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How does a ferret get distemper

How does a ferret get distemper?

Ferrets are sensitive animals and can get easily sick. Through viral diseases such as influenza and canine distemper virus through contact with anybody fluids of an infected animal. It can be possible that the virus comes to the home with nonliving things like shoes or clothes from outside. Moreover, if you go to some pet store. Pet shelter or woods you can bring the canine distemper virus home. While in contact with infected material in these places. Let’s know how does a ferret get distemper.

Signs when ferret get distemper?

The major sign of the ferret gets distemper infection is discharging from the eyes. Canine distemper virus is a contagious disease caused by a large RNA paramyxovirus.

These families of animals can become infected with CDV;

  • Canidae (such as dogs, foxes, wolves, and coyotes)
  • Mustelidae (such as the ferret, mink, weasel, skunk, badger, and otter)
  • Procyonidae (such as raccoons)
  • Some exotic cats but pet cats are not susceptible to this virus.

Symptoms of CDV in ferrets

(Sneezing, Coughing, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Brown crusts on the face and eyelids, Hardening (and swelling) of the skin along the nose and footpads).

These all symptoms in the ferret show that the virus has placed for 10 days. At very first he may fell in fever, rash in the chin followed by lack of appetite and thick mucus discharge from eyes and nose. When the canine virus increased, it spread to the ferret’s nervous system. Which can cause seizures and loss of coordination in the animal.


Most of the time ferret only gets a fever. We think that it is distemper but due to certain symptoms, you can analyze the condition of the pet. Clinical signs for canine distemper virus (CDV) started form anorexia, blinking and squinting of the eyes and of course a clear discharge from the nose. The ferret may also have skin rashes developed on the chin and lips. Which you can clearly observe. This infection rapidly spread in the ferret’s body like nose, eyelids and the inguinal area and turns orange tint. So, itchy and infected.

They started to show neurological signs like excessive salivation, muscle twitching. Especially on the top of head and seizures often. If they show these signs that means your pet is not going to survive and die soon within a few days.

Causes of distemper in ferrets

  1. Infection from infected animals

CDV (canine distemper virus) is caused by a paramyxovirus (RNA virus) that usually affects the number of species of animals. Such as (dogs, foxes, skunks, badgers, raccoons, bears, primates, and large felids such as tigers and lions). The primary transmission of the virus is through aerosol droplet secretions from an infected animal. When the pet gets contact in with CDV infected animal.

  1. Infection from inanimate

Once infected animals can spread canine distemper virus for several months. Which can also spread through grass, weeds, trees, and shrubs for up to 10 days. These inanimate things where the infected animals been living while infection can spread the virus to other animals. Even people who walk over there can bring the virus home through their shoes and clothes. So that can influence your pet as well.

The first phase of distemper

Clinically approved that the signs get to appear in the ferret of CDV within 3-6 days after infection which is characterized by lymphopenia and pyrexia. The sick pet’s systemic infection results in viremia of the lymphatic tissue while there are strong relation immunosuppression and virulence.

Second phase

The fever in the ferret is biphasic and reappears in the second phase of viremia a few days later of infection. As the systemic infection of the epithelial cells severely affects the sick and damage to the mucosal tissue. Serous nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, and anorexia resemble an influenza infection or sometimes measles.

Dermatologic signs

After the infection between 17-22 days resolves including facial and perineal dermatitis and dermatitis on the abdomen. When the entire respiratory and gastrointestinal tract can be affected. So secondary bacterial infection is due to the disturbance of the epithelial cell layer dispose the sick ferret.

Resemblance to influenza

The clinical resemblance to influenza infectious one should be careful while treating before potential shedding of the virus and contamination of the clinic, it is important to diagnose distemper. Because the virus is highly contagious and can spread in the environment and most common disinfectants are effective in preventing transmission of CDV.

Diagnosis of CDV in ferrets

Abnormal hematologic findings consist of (lymphopenia, thrombocytopenia, and regenerative anemia). So diagnosis of distemper in ferrets is based on the history of clinical signs and diagnostic tests. Distemper inclusions can be found in small numbers in circulating lymphocytes in the early phase. So the diagnostic imaging of the thorax shows interstitial lung patterns.

The diagnosis takes place when the ferret fully shows the canine distemper symptoms. So that the tests will confirm the disease. The vet takes a few samples from the sick ferret by collecting cells from the eyelid. A mucus membrane or blood sample to perform a fluorescent antibody test.

While performing the test an antibody with a chemical glows in the dark. Such as when the vet keeps the sample cell under a microscope it will cling onto the canine distemper virus and glow. It is not necessary that the result of the test should be negative even the ferret is infected. 


The CDV in ferrets has no treatment. The ferrets that are infected with this virus do not recover and typically die within a few days or weeks after becoming infected. The infected ferret keeps alone inpatient care and in isolation to prevent the infection from spreading to the other animals around.

The treatment or medicine prescribed to the sick ferret from the veterinarian includes antiviral agents and antibiotics only help the ferret to prolong life. The intravenous fluids can help to replace valuable electrolytes the ferret has lost. Because of diarrhea or loss of appetite though the virus cannot be recovered.

Ferret’s immune system is already compromised. So it is not possible to give medication to suppress the immune system, due to the long-term effects of canine distemper virus. The only painkillers are provided from the vet or to protect the infected animal to spread disease or further complications. But he would suggest euthanization (deep sleep) of the pet often.

Prevention by vaccination

There is no cure and treatment for the distemper in ferrets. So you may have prevention of the disease by vaccination to save your pet’s life from the contagious disease. Young ferrets aged 6 to 12 weeks can become susceptible to canine distemper virus because of inadequate circulating maternal antibodies.

Purevax Ferret Distemper Vaccine (Merial)

This vaccine is approved for use in healthy ferrets starting at the age of 8 weeks. So it should be dose to the kits of 6-8 weeks old with booster vaccination provides every 3 to 4 weeks until 14 weeks of age. Annual revaccination is recommended and can save your pet from the upcoming diseases. A successful response to vaccination depends on the ferret’s immune system.

Vaccination reaction

Annual booster vaccination can be given only before measuring the antibody titers and considered the gold standard. Because of the history of vaccination reaction in ferrets. A higher ratio of 1:50 of titer is currently in consideration. As a savior to provide enough immunity to the ferret against CDV infection.

The study shows that cell-mediated immunity or the capacity for rapidly regenerating humoral immunity must be in factor, in protecting the ferret from infection. So the ferret can save form CDV even upon provided serum antibody levels are below the threshold.

Recovery of canine distemper virus in ferrets

All the research shows that the CDV unrecoverable in the ferrets. As they are sensitive creatures and unable to survive the virus running through their bodies. However, being an owner of the pet ferret you can save him from getting infected from the disease through proper vaccination.

Even though you do not let your ferret go outside the home. He stays home all the time doesn’t mean he will not need the vaccination. You should have given him a vaccine on a regular basis to avoid contracting then CDV. From the early age of 6-8 weeks, your pet should start having the vaccination for CDV and every year afterward to receive boosters.

Sometime ferrets may get allergic to the vaccination. Even show side effects of the vaccination reaction from mild fatigue that requires emergency treatment. 


Vaccine for canine distemper virus is available because the virus is fatal and cannot be cured. So it’s safe to use vaccination before your ferret becomes infected with the disease. If you think your ferret has come into contact with the canine distemper virus. Restrict the potentially infected animal from other house-hold pets and contact your veterinarian.

It’s an important article which we published on our website.

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