Flea Treatment For Ferrets
What are Fleas?
Fleas are tiny, usually dark-colored, insects. Fleas attach themselves to animal and human skin–including ferrets. They bite and feed on the animal’s blood.
Each female flea may produce 50 or 60 eggs a day! Flea eggs hatch in about 4 days.
Larvae eat the droppings of mature fleas for about 2 weeks, then spin cocoons and become pupae. Inside the cocoons, the pupae turn into fleas that emerge in 3 or 4 weeks as a new generation.
While most ferrets are not overly sensitive to fleas, some may develop skin irritations, allergies and even anemia. Fleas reproduce quite quickly, laying batches of eggs on the ferret or other animal. The fleas can then spread to the animal’s surroundings.
Causes of Fleas in Ferrets
When the weather gets warm and humid, the fleas come out. Ferrets that go outside can pick up fleas from the environment. Ferrets can also get fleas from other pets or even people.
Flea eggs can remain dormant for up to two years waiting for victims. Not only lying in wait outside, they can hide in furniture, carpets, bedding, clothes…
Symptoms of Fleas in Ferrets
Common symptoms of fleas in ferrets include biting, scratching or licking the area or areas on the body where fleas are hiding. Often times, these actions are quite sudden. Think of how you react when getting bitten by a bug or stung by a bee! The ferret will do this in an attempt to remove the fleas from his body.
Another good indicator that fleas are present is “flea dirt” or droppings. Flea dirt is dried blood left behind on the ferret’s body by fleas. When exposed to many fleas, ferrets may develop skin lesions, scabs or hair loss.
One way to check for this flea droppings is to use a flea comb. Gently combing through your ferret’s fur will often uncover these deposits.
Anemia can also be a symptom of fleas in ferrets–especially when there are a lot of fleas. Ferrets are so small that it is easy for them to develop anemia from fleas. Plus, a ferret may develop an infection if he frequently bites or scratches at an area and breaks the skin.
Aside from skin infections, allergies and anemia, flea bites can cause ferrets to lose sleep, stop eating and become irritable. Fleas can also transmit diseases, and if a flea is accidentally ingested, tapeworms can result.
Before diagnosing flea infestation, a veterinarian will first rule out other causes for anemia, biting, skin irritations or hair loss. If fleas are present, your veterinarian will typically spot fleas or flea dirt through an examination of your ferret.
Flea infestations can be challenging to solve, but patience and continuous treatments will eliminate these parasites.
Flea Treatment For Ferrets
Eradicating fleas in ferrets can be difficult. The sooner treatment is started, the less fleas there will be. It is recommended that you consult your veterinarian as to what type of treatment or treatments best suit your ferret’s needs. If your ferret is suffering from skin irritation or inflammation, a veterinarian may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication.
Usually a necessary first step is bathing the ferret with a flea shampoo. These baths should be done once a week for up to several months, or until there is no sign of fleas on your ferret. Check the shampoo label. Make sure it is suitable for kittens. The active flea-killing ingredient should be pyrethrins. Don’t use anything containing organophosphates, carbamates or petroleum distillates. These ingredients may be harmful to ferrets. Use a flea comb to remove fleas from your ferret’s face, and be sure to keep the shampoo away from his eyes and nose.
Avoid most pet sprays and all dips and powders. Many are toxic and could harm your ferret. Flea powders can cause respiratory problems in ferrets. One product more easily used for ferrets is the flea wipe. These wipes are easy to use, kill existing fleas and repel future fleas for up to two weeks. Make sure the wipes do not contain cedar oil, as this ingredient is toxic to ferrets.
Keep in mind that if you have other pets, they need to be treated as well.
When your ferret has had fleas for a while, more fleas will be in your home than on your ferret. Any treatment has to kill not only the fleas on all your pets that spend any time in the house, but also everywhere the pets can go. The most intense effort should be focused on the areas where your ferret (and any other pets) sleep. Eggs will hatch into larvae in these areas.
Typically, flea-control products are necessary to help control and eliminate the flea population from your home.
Before using any chemicals to treat fleas on your ferret, make sure they are safe for ferrets.
If a product doesn’t say it is safe for ferrets, check with your veterinarian.
Pyrethrins: These chemicals are considered relatively safe, even for kits. They act as a flea repellent and kill adult fleas. Products containing pyrethrins and similar ingredients, such as resmethrin are available in many forms, including pet sprays such as Petcor.
Imidacloprid: This ingredient blocks nerve transmissions in adult fleas, immediately killing them. It kills larvae as well as adults. It is sold as Advantage and is a topical liquid that can be applied to the ferret’s skin once a month. It then spreads to the rest of the ferret’s skin. It’s resistant to water and bathing.
Lufenuron: This chemical is an insect developmental inhibitor. When the flea ingests the ferret’s blood, it lays sterile eggs. It is sold as Program in the form of monthly oral tablets.
Precor and Nylar: These chemicals are insect growth inhibitors that prevent flea eggs from hatching and larvae from pupating and turning into fleas. They can be found in flea products formulated for use on carpets and pet bedding, such as Precore. Some products are available that can be used directly on pets that and contain both a growth inhibitor and an insecticide.
Organic or Natural
Limonene and Linalool: These organic ingredients are derived from citrus peels, and therefore thought to be “natural”. Products containing d-limonene kill larval and adult fleas, while those containing both ingredients kill eggs as well. There are flea shampoos containing these ingredients, but stay away. They are too strong for ferrets. Limonene is a volatile organic compound, which can cause irritation, strong , long lasting odors and other health and comfort concerns.
People have come up with all sorts of concoctions attempting to get rid of fleas. From apple cider vinegar and lemons to lavender and ceder oils. The problem is they just don’t work. Many natural flea repellents contain ingredients that are actually harmful or toxic to ferrets, such as cedar oil.
Chemicals alone will not effectively treat fleas in ferrets. Other methods must also be used to get rid of the flea eggs. The most effective way is through thoroughly cleaning your home.
Thorough cleaning is necessary–especially everywhere your ferret has access to. Cleaning your ferrets bedding, cage, toys, etc. is especially important.
It is important to remove all fabric bedding from the ferret’s cage and/or other areas and wash it in hot water. Do the same for stuffed or fabric toys. The litter box should be emptied and cleaned as usual. Cage cleaning and then treating with Precor dramatically reduces the number of eggs and larvae that will develop into adults.
Since it is very difficult to treat every part of the house that your ferret can access, it is necessary to vacuum furniture and floors thoroughly and frequently. The vacuum cleaner bag should be changed regularly, and sealed in a plastic bag before disposal to prevent re-infestation.
Flea Treatment For Ferrets
Getting rid of fleas on your ferret and in your home can be a challenge. The sooner treatment is started, the less fleas there will be. Thorough cleaning is important, but typically flea-control products are necessary to help eliminate the flea problem from your ferret, other pets, and your home.
Before you start any flea treatment for for your ferret, it is recommended that you consult your veterinarian to be sure you treat the problem safely and effectively.
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