As your ferret ages, their needs and activity level will begin to change. There is no magic number when your ferret will begin to slow down, just as in humans, each one is unique and has its own timetable. This is one main reason when considering surgery, physical age is not that important, but rather it’s how well and strong the ferret is.
Beginning at the age of 2 or 3, you should consider yearly chemistry panels, semi-annual fasting blood glucose checks, and having an adrenal hormone panel run to detect problems early on, as well as have semi-annual veterinarian check-ups.
Blood Glucose Test
At a minimum, you should have a blood glucose test to detect early signs of Insulinoma. As your ferret ages, his internal body goes through changes which is not visible. Some of the outward changes you will notice include:
- Skin is not as tight as it used to be, and the muscles might begin to atrophy (waste).
- Develop cataracts, lose sight and/or hearing completely.
- Diminished taste buds.
- Startles more easily.
- Sleeps more, doesn’t play or interact as much.
- Teeth loss.
- Hind quarter weakness.
- Wanting to be left alone more or held more.
- Unable to climb or jump up.
- Decreased overall mobility.
During these years, your ferret is counting on you to provide for his new needs. You might have to re-arrange the cage to ensure it’s easy to move about and restrict the height access.
You might also have to separate your elder ferret from the younger ones, especially if special care is needed. You want to keep your ferret as stress-free as possible and comfortable during this time.
Creativity is important during this time, as it will take more to engage your ferret in exercise, which is still needed. He may not be able to eat kibble anymore, and you will need to feed a bland diet which can be duck soup, Gerber’s chicken stage 2 baby food, or Prescription Diet AD. You might also have to syringe feed your ferret every 3-4 hours to ensure food intake.
read.. useful medical abbreviations
Fluid intake is just as important to ensure dehydration does not occur; sub-q fluids might need to be administered if it does.
It is possible for ferrets to develop arthritis, osteoarthritis, etc. Special care will need to be provided. If your ferret is having problems getting around due to hind leg weakness or paralysis, you can obtain a ferret-specific wheelchair to help him get around, made individually by very dedicated ferret lovers.
The most important thing you can provide during this time is unconditional love and frequent medical exams. The key here is to keep them as comfortable as possible, provide for their changing needs, and ensure they have a quality of life.
They have given us so much love and joy over the years, it is now up to us to return the favor and ensure their senior years are spent in comfort.