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Ferrets. Dr. N. Matthew Ellinwood, D.V.M., Ph.D. Febuary 6, 2012. Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Taxonomy. Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Order: Carnivora Family: Mustelidae (weasels) Genus: Mustela Species: M. putorius

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Ferrets


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ferrets

Ferrets

Dr. N. Matthew Ellinwood, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Febuary 6, 2012

Iowa State University

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

taxonomy

Taxonomy

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Mustelidae (weasels)

Genus: Mustela

Species: M. putorius

Subspecies: M. p. furo

mustelidae
Mustelidae
  • Largest family of carnivora
  • Catch all or true diversity
  • Classifications to change
  • Diverse size and type
  • Least weasel (30-50 grams)
  • Giant Otter
    • (50-100 lbs)
other domesticated mustelids
Other Domesticated Mustelids
  • Fur trade
    • Mink
    • Sable (species of marten)
    • Fur trade important in western (USA) expansion and Siberian expansion.
    • Endangerment and extinction (sea mink) result of fur trade
  • Tayra
    • South American mustelid kept as household pet by indigenous peoples as vermin control
    • Wild animal certification
origins and ferret domestication
Origins and Ferret Domestication
  • European pole cat
  • Mitochondrial evidence
    • 2500 YBP
  • Remains to 4500 YBP
  • Used for rabbiting and hunting
    • Roman period
  • Controlled/outlawed in many countries (California)
  • Ferelized in Australia and New Zealand to control rabbits
  • Existing ferel populations in Shetland Islands and New Zealand
  • Current resurgence of role in rodent control (rabbits)
    • Helsinki (2009)
  • Once widely used in to protect grain stores in the US
ferrets in popular culture
Ferrets in Popular Culture
  • Da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine”
    • Most likely a ferret
popularized as pets etc
Popularized as Pets etc
  • 1970s
  • Studies indicate estimate 800,000 ferrets in USA in 1996 (ratio to dog ownership ~1:70)
  • Now considered standard pet species
  • Can be used to run wires through conduits etc.
natural history
Natural History
  • Life span5-10 years
  • Sexual maturity
    • Hobs > 8 months
    • Jills 4-12 months
  • Estrous: Induced ovulators
  • Gestation 40-44 days (palpation at 2 weeks)
  • Litters 8-10 kits (atricial)
  • Weaning 6-8 weeks
ferret fancy
Ferret Fancy
  • The American Ferret Association (1992)
    • http://www.ferret.org/index.html
    • 8 colors
    • 4 color patterns
    • 3 white patterns

http://www.ferret.org/events/colors/dew.html

caging versus house access
Caging versus House Access
  • Household access
    • Destruction
    • Foreign body ingestion
    • Trapped
  • Elimination pattern
    • Will use litter box
  • Cage housing
    • Mesh size
    • Solid floor
    • Enclosure/hammock
feeding
Feeding
  • Obligate carnivore
    • 30-40% protein
    • 15-30% fat
    • Higher end in pregnancy
    • Available commercial ferret food
  • Fresh water
  • Ad lib unless obesity an issue
  • Short digestive tract
  • Low tolerance for fiber
  • Sugars
  • Pregnancy
  • Food preferences set early (3 months)
anatomy
Anatomy
  • Sexual dimorphism (females < males)
  • Castration increases gill and decreases hob adult weight
  • Seasonal wt fluctuations (20-40%)
  • Anal glands (descented)
    • Common in USA, restricted or unnecessary in UK/Europe
    • Versus musty smell of males (androgen dependent/castration)
  • Non retractable claws on 5 digit feet
  • Os penis
  • Sexing by anogenital distance (similar to dogs), testes, preputial opening
  • External tract shows obvious changes in estrus females
behavior
Behavior
  • Weasel war dance
    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Xowr0vMU_U
  • Dooking
    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ex9AXcYR_a0
  • Crepuscular
  • Social animals
    • Versus wild forebears
  • Spring and fall molting
diseases and health issues
Diseases and Health Issues
  • One half of pseudopregnant jills
    • Estrus, with subsequent estrogen dependent bone marrow suppression (can be fatal)
  • Pregnancy toxemia (first time gills)
  • Adrenal tumors (2-6 years – androgenic signs)
  • Insulinomas (4-5 years)
    • Signs of severe blood sugar
  • Lymphoma
infectious diseases
Infectious Diseases
  • Ferret approved rabies vaccination
    • 3-12 months and annually
  • Influenza
    • Important animal model
      • Animal model bibliography
        • http://www.nal.usda.gov/awic/pubs/oldbib/ferretla.htm
  • Canine distemper
    • Ferret approved CDV vaccine on approved schedule
    • Canary pox vectored vaccine available
  • Aleutian disease
    • Parvo virus
    • Infection cause vasculitis induced by antibodies
infectious disease contin
Infectious Disease (contin)
  • Bacterial
    • Helicobacter mustelae (vomitting and ulcers)
    • Lawsonia intracellularis
      • Proliferative bowel disease (1 – 3% of exposed animals)
  • Fungal
    • Systemic
    • External
  • Parasites
    • Coccidia/Cryptosporidia/Giardia, Sarcoptes, Otodectes cynotis
    • Nematodes
      • No documented round or hook worm infections
      • Susceptible to heartworm
zoonosis
Zoonosis
  • Limited evidence of causative human disease
    • Rabies
    • Sarcoptes
    • Trichophyton mentagrophytes (ring worm)
    • Influenza
    • Cl. perfringens
restraint
Restraint
  • Stretching
    • Scruffing and holding hind legs
      • Will usually go limp