Veterinarian Dr David Neck sees a lot of ferrets in his beachside companion animal practice in Perth. Treating ferrets may not be something familiar to all vets, and Dr Neck advises that because the animals wriggle around so much and have a very short attention span, it’s best to get your examination over quickly and efficiently.

Dr Neck has worked at Cottesloe Vet for over two decades. He is now the practice owner, however when he first started working at the practice under previous owner Dr Don Nickels, the clinic saw the occasional ferret and a weekend introduction to a sick ferret set off a career long interest in the species for Dr Neck.

“I was working on a weekend and a lady brought in a really sick ferret. I said to her, I had no idea what was wrong, but I had some ferret books in the office so if she left the ferret with me, I’d do some reading and see what I could come up with. As it turned out she was the president of the local ferret association, and so went she went home, she phoned all the committee members and said ‘the young vet at Cottesloe will take the trouble to look stuff up!’. I like that I was the young vet back then!”, said Dr Neck.

There are several common diseases which ferrets suffer from including adrenal gland disease involving an excess of the sex hormones testosterone, progesterone and oestrogen which results in hair loss, which is different to the hypercortisolaemia seen in dogs and cats with Cushing’s Syndrome.

“Ferrets are hardy little creatures which bounce back from major illness very well. In addition to the adrenal gland disease, other classic ferret diseases include insulinoma where there’s an excess production of insulin resulting in profound hypoglycaemia, congestive heart failure, intestinal foreign bodies and dental disease – mostly as a result of poor diet.”

“I find it’s useful to get a good history first, then power through the physical examination, then take your time to chat to the owner. I find ferrets quite cool to work with, it is rare that they are aggressive and when they are, they respond really well to sedation”, said Dr Neck.

During most days at Cottesloe Vet, Dr Neck and his team perform several ferret dental procedures, along with radiographs and consultations. Ferrets get distemper so vaccination against the distemper virus is recommended and commonly performed at the practice – including regular weekend mass ferret vaccination sessions in conjunction with the local ferret association.

“There has been a recent publication on lymphoma treatments for ferrets including results of different protocols, so we are looking at what we do and refining our approach. We’ve also detected a lot of demodicosis in ferrets, which is really poorly reported in the literature, so I’m trying to work out better why that is happening”, said Dr Neck.