Friday, December 11, 2009

Heat And Heatstroke

So I started off the day with the intention of writing a reasonably lengthy post on where to get a ferret. But then all sorts of other responsibilities got in the way, including compiling a list of addresses for people I’m planning to send Christmas cards to on behalf of the family; people that I like. Or people who’ve shamed me into sending them one by sending me one unexpectedly. These people weren’t going to be on the Christmas card list but now I feel obligated to add them to it. Not that I have to. Or that I’ll lose any sleep over it if I don’t. But still.

Hm, you know what? Now that I think about it, maybe I shouldn’t send these shifty people a card. I mean, these card-sending lovers have nerve mailing me Christmas cards and making me spend more time on my compilation of addresses than I had planned on spending; precious time that could have been put to better use – yes, like writing a lengthy post on ferrety Friday.

Okay, I’m just fooling around. But I did manage to write up an entire paragraph with this nonsense, didn’t I? So it wasn’t a complete waste.

In all honesty, I really have no excuse for not finishing my ferrety Friday post, considering I’ve had an entire week to work on it. No excuse. Even if I’d written a few lines a day, I would have completed it. But alas, I’ve been surfing the internet during my free time and reading other people’s interesting blogs.

Photo from SXC

Now, seeing that I didn’t have (make) time to polish up the “where to get a ferret” post, I decided to put together a shorter one, albeit a very important one. About heat. Not the type that animals go through before they’re spayed or neutered (some humans too). The type where temperatures rise to such scorching levels that you can fry an egg on the sidewalk. Alright, maybe not that high, but you get the message.

“What is so interesting about hot weather?”

It’s not so much interesting as it is important. Extremely important. Because ferrets do not handle heat well at all, and during the warmest months of the year when temperatures rise above 27°C (80°F), they can die from heatstroke within minutes if precautions are not taken. Interesting enough for you now?

"Yes" [Hangs head in shame]


When it’s very hot, a ferret should be kept indoors in an air-conditioned room, away from direct sunlight. If you don’t have air-conditioning, you will need to take other steps to prevent heat stress and heatstroke.

1 – Move your ferret to the coolest, shadiest room in the house.

2 – Provide plenty of cool water.

3 – Wrap an ice pack in a towel or tube sock and place it in the cage for your ferret to lie on.

4 – Fill up a spray bottle with cool water and squirt your fuzzy to cool him/her down.

5 – Place your ferret in a plastic (baby) pool or bathtub that is filled with a small amount of cool water where it can splash and cool off.

6 - Do not travel with your pet in a car on hot days unless you have air-conditioning.

“Why do they overheat so easily?”

Well, it depends on who you ask. One source of information will tell you that ferrets don’t have sweat glands. The other will state that they do have sweat glands, but that they are poorly developed. And still another will tell you that although they do have sweat glands, a ferret’s thick fur prevents evaporative cooling. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the reason is. What matters is that you have to prevent heatstroke, watch for symptoms of it and act quickly before it proves fatal.

Photo from SXC

“What should ferret owners watch for?”

Ferrets do not normally pant like dogs do, so if your fuzzy begins to do this, it’s a sign that he’s suffering from heat stress, and, unless you act immediately to prevent it, is in danger of heatstroke.

Signs of heatstroke include rapid panting, red or pale gums, depression, sluggishness, dizziness, disorientation, vomiting (may include blood), red tongue, dark red paws, thick, sticky saliva, shock and coma.

If you suspect that your fuzzy is suffering from heatstroke, take action immediately. Remove him from the hot area and begin to lower his internal temperature by applying cool water with a wet cloth on the key areas of his body (groin, lower stomach, feet), by submerging his body in lukewarm water (keep his head and upper body above the water) or by wrapping him in cool, wet towels.

Whatever method you choose, it must be done gradually. Cooling a ferret too quickly or lowering its temperature too much may cause other problems. Even if you manage to revive your pet, I will suggest that a trip to the vet’s office is vital to make sure that fuzzy is not dehydrated or suffering from other complications.

“Well, this certainly proved to be an important topic.”

You bet your sweaty glands it is. You can’t take chances with the heat or else you’ll lose your fuzzy wuzzy in minutes.

So that’s it folks. I did write much more than I’d planned but this is much too important an issue to cut short.

Now, as usual, let’s sign off with Bailey’s comments.

Hey Bailey, what do you say?

Awww...come here my fuzzy wuzzy...


  1. A big hug from me too Bailey. Very interesting post. I like ferrets but have always thought (pauses to put hands over Bailey's ears) they smelt a little too much to be house pets. Is it just the adult males that niff a bit? Yan

  2. Awww...poor little Bailey! Hugs from me, too! What an interesting, informative, and important post---I hope lots of folks read it. I had no idea that ferrets were so vulnerable to heat. Thanks for another fascinating post, Martha.

  3. I'd love to have a ferret. I love watching them play and roll around. They're like naughty otters in my head. It also helps that they're just adorable looking. Unfortunately, I have a terrier who has a high prey drive and would pester a poor ferret to no end. He dramatically limits the types of pets I can have all on his own.

    I remember watching an Animal Cops Detroit episode where a family had abandoned their ferrets (and other animals) in the winter in an unheated house without food or water. Ugh. They got rescued and made a full recovery if I remember correctly.

  4. Such a sweet looking creature. We have Custer State park about 10 miles from where I live and the black footed ferrets that are protected. They live in the prairie dog communities- Lots of underground tunnels - no wonder that would keep them cool- Gloria

  5. Ha ha...Yan, that's funny, although very sweet that you would cover Bailey's ears as not to hurt her feelings about BO (body odor).

    You are not wrong; Ferrets can smell a little weird, with males smelling more. But you can keep the odor to a minimum by taking certain steps. I'll write about this in a later Ferrety Friday.

    Thanks Beth. I'm really enjoying these Ferrety Fridays. These are really misunderstood creatures, and because they're so popular as pets, I want to write about their care. A lot of people take ferrets home without knowing anything about them, then they either neglect, abuse or abandon them at shelters because it's not what they expected. If my writing helps a few live a better life, I'll be happy.

    Notsoangryredhead, yup, the terrier would have a field day with the ferret. It wouldn't be a good mix at all. And I guess their cute faces is what finds them homes. Unfortunately, not all are good homes, which you saw on Animal Cops Detroit. Stories like that break my heart. I don't know how people abuse animals and feel nothing.

    Gloria bonde, ferrets not only look sweet but they are sweet. A ferret that is properly cared for is affectionate and sweet and looking to interact and bond with its owner.

    That's so cool that you live near a place that has black-footed ferrets. They are an endangered species, so I'm not surprised they're being protected. Yup, tunnels are a way to keep themselves cool, and protected against predators.