If ferrets live with dogs and cats they can often become infected with fleas, typically Ctenocephalides felis. Killing fleas on ferrets is not much different than getting rid of fleas on cats and dogs. The first thing you have to do is kill the adult fleas living on your ferret as well as prevent fleas in the environment from developing and reinfecting your weasel. Just like cats and dogs, some ferrets can develop signs of flea allergy dermatitis so it’s best to get rid of the fleas as quickly as possible.
Because of the ferret’s small size you’ll want to be very careful using OTC flea products including shampoos, dips, collars, and sprays. In fact, I would recommend staying away from them altogether. Like cats, ferrets also like to groom themselves excessively and can easily ingest sprays and powders that are potentially toxic.
To get rid of adult fleas on the ferret you can give him a bath using warm water and Dawn dish soap. You may also use a flea comb to brush out any fleas you find in the fur. Be sure to dry your ferret well and keep him warm after the bath. This will get rid of any fleas living on your ferret at the time but remember that there are lots of baby fleas living in your home that will eventually hatch into adults. Unless you want to give your ferret a bath everyday for the next 60-90 days you’ll want to invest in a safe product that both kills adult fleas and prevents flea reinfestation.
There are several products that have been developed for flea control in dogs and cats that may be safe to use in ferrets. Although the manufacturers of these products have not approved their use in ferrets, anecdotal reports of toxicity are uncommon. One such product is Advantage (imidacloprid). In one study, imidacloprid removed the adult flea population in ferrets and prevented flea reinfestation for 1 week when administered once at a dose of 10mg/kg and for 3 weeks when administered once at a dose of 0.4 ml 10% imidacloprid. No adverse effects were seen at either dose.
Progam (lufenuron) has also been given to ferrets at a dose of 45 mg (half a cat dose). Program does not kill adult fleas but inhibits the growth of immature stages of the flea’s life cycle. If Program is the only flea product you use on your ferret it may take 6-8 weeks to see a significant decrease in the number of adult fleas.
Revolution (selamectin) also may be effective at treating flea infestations in ferrets. According to veterinarians, anecdotal reports of using Revolution in ferrets at dosages used in cats have been promising and reports of adverse effects have been rare.
No matter what, you will definitely need to do a lot of vacuuming in your home while you try to get rid of fleas. Vacuuming alone has shown to be a very effective part of a flea management system since recent studies have shown that the beater brush from the vacuum cleaner is enough to kill, dessicate, and destroy flea eggs, larvae, and pupae. However, this will be more difficult to do if you have carpeting that is extra deep or plush. Also, it’s essential that all other pets living in the household are also treated for fleas.
Be sure to contact a veterinarian that specializes in ferret medicine if you have questions or concerns about how to tackle your flea problem.