Ferrets are susceptible to the same virus that causes distemper in dogs. The disease is 100 per cent fatal in ferrets.
Symptoms are similar to those seen in dogs and include thick discharges from the eye and nasal cavities, fever and loss of appetite. Often a rash under the chin and groin area will also be seen.
The incubation period is 7 -10 days and the terminal phase of the disease is characterised by central nervous system signs, including muscle tremors, convulsions, coma and death.
Affected ferrets must be isolated from other susceptible animals and supportive treatment may be started until the diagnosis of distemper is certain, after which euthanasia is usually the only option.
NOTE: The clinical signs for distemper are very similar to those of influenza in ferrets.
Fortunately, there is an effective vaccine to protect your ferrets against canine distemper. All ferrets should be vaccinated against distemper at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age, then annually thereafter.