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Ferret FAQ [4/5] - Health Care
Section - (9.2) What vaccinations will my ferret need, and when?

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Top Document: Ferret FAQ [4/5] - Health Care
Previous Document: (9.1) Do I need to spay/neuter my pet? How about descenting? Declawing?
Next Document: (9.3) Can I vaccinate my own ferrets?
See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
Fervac-D or Fromm-D canine distemper vaccine
    The manufacturer recommends shots (1 ml subcutaneously) at 8, 11,
    and 14 weeks.  (Some vets recommend four shots, three weeks apart,
    instead.  Two is not enough.)  Then a yearly booster shot.
    Although rabies gets more press, the canine distemper vaccine is
    much more important for your ferret's health.

    Adults who have never been vaccinated, or whose vaccination status
    is unknown, should get two canine distemper shots, three weeks
    apart, then yearly boosters.  If you know they've been vaccinated
    within the last year, then one shot is enough.

    If you can't get Fervac-D or Fromm-D, or if your ferret has
    reacted to them in the past, Galaxy-D is an acceptable third
    choice.  If you can't get either of these, you're taking the risk
    that your ferret won't be protected, or worse, that he'll become
    sick from the vaccine.  At least be sure that it's a vaccine for
    canine distemper which is a MODIFIED LIVE virus and was NOT
    cultured in ferret tissue.  Chick embryo culture is best.

Imrab-3 rabies vaccine
    One subcutaneous vaccination at 14-16 weeks, separated from the
    distemper vaccines by 2-3 weeks, then boosters yearly.  This is
    the same rabies vaccine that's used for dogs and cats, so your vet
    should have it around.  It's good for three years in cats, but
    only one year in ferrets, mainly because the company hasn't done
    tests to see how long it lasts in ferrets.  This is the only
    rabies vaccine approved for ferrets.

Comments

    Ferrets do not need to be vaccinated for feline distemper or
    parvo.  They don't need a 5-way dog vaccine.

    They can contract Bordatella (a common cause of kennel cough in
    dogs), but it's very rare, and the effectiveness of the vaccine is
    unknown in ferrets.  Don't vaccinate for it unless you'll be
    boarding your ferrets at a kennel, and possibly not even then.
    The intranasal Bordatella vaccine has been known to give ferrets
    the disease.

    It's best to give the distemper and rabies vaccines be spaced a
    couple of weeks apart, since giving them at the same time seems to
    increase the chances of an adverse reaction (see below).

    If you want to change a ferret's vaccination schedule, for
    instance to move all your pets to the same schedule, you can
    safely give another vaccination as long as it's been at least a
    month since the last one.

    Most states don't recognize the rabies vaccine for ferrets,
    because official studies of virus shedding time in ferrets are yet
    to be done.  This means that even if your ferret is vaccinated, it
    may be destroyed if someone reports to the authorities that they
    were bitten.  However, having the vaccination may keep the person
    from reporting a bite in the first place, and of course it will
    protect your ferrets from getting rabies.  (Even closely watched
    ferrets do occasionally escape [8.9].)

Vaccine reactions

Like any other animals, ferrets occasionally have adverse reactions to
vaccinations, typically on the second or third exposure to a
particular vaccine. Reactions are rare, and giving the rabies and
distemper vaccinations two weeks apart is thought to reduce the
chance, but they can be life-threatening.

There are several kinds of vaccine reactions.  The most dangerous,
anaphylactic reactions, usually occur within an hour after the
vaccination.  You may want to stay at your vet's for 30-60 minutes
after a vaccination, just in case.  Watch for vomiting, diarrhea or
loss of bladder/bowel control; signs of nausea or dizziness; dark
bluish-purple blotches spreading under the skin; difficulty breathing;
pale or bright pink gums, ears, feet or nose; seizures, convulsions,
or passing out; or anything else that's alarming -- bad reactions are
hard to miss.  Get the ferret back to the vet right away, probably for
a shot of antihistamine (Benadryl) and perhaps a corticosteroid or
epinephrine.  Ferrets who have had mild to moderate anaphylactic
reactions to a particular vaccine can be pre-treated with an
antihistamine the next time, or you might consider switching to a
different vaccine (from Fervac to Galaxy or the other way, for
instance).  If your ferret had a severe reaction, you and your vet can
discuss the relative dangers of leaving that ferret unvaccinated.

Most delayed reactions aren't dangerous.  You might notice the ferret
acting tired, showing flu-like symptoms, or possibly even vomiting a
little within a day or two after the vaccination.  As long as the
symptoms don't last longer than a day and don't seem too extreme,
there's no need to worry.  If the ferret has trouble breathing, is
more than a little lethargic, or shows other worrisome symptoms, call
or visit your vet.  Antihistamines don't help much with delayed
reactions, but your vet might suggest pre-treating the ferret next
time anyway, in case it helps.

Jeff Johnston, an epidemiologist (though not specifically for
ferrets), comments:

    One thing that isn't proven but is worth a try is to give your
    ferret the contents of a small-dose vitamin E capsule (say, 100
    IU) a few days before the injection.  Vitamin E in large doses
    suppresses inflammatory responses (also suppresses vitamin K and
    clotting, so, warn your vet if blood is taken for any reason).  It
    may help blunt any reaction.  Vitamin E is also fairly non-toxic,
    too, so 100 IU once every few months shouldn't hurt.  [Don't use
    more than that, though; anything can be toxic in large enough
    doses.] 

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Top Document: Ferret FAQ [4/5] - Health Care
Previous Document: (9.1) Do I need to spay/neuter my pet? How about descenting? Declawing?
Next Document: (9.3) Can I vaccinate my own ferrets?

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