Ferret Friendly Facts and Advice by Erika Matulich, Ph.D.

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© Erika Matulich

Ah, summer! The irresistible allures of the sun, sand, and water often call us to the lake or ocean. You may be tempted to take your ferret friends along for the beach adventure, but you should first be aware of some cautions.
What’s the Weather?
First, check the weather forecast. If the outside temperature will be more than 80°F (27°C), your ferret should stay indoors at home and keep cool. Warmer temperatures or high humidity levels will be uncomfortable for your ferret and put your buddy in danger of heat stress or heatstroke.
Harness Up!
Never take your ferret on an outdoor adventure without a harness and leash. Ferrets can easily slip out of collars, so use a harness! Identification on the harness and a bell are also good safety measures. The leash keeps your ferret from going into off-limits areas and allows you to pull your ferret out of danger quickly. Check the fit of your harness each time you use it, because ferrets change their weight during the summer.
Your Little Bundle of Sunshine
The next guideline is to keep your ferret out of direct sunlight. Ferrets can get sunburned on their sensitive nose and ears, and ultraviolet rays can cause retinal damage in the eyes. I have some little sunglasses, but they don’t stay on my ferrets for more than a few seconds! Sunburns make ferrets susceptible to skin cancer. Albino ferrets especially lack protective skin coloring and can suffer severe sunburns from just minutes of direct exposure. Too much sun will also dehydrate your ferret – remember to bring a water bottle.
Sand holds and reflects heat. Therefore sand gets hotter than the air and burns your ferret’s feet. Sand also radiates heat long after air temperatures have cooled. You might be strolling along at 75 degrees but your ferret down on the sand feels an uncomfortable 85 degrees. Ferrets also love to dig in sand and if they mistakenly eat some, they can get an intestinal blockage. Blowing sand can cause eye damage because beach sands are made of silica (essentially ground glass), which scratches eyes and skin.
When I took Gizmo to Lake Mendota, Wisconsin, she loved walking along the shore in ankle-deep water. Unfortunately, she also loved to drink the water, and took home some nasty intestinal parasites. If you go to the ocean and your ferret drinks salt water, digestive system disruptions are likely. At worst, if your ferret drinks too much salt water, a brain edema could occur. Be careful of ocean waves that could douse your ferret and get salt water into eyes, ears, and lungs. Again, the leash and harness will help keep your ferret safe.
Other Critters
At lakes, possible dangers abound, such as poisonous snakes, predatory birds, and insect bites. Remember that one mosquito bite can transmit potentially fatal heartworms to your ferret. Once, when I took Bobbin to the lake, she discovered a duck nest near the shore and decided to play with an egg. This aroused the wrath of the nearby mother duck. I reeled Bobbin in so quickly on her leash she practically flew through the air, because I knew a ferret was no match for a mad duck! At both lakeside and oceanside, dogs pose another hazard. Unleashed dogs at the beach could snatch up your ferret in an instant. Finally, watch out for potentially dangerous ocean creatures. I know one ferret who was badly stung by a jellyfish washed ashore, and another ferret who had a near miss with a hungry pelican.
And Finally . . .
Some ferrets think that any outdoor trip is a wonderful adventure and enjoy every minute to the maximum! Gizmo never tired of visiting the shore and had a blast! Other ferrets get scared (Sweet Pea wanted only to go home and would dive down my shirt to hide). Know what makes your ferret safe and happy so you can decide whether or not to share your beach adventure with your buddy.