Distemper in Ferrets

Distemper in Ferrets

Distemper is a contagious disease of dogs & ferrets caused by a virus. It is very serious and can be fatal. Most dogs are protected from distemper by their annual inoculation, and it is now a very rare condition in the UK, simply because of the availability of reliable vaccines.

Recently there have been several cases identified in pet ferrets, especially in The Midlands. However it has spread South & has turned up in Maldon (near Chelmsford)


Whilst these may vary, the first sign is often mild conjunctivitis with a yellow or green discharge from the eyes. A high fever develops over a few days & it may lose it’s appetite and become lethargic. Another sign to check for is a reddening and thickening of the skin on the chin, lips and anal areas. This then becomes hardened and the animals footpads become thickened and hard. These signs do not occur with any other ferret disease.

Other signs exhibited include diahorrea, severe depression, strange behaviour and seizures. The disease can cause death within a few days and there is little in the way of treatment for this. The best course of action is preventative treatment.

Preventative Treatment

Whilst there is not a licenced vaccine for ferrets, it is possible to protect them using the dog vaccine. Although off-licence, this has been used in many ferrets for many years and appears to be safe. In light of the current outbreak, we are now recommending that pet ferrets be vaccinated. Working ferrets, or those that go outside regularly, should be vaccinated annually.. Strictly indoor ferrets should be vaccinated every 2 years.

There is no reason why the disease cannot transmit from ferrets to dogs, so owners of unprotected dogs should also make an appointment to ensure their pet is vaccinated. For more information please speak to our staff.