Ferrets are highly susceptible to canine distemper – a disease normally seen in dogs that is transmitted through moisture droplets. Dogs usually pick it up when sniffing where infected dogs have been, and since the incubation period can be as long as three weeks, it is usually too late to vaccinate once any outbreak has begun.
The initial signs of the disease appear 7-10 days after exposure to the virus and include a lack of interest in food and a thick mucus and pus-laden discharge from the eyes and nostrils.
A rash commonly appears under the chin and in the groin area 10-12 days following exposure, and the pads on the feet become greatly thickened.
Prevention of this disease should be an absolute priority because treatment is useless. Canine distemper is considered 100% fatal in ferrets, with infected ferrets dying approximately 3 1/2 weeks after initial exposure.
Kits should first be vaccinated against canine distemper at 6-8 weeks of age (4-6 weeks of age if kits are from unvaccinated mothers).
A booster vaccination is essential 2-3 weeks later. Yearly boosters are recommended thereafter.