Behavioural consultation in the ferret

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Before a consultation for behaviour in a ferret, a complete clinical examination should he performed and the animal's living conditions studied. The main reasons for consultation are biting, inappropriate urination and soiling, and difficulties with cohabitation with littermates. Lack of knowledge of the animal's behaviour can generate insufficient and ill-considered interactions and excessive and inappropriate punishments, which may be the cause of various problems of communication. Training is never completely acquired, which can demotivate exacting owners. These problems can be evidenced during behavioural consultations.

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The ferret is becoming an increasingly popular pet, yet the dangers of ferret ownership remain unrecognized by physicians and the general public. Reported are three incidents of ferret attacks in a 3-month period of time. The risk of attack is greatest in infants and small children. Wounds caused by ferret attacks must be evaluated for injury, infection, and rabies prophylaxis. Such attacks should be reported to animal control authorities. Physicians need to recognize the ferret as a risk to children.
Behavior patterns exhibited by the domestic ferret, although similar to its wild cousins, are distinctly domestic in nature. Domestic ferrets use many different types of behaviors, including body posturing, animations, vocalizations, and scent markings. These behaviors may differ somewhat from ferret to ferret. The domestic ferret is best understood by observation and recognition of its behavior patterns and interactions as it plays and communicates with both humans and animals within its home environment. As with all other species of animals kept as pets, the clinician will be greatly benefited by urging the pet owner to regularly note typical behavior patterns for their individual pet. Following is a brief summary of behavioral changes noted in domestic ferrets that may aid the owner or keeper in the detection of potential illness or injury: A normally active ferret suddenly becoming quiet or vice-versa Any sudden increase or decrease in daily food and water intake Routine behaviors performed out of context or order, especially in older animals Any sudden increase or decrease in the speed at which routine behaviors are performed (such as urination, defecation, grooming, food, or water intake) Any sudden increase in the effort required to perform normal or routine behaviors Any sudden changes in personality or attitude toward other ferrets or toward other animals or people. The previous information was gathered over the last 15 years from personal observations, experiences, and studies of ferrets in the shelter, home, and animal hospital environments. This information regarding ferret behavior can assist the veterinarian in differentiating between normal and abnormal behaviors in domestic ferrets. This increased understanding of ferret behavior can aid in the diagnosis of injury and disease and assist the veterinarian in educating clients regarding ferret behavior, care, and recognition of potential disease.