When and How to Sub-q Ferrets at Home

Ferrets certainly know how to keep us on our toes, especially when they are ill. They are known not to display signs of illness at the onset, but rather as it progresses having a real impact on their health. This is why It is very important to take your ferret to the veterinarian as soon as you notice any signs of illness, irregularities, etc.

Two major concerns with any illness are food and water intake. Decline or refusal can become very serious, and even life-threatening in a very short amount of time.

Fluid Intake

Fluid intake is extremely important and you should do whatever you can to encourage your ferret to drink. Loss of electrolytes can lead to organ damage, most notably the kidneys, as well as wasting.

Adding Pedialyte to the water can encourage your ferret to drink more than it normally would and helps replace the depleted electrolytes. If you scruff their neck and the skin doesn’t snap back rather quickly, which it should, chances are the ferret is dehydrated, as that is usually the first indicator.

When all else fails, you will need to utilize sub-q fluids, which your veterinarian can administer. If your ferret has a chronic illness (ie: kidney disease), your veterinarian may work with you to administer the fluids on your own.

Always Consult with Your Vet!

It is vitally important to discuss this in detail beforehand, ensure you have the right fluids and have been trained on the procedure.

You should administer the sub-q fluids under the guidance of your veterinarian or tech until you are comfortable that you can do this on your own.

Items needed

You should have the following items on hand and ready to go before gathering the ferret:

  • Bag of appropriate fluids
  • 35cc Leur Lock syringe
  • 22g x 1 needle
  • 21G x 3/4″ x 12″ tube Butterfly Infusion set
  • The bribery of Ferritvite, Laxatone, Petromalt, Nutrical or Ferretone

Before using the fluids, always inspect the package and the color of the fluids. If the fluids have a yellowish color to it, do NOT use it, toss it out, even if it hasn’t expired yet. This is a sign that it is no longer good to use. The usual dosage of fluids is 30-35cc’s twice a day as needed.

You should always consult with your veterinarian prior to administering! Do not start doing this on your own!

Needles can not be disposed of with your normal trash. The easiest way to dispose of them is to bring them to your veterinarian’s office.

Always ensure the sterility of the needles. It is important that they make no contact other than with the bag to draw fluids (single needle) or insertion into your ferret (Butterfly Infusion set). If they touch anything else, DO NOT USE! Put on the side and use new needles.

The steps you will need to take are as follows:

  • Secure the 22g x 1 needle onto the end of the 35cc syringe
  • The fluid bag will have a plastic stopper toward the end of the bag on the top side, usually tan/orangey in color with the center area serving as the drawing fluid area. Do not confuse this with the white plastic parts that are usually found at the top of the bag.
  • With the needle attached to the syringe, carefully insert it into the bulls eye area, being careful not to pierce the bag. Draw out the fluid into the syringe until the desired amount is reached and remove the needle from the bag. The bag will not leak, it was designed to serve as a stopper.
  • You might want to run the syringe under running warm/hot water to warm the fluids up a little, it will be better tolerated this way. Test the fluids before removing the needle and attaching the butterfly, by dropping a few drops of the fluid on your wrist, it should be no more than slightly warm. Remove the needle from the syringe and attach the plastic end of the Butterfly Infusion set onto the end of the syringe (not the needle itself).
  • Now it is time to gather up your ferret. Set him comfortably on your lap (you will have better control this way, especially if you are doing this solo), apply enough of the bribery treat onto your leg and smear it around so it will keep him busy licking for enough time.
  • Once your ferret is involved with his treat, gently scruff his neck about 1/4″ – 1/2″ inch down from the shoulder blades, and gently/carefully insert the Butterfly Infusion set needle into their skin, being careful not to insert downward or to go through the other side. The best way is to insert the needle level to their body. Your ferret might flinch a little bit, don’t worry, they have very tough skin and it is not painful. At this point you want to ensure they remain busy with their treat and if necessary provide more.
  • Now you are ready to inject the fluids. If you can, you might want to support your ferret under their front legs with one hand, so you have additional control. Place the syringe with the plunger on the table for leverage. Very slowly at first, push down on the plunger to push the fluids through. Your ferret might jump a little bit when the fluids first start entering their body, but they will quickly settle down. With a steady flow, continue to push the remaining fluids through, being careful not to go too quickly to blow him away, or too slowly where he might catch on to what’s going on.
  • When all the fluids are through, apply small pressure to the injection area and remove the needle from your ferret. You might notice a swelling in the injection area, which can be the size of a ping pong ball, this is normal and will go away as the fluids are absorbed into the body. Give a big reward and praise. You are both done.

A technique for challenging ferrets:

  • Have all above supplies prepared and ready for use.
  • Wait until your ferret is sleeping in their favorite spot, then pick him up and let him curl up back to sleep in your lap (next to the arm of a couch is a great place).
  • While he is sleeping, massage the area where you will be injecting the fluids,slightly tugging on it. Work your way to get the skin and angle in position. The goal is to get him to continue relaxing/ sleeping while you get ready to inject, so by the time he realizes he’s been stuck, the needle is already in.
  • Place the syringe next to the ferret, and with one hand lift the skin, while using the other hand to insert the needle in a straight line 1″ below the shoulders (make a deliberate effort when injecting the needle, if not you’re giving time for your ferret to move and squirm around)
  • Once the needle is in, use your hand that was holding the skin to go under the ferret and hold under the front arms with the body dangling (you don’t want the back legs on any surface to gain leverage) and their back facing you. Keep the syringe very close to the ferret so the needle does not get loose or come out.
  • With your free hand, start pushing the fluids through slowly (using the arm of a couch for leverage will make this easier, as you push down on the plunger).
  • Hold the ferret firmly, so they don’t squirm out of your hand, and keep him close to the syringe.
  • Once administered, place your finger over the injection site and apply slight pressure as you remove the needle.
  • Hold a towel firmly over the injection area (or your finger) for a few seconds to help close the opening and lessen the amount of fluids that might leak out.
  • Don’t forget the treat afterwards!!!

Conclusion

Fluid intake is crucial. Do not Sub-q your Ferrets at home, before talking and seeing a veterinarian!

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