Ferrets sneeze just like people. A sneeze is a way for a ferret to clear their upper airways (nose and sinuses) of irritation. This is fine if it happens only occasionally or with obvious cause, like a lot of dust in the air, but it can indicate a more serious condition.
Learn more about the respiratory diseases that can cause sneezing in ferrets and when you need to visit a vet.
Why Do Ferrets Sneeze?
There are many possible reasons a ferret may sneeze. Often, it’s just a response to some irritation or particles in the air, such as dust, dirt, or pollen.
In some cases, sneezing and coughing are an indication of underlying problems in the respiratory tract, including:
The 4 Reasons Your Ferret is Sneezing
Canine distemper is a virus that can infect dogs and ferrets. It often causes signs like sneezing or coughing, as well as pus discharge from the eyes and nose. Ferrets may develop a rash on the chin or abdomen. Some other signs include lethargy, depression, and vomiting or diarrhea. Distemper in ferrets is often fatal, especially if proper treatment isn’t immediately started.
It’s spread through droplets in the air, so it’s important to vaccinate your ferret and keep their environment clean.
The human influenza virus (the flu) can pass back and forth between humans and ferrets. Influenza causes sneezing, inflamed eyes and eyelids, and watery discharge from the eyes and nose as compared to thick, colored discharge caused by distemper. Other signs include lethargy, difficulty breathing, fever, and anorexia.
Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph nodes and lymphoid organs that can cause respiratory signs, though ferrets are more likely to wheeze than sneeze. They’re also very weak and may have purple gums, noses, and feet.
4. Other Causes
Some bacterial and fungal diseases can affect ferrets, though less commonly than the flu or distemper. Trauma and foreign bodies in the nasal cavity can cause respiratory problems because of bleeding or irritation in the nasal passages, leading to sneezing and possibly nasal discharge. These conditions can also cause respiratory signs like coughing, wheezing, discharge, or difficulty breathing.
Should My Ferret See a Vet for Sneezing?
Not necessarily. The occasional sneeze isn’t a cause for alarm, but regular sneezing, especially combined with coughing, nasal discharge, or other signs of illness, warrant a vet visit.
Your ferret will need a full physical exam and history, which includes the duration of symptoms, any progression over time, and information about your ferret’s living environment and vaccinations. They may need diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, ultrasounds, laboratory testing, blood testing, and cultures.
The treatment will depend on the underlying cause, which may include antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and pain medication. If your ferret is seriously ill, you may need to hospitalize them for supportive care until they recover.
Ferrets sneeze when something irritates their nose or sinuses, just like humans and other animals. But sneezing often, or sneezing combined with other signs, can indicate a more serious health condition. If you notice any persistent signs of illness in your ferret, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your vet to determine the underlying cause.