Archived Articles : Canine Distemper

Canine Distemper In Ferrets  

Canine Distemper is a highly contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of the animals it infects. Infection usually occurs through airborne exposure via an infected animal but can also be carried and transmitted by shoes, clothing, car tyres, etc.  

Symptoms may vary, but usually begin with mild conjunctivitis and pus/ discharge from one or both eyes. A high fever will develop over a few days and the ferret may also lose its appetite and become lethargic. Lesions develop on the lips, chin and anal area while the footpads will also harden. Other symptoms can include diarrhoea, severe depression, seizures and bizarre behaviours. The younger the ferret the faster this occurs– often skipping some symptoms and leading to death within days.  

There is no treatment or cure. All you can do is prevent this disease by immunising your ferret annually, and immunising kits from 12 weeks of age.  

We are very pleased to report that the vaccine WAFFS uses (For further details about the vaccine used, please contact WAFFS) has immunised thousands of ferrets over many years at our vaccination days (held twice yearly) and has not produced a single adverse reaction to date. Dr Don Nickels wanted it noted that he is not seeing distemper in ferrets which have been vaccinated, but he is still seeing the disease appear in unvaccinated ferrets.  


Article Published in Issue 128 of Ferreting Around (January / February 2006)