Your Ferret and the Swine Flu

Did you know that you can give your ferret the flu? Did you know it can give you the flu? And this latest version, the swine flu, is no exception. The swine flu variation is, in fact, more of a potential problem than other varieties because it passes so quickly and easily from person to person and animal to person. Right now various countries around the world are tallying their number of sick people and their number of dead from this variation that has come to be called the swine flu.

You can make your ferret sick and it can make you sick, bottom line. It’s worse for your ferret because of the possibility of it turning into ferret pneumonia, which is often fatal.

How do you tell the difference between a cold and the flu? It is often confusing, but here are the basics: a fever accompanies the flu, but not a cold, and the flu grabs you quicker than a cold does. Of course, you don’t want to give your ferret a cold either, so it’s best to play it safe and wash your hands before and after handling ferret items, don’t sneeze or cough around your ferrets, and if you’re sure you have the flu it is best to get someone else to handle your ferret chores.

Another danger to your ferrets is that this flu might become ferret pneumonia. Some of the symptoms of ferret pneumonia are:

o Nasal discharge

o Difficulty breathing

o Increased respiratory rate

o Loss of appetite

o Lethargy

o Cyanosis (blue discoloration of the mucous membranes, such as the gums)

o Fever

Should you see these symptoms in your ferrets, take them to the veterinarian immediately. The prognosis is good if you get your ferret to the vet in time for treatment with antibiotics, to which they usually respond very well.

You have to be as alert and as knowledgeable as you can. The stakes are too high to just shrug it off. You can make your ferret seriously ill, and that can lead to death for your furry little buddy! Get serious: if you have the flu, go to the doctor and stay away from your ferrets. If they have the flu, get them to a vet right away before it turns into pneumonia.

Ferrets react to the flu just like humans do, and they are often used as test subjects for that very reason. The National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), in north London, is one of only five World Health Organization centers for flu research. These scientists will receive live samples of swine flu that they can analyze and find a way to combat this latest menace. They will do their analyses in a high-level containment lab since it spreads so easily and quickly from person to person, ferret to person, and person to ferret. They will inject the swine flu virus into the ferrets and watch them as they build antibodies, just as humans do.

Hopefully their research will produce a vaccine or an antidote to help combat swine flu before it becomes a pandemic. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and that certainly applies when trying to keep your ferrets healthy and happy.