Q: I took my female ferret that is maybe 7 or 8 years old (we adopted her August of 2006) to the veterinarian because of her biting on the cage to get out, which is not normal for her at all. She now sleeps in the playpen. Her roommate passed away a little more than four months ago, and I put the other two female ferrets I have in her cage. This worked fine for about three months, but then she started running around the cage and biting to get out. Her only other unusual sign is going around smelling. She likes to smell my nose also. I thought she was losing one of her senses. The blood work showed her globulin 4.2. The veterinarian suggested an X-ray or ultrasound. This is a new vet due to mine retiring. Every time I find one, it seems they leave the group but none of the vets are experts in ferrets. That’s why I wanted your opinion on my next step. When I brought my ferret to the vet office, they commented on how healthy she looked for her age, but I know there is a change in her.
A: I believe that owners know their ferrets better than anyone else, and if you feel there is a change in your ferret, go with your gut feeling. But it also sounds as if your new veterinarian agrees with you, which is why they suggested further testing, such as an ultrasound or radiographs.
The biting of the cage is unusual, but her environment has greatly changed in the last few months. She lost a roommate and gained two new ones. If she is unhappy with these changes, she could manifest this by biting on the cage to escape the other ferrets, which is what she is doing.
Finally, it may be that your ferret has been hiding her signs of illness and has been very stoic in the last few months. But the loss of a cagemate and the addition of two other unfamiliar ferrets may have caused enough stress that your ferret is starting to show signs of illness that she previously tried to hide.
If you are unsure of your veterinarian’s diagnosis, consult another veterinarian for a second opinion. Whatever you decide, it is important to find the cause of the cage biting. Ferrets that routinely chew on metal cages can cause permanent damage to their teeth that results in conditions such as gingivitis, tooth loss, dental abscesses and nerve damage.