|Hello Ferret Friends!|
I'm sure many of you have gotten an e-mail from a well-meaning friend or family member warning you about the Swiffer Wet-Jet. You'll be happy to know that it is just a rumor. You can read about the rumor on the ASPCA web site.
This newsletter is all about ferret ears -- how to clean them and how to recognize if your ferret has ear mites.
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In this newsletter:
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Ferret Ear Cleaning
Did You Know That ... (Ferret Ear Mites)
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Ferret Ear Cleaning
By Mary R. Shefferman
The good health of your ferret’s ears begins with a regular ear cleaning routine. Ears that are neglected will develop problems such as ear mites or infections. You can reduce the chances of your ferret developing ear problems by following these simple instructions.
Your ferret’s ears should be checked for ear mites during his regular veterinary checkups. Signs of ear mites include a coffee-grind type discharge and scratching at the ears and head. Normal ear wax is dark golden-brown colored. Left untreated, ear mites can lead to secondary infections. Occasionally, ferrets can develop bacterial ear infections. If your ferret’s ears have a very strong odor even after you’ve cleaned them, they may be infected. Your veterinarian can diagnose the problem and prescribe medication.
Normal ear wax is dark golden-brown or reddish-brown. If your ferret's ear wax looks like coffee grinds (black), she probably has ear mites.
How often you need to clean your ferret’s ears depends on how quickly his ears accumulate dirt and wax. Some ferrets require weekly ear cleaning, while others can go two weeks or more between cleanings. As a rule, if your ferret’s ears are visibly dirty, it’s time to clean them.
Your ferret will not likely want to be held still while you clean his ears. Keep him still by scruffing him or having someone else scruff him. Hold the ferret by the loose skin at the back of his neck while supporting him on your arm on with your other hand.
Scruffing, or holding a ferret by the scruff of his neck, doesn't harm the ferret. Most ferrets relax or go limp when they are scruffed.
Scruffing does not hurt the ferret — it simulates the way a mother ferret holds a baby ferret (and often will cause the ferret to relax and go limp). If your ferret jerks his head while you are putting the cleaning solution in his ear, the solution could get in his eye, so be careful. Use any sanitary item (cotton swab or ball, gauze) for a cleaning tool. If you use a cotton swab, avoid poking into the ear as this will impact the debris and cause a plug. This plug can cause irritation, affect hearing, and even lead to infection. Be careful not to insert any cleaning tool further into the ear than you can see.
Use an ear cleaning solution made for ferrets or one that is safe for use in kittens.
To loosen ear debris, you can use a prepared ear cleaning solution that is appropriate for ferrets. A solution with mild acidity can help to reduce bacterial growth. Several brands of ferret ear-cleaning solutions are readily available from your veterinarian or pet store.
Gently grasp the outer ear and place the number of drops recommended on the ear cleaning solution’s label into the ear canal (usually two or three drops). Carefully massage the base of the ear to help move the solution deep into the ear canal. Now it’s time to clean out the loosened debris. Do not go deep into the canal with the cleaning tool, but gently swab the folds of outer ear and the base of the ear. Make sure you remove the dirt from the “pocket” at the back of the ear. Your ferret will shake out any excess debris from his ears on his own.
An easy way to avoid going too far into the ear canal is to always keep the cotton swab parallel to the head, as shown here.
An alternate method is to moisten (not soak) a cotton swab with mineral oil (baby oil) and gently swab the ear as described above. Again, do not enter the ear canal any deeper than you can see. Use a clean dry swab to absorb excess oil and debris. Note that ear cleaning solutions will do a better job of loosening ear wax than mineral oil.
Finally, to help your ferret forget about his ear cleaning experience, offer him a treat. With clean ears, your ferret will be healthier and happier.
Get Ferret Ear Cleaning Supplies Online
Sometimes when you bring home a new ferret you get a (very) little something extra you didn’t bargain for — ear mites (Otodectes cynotis). These microscopic parasites can spread to all of your ferrets and even your cat or dog before you ever notice. They can cause your ferret discomfort and, if left untreated, can lead to more serious problems. This is one of the reasons it is important to bring any new addition to your ferret household for a veterinary check-up within a few days of bringing him or her home. (It's also another good reason to quarantine new additions to your animal family.)
The first step in getting rid of ear mites is to determine if the ferret has them. Any ferret you bring home from any source (pet store, shelter, or private breeder) can have ear mites. Whether your new ferret is a kit or an adult, he or she should be checked for these parasites. New ferrets are not the only source of ear mites. If your ferret visits a home with other ferrets or even dogs or cats, he or she can pick up ear mites. Your veterinarian can quickly determine whether or not ear mites are present by examining a swab of ear discharge under a microscope.
Ferrets normally have reddish-brown or golden-brown earwax, and some ferrets produce quite a bit of it. How do you know when to suspect your ferret has ear mites? Of course you can’t see the mites, but they do leave telltale signs. If you notice a change in the amount, color, or consistency of the wax in your ferret’s ears, bring it to the attention of your veterinarian. Red flags for ear mites are:
- Coffee-grind appearance of earwax
- Scratching at ears
- Shaking the head
- Excessive ear discharge
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to have your veterinarian take a look at your ferret’s ears.
There are several treatment options for ear mites. Your veterinarian may prescribe eardrops such as Tresaderm or Cerumite. Veterinarians also prescribe ivermectin to be applied topically as drops into the ears. You will have to treat all the ferrets in your home. Since this species of ear mite also affects dogs and cats, if you have a dog or cat, your veterinarian may want you to treat him or her, too. This is because ear mites can spread easily and rapidly from animal to animal. Treating ear mites with drops usually takes some time — a week and then some. Make sure you finish the full course of treatment your veterinarian prescribes. If you don’t, the mites will be back in no time. Another treatment for ear mites is an injection of ivermectin. Some veterinarians prefer this method for ferrets whose ear canals are difficult to get drops into or if the mite infestation is severe.
What happens if ear mites go untreated? Most commonly your ferret will end up with an inner ear infection or inflammation, which can become painful and lead to neurologic problems. Inner ear infection will require further treatment. Certainly your ferret can become uncomfortable and unhappy. Some ferrets with untreated ear mites and inner ear infection have had irreversible inner ear damage, including hearing loss. Some ferret owners have reported a change in temperament or behavior in ferrets with untreated ear mites (you'd be cranky, too, if you had ear mites!).
Ear mites are reasonably simple for your veterinarian to detect (under a microscope) and treat. If you suspect your ferret has these parasites, address the condition quickly to prevent more serious problems.
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That's about it for this newsletter. Thanks for reading! Have a great Memorial Day!
-- Mary, Eric, & Gabby
Stay tuned for more. You can always get updates by reading my blog (a blog is an online journal). I keep it sporadically and it usually runs to the more personal stuff. But you might like it. It's at
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