What are Scabies?

If you believe your ferret is exhibiting the symptoms of scabies, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. This is not a life-threatening condition, but it can cause a great deal of discomfort. A vet can help you eliminate the parasites from your ferret’s body and make him more comfortable while he recovers.

The Sarcoptes scabiei parasitic mite, which causes scabies or sarcoptic mange, can affect many animals, including dogs, cats, ferrets, and even humans. Ferrets can contract scabies after coming into contact with infected animals or something else in their environment that has been infected, such as bedding. Once mites are on your ferret’s body, the females will burrow into their skin and lay eggs. Mites will usually spend their entire lives on an animal, but they can survive even when they are not attached to a host. This is why your ferret can contract scabies even if he hasn’t had contact with an infected animal. 

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Symptoms of Scabies in Ferrets

There are two types of scabies that may affect your ferret. Symptoms of the generalized form of this condition include:

  • Loss of hair
  • Extremely itchy skin
  • Yellow crust on the skin
  • Red pustules on the skin
  • Skin sores

The second type of mange usually only affects a ferret’s feet. Because of this, it commonly goes by the name “foot rot.” Some of the symptoms of this condition include:

  • Redness and swelling of the feet
  • Yellow crust on the feet
  • Itchy feet
  • Loss of nails

Causes of Scabies in Ferrets

Scabies is caused by a parasitic mite known as Sarcoptes scabiei. The mite can be transmitted from infected animals, especially dogs. Ferrets can also develop this condition if they come into contact with something in an infected environment. For example, if your ferret’s bedding has been infected with mites, the parasites can then travel onto your ferret’s body and cause scabies.

Diagnosis of Scabies in Ferrets

If you spot any of the signs of scabies, take your ferret to a veterinarian as soon as possible for treatment. Let the vet know what symptoms you have observed and when you first noticed them. You should also tell your vet if your ferret has made contact with any animals that may have been infected with scabies.

The veterinarian will perform a skin scraping, which is the painless process of taking a small sample of skin cells. The sample will be examined underneath a microscope to look for signs of parasites. In some cases, the vet will immediately be able to spot the scabies parasite. However, the parasite is often not present in the sample even if the ferret is infected. If the vet does notspot the parasite, he may decide to begin treatment for scabies and see if your ferret responds to it if he has a strong hunch that your ferret is suffering from this condition. 

Treatment of Scabies in Ferrets

Treatment will begin immediately following a diagnosis. Ivermectin, which is a type of anti-parasitic medication, is used to treat this condition. The vet may also choose to treat your ferret using 2% lime sulfur dips, however this could leave a foul odor on your ferret and cause discoloration in his hair. This type of treatment lasts for six weeks, so it is usually not recommended unless Ivermectin is ineffective.

If your ferret is uncomfortable because of his skin sores and irritation, the vet can apply topical ointments to alleviate the itchiness and reduce swelling. The vet may also prescribe antibiotics since many ferrets develop bacterial infections on their skin from scabies. It’s possible that you will have to administer antibiotics to your ferret both orally and topically.

If your ferret has “foot rot,” the vet may soak his feet in warm water to soothe his skin and make him feel more comfortable. The nails that have been affected by the condition should be trimmed back to prevent irritation.

Recovery of Scabies in Ferrets

Your ferret will most likely make a full recovery from scabies, but there is a chance that he can become infected again. To reduce the risk of this happening, be sure to thoroughly clean all of your ferret’s bedding, toys, and anything else he comes into contact with. If you have other animals in the home, it’s important to take them to a vet to have them examined for scabies as well. If they have not been infected yet, keep them away from your ferret until he has fully recovered.

Be sure to closely follow the vet’s instructions when it comes to administering medications. If your ferret’s skin is bothering him, he may feel tempted to itch or lick himself. The vet may recommend using a collar on to prevent him from irritating his skin sores and spreading the parasites.