Monday, October 6, 2008

Finding the right vet

*** This post was updated, please be sure review update at bottom of post

Surprise! Ferrets are not common pets like cats and dogs! So, logically, finding a good vet – that is to say one that knows specifically about ferrets and the health problems that affect them specifically, as well as the symptoms of these health problems.

Though most vet clinics in northern BC will see ferrets, very few of these clinics specialize in ferrets – this means that you have to be informed, and that you have to make sure that your vet, though not a specialist, is at the very least informed about ferrets as well. Because most veterinarians do not like to be ‘grilled’ over the phone, you may need to make an appointment to meet vet in person – don’t forget to bring the ferret and a list of pre-prepared questions. Before going to the vet, do your research – learn about which vaccinations are recommended for ferrets and which are not (ie: it is generally recommended to vaccinate your ferret against rabies, but a killed rabies vaccine MUST be administered as a live rabies vaccine may be fatal). Know about symptoms of diseases and what type of tests would be useful in determining what your ferret suffers from and most importantly KNOW YOUR FERRET.

Some important questions to ask your vet are what vaccines they would use, how often they see ferrets and about what (regular vaccinations, emergency care…), and whether they can handle and treat common ferret diseases (and if so, what diseases have they seen and how have they determined that is was said disease). After you have questioned your vet, have them examine your ferret. Make sure that your vet is handling the animal properly. If her or she seems nervous or afraid of the ferret, this is probably not the vet that you want to see. Ensure that the vet interacts well not only with the ferret, but with you as well. A good vet should be willing to answer all your questions and explain what they are doing in depth. If your ferret should get sick and you take it to your vet, make sure that you ask plenty of questions and perhaps offer suggestions, but do not overstep your boundaries – remember – the vet is a trained professional. If, after seeing the vet, you do not feel that the situation was adequately addressed, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. This reluctance once cost one of my beloved fuzzies his life.

My vet seemed good with the ferret and answered the questions correctly, but when my ferret became sick he did nothing to treat the animal. The symptoms were lethargy, an irregular heartbeat and bloating, and the ferret was approximately 6 or perhaps 7 years old (he was a rescued ferret, so his exact age was not known). The vet dismissed my concerns and simply told me that the ferret was getting old, which was true, but that was not what was making him sick. After 3 more visits over a period of a few months, the vet asked me to have blood work done on the ferret at a cost of $500; by that time, I had done my research and knew that none of the ferret conditions that may have been causing the symptoms would be revealed by such a test. The vet was more concerned with making money than correctly diagnosing my ferret. I was unfortunately not able to find another vet in time and my pet died less than a week later.

Had I not wasted my time and began looking for a different vet immediately after my original vet had dismissed my concerns, my ferret would likely have lived at least another year, if not more. A vet that is well aware of ferret conditions would likely have been more concerned about the symptoms exhibited by my ferret, especially at the age at which he was beginning to exhibit those symptoms.

Prince George Vet clinic has a ferret friendly vet, as does Ospika Vet and Olson’s Animal Hospital. Though I have no idea how good these vets are, or their degree of experience with ferrets, they are at least willing to see ferrets. If you have a ferret, make an appointment and ask some questions! Good luck on finding a good vet for your furry friend!

UPDATE: February 12, 2010
Ferrets North Information and Rescue Society volunteers take their ferrets to Dr. Bonafine at Prince George Veterinary Hospital. Though he is not technically a ferret expert, he does see a lot of ferrets and is an extremely knowledgeable and competent vet. We have also recently heard some concerning stories from ferret owners who have taken their ferrets to Ospika vet. Our advise is this: if something doesn't seem right, don't be afraid to get a second opinion and ALWAYS ask questions - your ferret's life may depend on it!


  1. Thanks for the advice. I am contemplating bringing a rescue Ferret home to PG. Good to know that there are some local resources.

  2. That's great! Ferrets are wonderful additions to any family, and rescue ferrets often make wonderful pets.

  3. Dr Walton in Maple Ridge is fabulous and does "on call" for our rescue (Little Mischief Rescue) as the fuzzies never seem to get sick during office hours. Arbutus West in Vancovuer and Eagle Ridge in Port Moody are the other vets in the lower mainland that specialize in ferrets.

  4. Though this site is more or less dedicated to northern BC, thank you for names of vets in the lower mainland; you never know when you'll have to relocate!

  5. Though this site is more or less dedicated to northern BC, thank you for names of vets in the lower mainland; you never know when you'll have to relocate!

  6. My vet here in tasmania had his own ferrets so i thought he knew what he was doing.i changed my mind when He started asking Me questions about them. Like how long are they pregnant for ..and do they live very long.
    I was shocked!
    So after answering All his questions .i did not return!!!