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Ferret Health - All About the Ears

Updated on January 7, 2019
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Tanya is the owner of two feisty ferrets and one cat. She has studied animal health and dedicated volunteer time in many shelters.

Anatomy of the Ear

Much like us and other animals, a ferret has three basic parts to the ear: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.

The outer ear is the parts that you can see. The skin, fur and ear flap. The middle ear holds those small bones that pick up the vibrations of the sounds and then sends those vibrations to the inner ear. The inner ear then translates those sound vibrations and sends it to the brain for a response.

When a ferret is born they are actually deaf until they reach about 30 days old. Then by 6 weeks old, their hearing has evolved and they can then hear higher pitch than humans. Their range goes from 36Hz at its lowest up to 44Hz at its highest.

In order to compare, a humans lowest is 20Hz and highest 17Hz. So a ferret can be sensitive to high pitched noises.

My ferrets, Rocket and Groot
My ferrets, Rocket and Groot

Deafness

Not all ferrets are lucky enough to rely on their hearing. Deafness is a common problem that many albinos and Wardenburg ferrets have. These ferrets function fine but will need some special care.

Deafness can also happen from an ear problem that is left untreated. That's why it is important to care for your critters ears.

If you suspect your ferret may be deaf, there are a few things you can do to test. You can try clapping behind their back and see if they respond. The best is to run something loud, such as a vacuum, and see if they have any response. If there is none, you may have a deaf fuzzy.

If your fuzzy is deaf, it is important to try and not startle them from behind. Stomp or make vibrations when you come towards them. Deaf ferrets will have more sensitive other sense. They also may need extra help in behaviour correction. They can not hear the other ferret, or you, yelp and make noises so they don't always understand that they may be playing too hard.

Wax

Wax build up in the most common issue with ferrets. It is normal for ferrets to be extra waxy, but if not checked and cleaned, too much wax can lead to infections.

It is normal for the wax to be brown, orange or reddish in colour. This is nothing to be alarmed about. However, if there is a bad smell coming from the ear, this indicates that there could be a build up or possibly infection.

Mites

Mites are very common and very contagious. If you have one ferret with mites, most likely your other ferrets have them as well. Many ferrets from pet stores come home with mites because they easily go from animal to animal.

Symptoms

  • shaking head
  • rubbing ears
  • scratching
  • black dots in ears (looks like dirt)

Mites are easily treated with some medication in the ears. A quick trip to the vet is needed. Or some vets will sell you the treatment and you can apply it yourself.

Although easily treated, mites are not something you want to ignore. If left, the mites can cause infections, burst eardrums and in more serious situations they can igrate into the head of the ferret.

Infections

No one likes an ear infection. Your ferret is no exception.

Infections can happen for a number of reasons:

  • excess wax
  • mites
  • injury
  • excess moisture

...to name a few.

So if you notice head shaking, an odour or your ferret seems to be in pain, please take your ferret to the vet for a checkup.

Source

DO NOT USE THE FOLLOWING

Hydrogen Peroxide: This can dry the ear canal out too much and cause problems

Rubbing Alcohol: This can dry out and destroy tissue in the ear

Mineral Oils: Oils cause add too much moisture and cause extra wax or yeast to grow

How to Clean Ferret Ears

Don't let the cute faces fool you, most ferrets are not very keen on getting their ears cleaned. Depending on your ferret, this can make it a challenge.

First, gather the things you will need:

  • ear cleaner (can use the same cleaner they use for kittens)
  • cotton swabs
  • treats (whatever works best for you, salmon oil, Ferritone, whatever distracts them!)
  • a ferret

DO NOT USE THE FOLLOWING

Hydrogen Peroxide: This can dry the ear canal out too much and cause problems

Rubbing Alcohol: This can dry out and destroy tissue in the ear

Mineral Oils: Oils cause add too much moisture and cause extra wax or yeast to grow

Now comes the fun part!

It is easiest to sit down while you do this. Secure your ferret by scruffing or having a second person hold them.

Put a bit of your treat on their belly or wherever they can get at it. Personally, I put it on the sink counter and they stand and lick it. This will distract them somewhat - hopefully enough to get a good ear cleaning.

Next, moisten your cotton swab and swab the ear. Get in all the folds that you can see. Don't go too deep. Once the tip of the q-tip disappears into the ear, that is far enough.

If your cotton swab comes out dirty, use a new swab and wipe again.

Then take a dry swab and swab the ear once again to soak up any extra moisture that was left. Your ferret may want to shake their head. It is fine to let them do that, they will often dislodge some wax on their own.

Continue the same routine to the other ear.

Afterwards, an ear rub, some love, treats and play will make them forget quickly!


In Conclusion

Your ferret relies on their hearing for a lot of things. That makes it important to keep your pet's ears clean and healthy. It may not be a fun job and your little ball of cuteness will protest. However, it is an important part of being a ferret owner and they will forget about it soon after.

Resources

American Ferret Report, Living with Ferrets, Health Ears= healthy ferrets, Cindy Scoy, pg

Petmd.com

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2019 Tanya Huffman

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    • Guckenberger profile image

      Alexander James Guckenberger 

      15 months ago from Maryland, United States of America

      These guys are awesome. :)

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