvo, or a 5-way dog vaccine.
Ferrets can contract Bordatella (kennel cough), however it’s extremely rare. Also, the effectiveness of the vaccine is unknown for ferrets. There’s really no need to vaccinate for it unless you’ll be boarding your ferrets at a kennel, even then it may not be necassary.
Generally, you should give the distemper and rabies vaccines to your ferrets spaced a couple of weeks apart, because giving these vaccines at the same time has been shown to increase the chances of any possible adverse reaction (see below). Should you wish to change your ferrets vaccination schedule, possibly to vaccinate all of your pets at once, it is ok, pending the ferrets vaccine is over a month old.
Unfortunately, many states don’t recognize any rabies vaccine for ferrets, mainly because official studies are yet to be done. This means however, even if your ferret has been vaccinated, the authorities may destroy it should someone report that they were bitten. Having the current vaccinations may keep the person from reporting a bite plus it will protect your ferrets from getting rabies.
Reactions to vaccinations
As with other animals, ferrets on occasion may have adverse reactions to their vaccinations, many times with the second or third exposure to a vaccine. Reactions generally are rare, also by giving the rabies and distemper vaccinations two weeks apart it is believed reduce the risk, but these reactions can be life-threatening.
There are many types of vaccine reactions. The most dangerous of which is an anaphylaxis reaction, generally occurring within an hour after the vaccination was given. If possible, you could stay at your Vet’s until a half hour or more passes following each visit that includes vaccinations. Signs of a reaction to look for may be vomiting, diarrhea or loss of bladder/bowel control, nausea, dizziness, dark bluish-purple blotches spreading under the skin, difficulty breathing; discolored gums, ears, feet or nose, seizures, convulsions, or passing out, as well as anything else you determine to be unusual. It’s important to know that bad reactions are hard to miss.
If any of these symptoms develop after you’ve left or while you’re home take you ferret back to the Vet right away. Your Vet may choose from the following options to help suppress and end the adverse reaction: A shot of antihistamine (Benadryl) possibly a corticosteroid or epinephrine also. If your ferret has had a mild to moderate anaphylactic reaction in the past, you could pre-treat with an antihistamine the next visit, or you may want to consider changing the vaccine which was previously given (Fervac to Galaxy or Vice Versa for example). Should your ferret have severe reaction, you and your vet should discuss the pro’s and con’s of leaving your ferret unvaccinated.
It’s important to know that most delayed reactions aren’t dangerous. These may be: ferret acting tired, showing flu-like symptoms, or vomiting a little within a day or two of the vaccination. If these systems don’t last more than a day or appear extreme, it shouldn’t be anything to worry about. However, if your ferret is having trouble breathing, overly lethargic, or perhaps shows other worrisome symptoms, place a call or visit your vet. Antihistamines will not help much with delayed reactions, but your vet may suggest pre-treating your ferret the next time anyway, should it help.
Matthew Humphries – http://www.ferret.com