Flu Season is around the corner if not already starting to rear its ugly head in some regions. This is not only a medical concern for people and their families but also for ferrets that may reside in the homes. The human influenza strains can transmit to ferrets and ferrets can transmit the infection back to humans. However, there are currently no prophylactic flu vaccines for ferrets so the best way to keep them safe is to vaccinate the humans in the household. If someone suspects they have the flu, they should avoid close contact and handling the ferrets until they are no longer contagious.
Common signs of influenza in ferrets include:
- Decreased appetite
- Purulent eye and nasal discharge
If you suspect your ferret has been exposed to the flu or may be infected, contact your veterinarian. Ferrets can be tested for influenza to confirm a diagnosis or a presumptive diagnosis can be made based on symptoms. Treatment includes supportive care such as assist feeding and fluid support as well as antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections. If the infection is caught early on, antivirals may be an option as well. However, due to the severity of the illness and limited treatment options, prevention of transmission is key.