{NEUTERING YOUR FERRETS}

 

 

        This is a very important topic when it comes to keeping your ferrets as pets. Ferrets have a big reputation as "smelly" creatures. As their latin name suggests, ferrets have a distinct musk about themselves, which can easily be maintained after neutering. 

 

Young ferrets have a slight musk, this is a natural scent that cannot be washed off, as by doing so the oils in their coats which produce the smell will only come back thicker and stronger! It is not an unpleasant scent and can really only be noticed by handling your ferrets or by bedding that has not been changed or washed for a while. As the ferret matures into an adult, the scent of their natural oils become very pungent and can easily make an entire room smell musky! This is caused by the ferret coming into season. This is different depending on whether you have hobs or jills.

        Hobs will come into season usually from the first January/February after birth. So generally around the 6-9 month mark. The hob will stay in season untill the summer is over, so usually around September time. Males kept indoors will come into season faster, so will be in season usually by Christmas. This will happen each year, if he is not castrated... and a hob in season can become a bit of a pain! He will first start to become boisterous, becoming quite rough with his cage-mates and likely quite rough in play with you too. His fur will soon start to stain yellow in colour and become greasy, this is where he is producing a lot of oils to make his super strong smell, and soon his testicles will drop and become pronounced. A hob in season is a greasy, smelly, frustrated animal that does not make the best pet! 

        Getting your hob neutered as soon as possible (after the 6 month age) is HIGHLY recommended, as he will not be able to live with other ferrets during this time (He will constantly try to mount, fight, and bite his cage-mates). After neutering your hob, it will take a couple of weeks for his scent to go back to being subtle as a kits' and a few weeks for his hormones to stop him from acting so boisterous. Once settled back to normal, your hob can mingle happily with his hob and jill friends and will be the sweet and lovely baby you initially started with!

        A jill in season is a little different. Jills come into season a little after the boys, so around March time is when you'll see a change in her behaviour and scent. Jills also get a musky and stronger odour, but it is not as strong as the hob scent. They may also become a little nippy and start dragging their cage mates around thinking they are lost kits. A Jill in season will have a large, protruding vulva which can cause many issues if not dealt with promptly. Jill's, unlike hobs, cannot come out of season at the end of summer like the boys. So once she is in season, she will stay that way until she is taken out of season via neutering or hormonal injection by your vet. 

 

 

        If a jill is left in full season for too long, the jill will become anaemic and her fur will start to fall out in clumps over time. This prolonged season will eventually lead to a very long and painful death, so it is VERY important to have your girl neutered when she is over the age of 6 months. If your jill comes into season before she is 6 months, then your vet will give her a hormone injection, known as the "Jill Jab" which will take her out of season till she is ready to be neutered at the appropriate age.

{SURGICAL OR CHEMICAL NEUTERING?}

Adult Jill in full season. For many vets, a jill needs to be jabbed out of season before her spay.

        Neutering ferrets is not always as straightforward as the neutering of a cat or dog. Sadly, many vets in the UK are starting to refuse to surgically neuter ferrets, instead opting for owners to "neuter" their ferrets with the use of a Suprelorin/Deslorelin implant. The implant is similar to the female contracetive implant in it's look. It is a small device, similar in size to a microchip, that is inserted into the back of the neck of the ferret. It has a slow release hormone that suppresses the ferrets testosterone in males, and oestrogen in females. This effectively prevents the males from having urges to mate, and prevents the female from coming into season... all without having to do invasive surgery! However, the implant is not made to last for the ferrets lifetime, and the length of its effectiveness is still not fully tested. In some ferrets it has lasted for just one year before needing another implant, in other ferrets it has lasted as long as 4 years. This can potentially be a very expensive way of neutering as one implant can cost £100, and if these needs replacing several times in your ferrets lifetime, you could be spending thousands for several ferrets to have this procedure! Surgical neutering is a one off payment and ensures the ferret will stay in a neutered state.

       Why do vets want to use the implant instead of surgically neutering? Well, many vets learn information on ferrets from American studies. Ferrets in America are heavily controlled and are often sold already surgically neutered from a very young age. Often these ferrets are bred in mills and produced for pet stores, they are neutered from as young at just 4-6 weeks old, just after their eyes have opened and whilst still weaning from their mothers. This barbaric practice of neutering at such a tiny stage is the leading cause of Adrenal disease. Adrenal is a cancer that will make the adrenal glands of the ferret work in overdrive. This will cause the ferret to lose his hair and go bald starting from the flanks, the ferret will become very sick and will lead to death if not treated. The same Suprelorin/Deslorelin implant can be used to treat this condition and prevent further progression of the Adrenal disease.

        UK ferrets are not surgically neutered untill at least 6 months of age (It is against European law to neuter earlier than this age) so the instance of Adrenal disease is not common here at all, and is mostly unheard of. However, many vets are still wary due to the information from the study done in America into adrenal disease and links to neutering (bearing in mind that many ferrets in America are neutered VERY young) a lot of vets here in the UK now are not keen to surgically neuter. So why surgical neuter rather than implant or Jill jab? Ferrets are very prone to a variety of cancers and womb abnormalities like cysts etc. Females are also very prone to pyometra (an infection of the womb) removing the womb removes the risk of these life threatening illnesses. Using the jill jab and using an implant in a Jill will still leave her womb intact and at risk of such infections which can be fatal.

       Another implant risk is the uncertanty of when the implant will wear off. An owner that is not experienced in a ferrets seasons may not notice the signs of their ferrets implant wearing off. Ferrets in mixed sexed groups could lead to all manner of problems if implants wear off and season resume within the group!

      Deciding on what route to take with your ferrets is entirely your decision. It is worth speaking with your local vets BEFORE taking on ferrets to know what the general thoughts are of vets and surgical neutering. If a surgically neutered ferret does indeed get adrenal, remember that the implant can be used to supress this disease.