Ferret Coughs- Should I Go to the Vet?

Boris sticking his tongue outGot this email from Jules…

I run into a constant dilemma with our ferrets. I want them to always have available warm, comfortable, soft places to curl into. The issue is that sometimes they love to scratch at the materials causing a bunch of stringy fuzz. I know that it is possible for them to ingest it. Some of the items that we have: Cotton cloth hammocks & tubes, Comf-E Cube, Cuddle Cup, Funnels, Marshalls Sleep Tent, Marshalls Fleece Sleep sack, Petsmart sleep sack, and marshalls fleece hammock raised up on a stand. Most of these items are made out of cotton, fleece, white fluffy fleece, and the hooks. My concern is that any intake of these thread-like materials could get stuck in the tummy of one of our ferrets We feed our ferrets Laxatone 2-3 times a week. But sometimes even with that – one or two of them will have a persistent cough.

I have read that some vets want to take immediate X-Rays, have a full exam, and possibly go right into surgery to pull out any threads or cushiony material that may have gotten into the ferret. Do I take the ferrets into the vet and spend $1200 every time one of them is coughing too much? Do I take away all of the warm, well cushioned sleeping items they have? Does anyone have any suggestions, ideas or help that you can send my way? It would be really helpful.

Hi Jules-

We’ve had good luck with felt items for snuggling, and I certainly wouldn’t pull them all out of the cage. Ferrets need something warm to burrow into- it’s a natural instinct for them. I’ve also given Ferret Lax once or twice a week as you do to make sure things keep running smoothly. I can’t say we’ve had same amount of problems with obstruction however, and we’ve had fur kids going on twenty years. With the exception of a remote control incident (they love to chew off the rubber buttons, keep those out of reach!) we haven’t had to take them in for any surgeries. Are you sure there’s nothing that breaks into edible threads after scratching and chewing? Are there other more tasty items to chew, like chew sticks and chew stars? I’ve noticed some white fuzzies have been strategically removed from the hammock from time to time, usually I just pull them out. You may consider a product like Bitter Apple, which makes the fabric it is sprayed on taste bad.

To answer your question though, a few coughs and sneezes are normal for a ferret. Cruising around on the ground they do pick up dust in their respiratory system, and the occasional cough to clear the mess is fine. However, persistent coughing is definitely a warning sign, and merits a trip to vet. I don’t think every cough requires a $1,200 vet bill (and if the vet charges you that every time, change vets!), but a persistent cough should be looked at by a medical professional.