Ferrets sometimes demonstrate non-specific symptoms, but like dogs, will experience blood clots and other related heart issues. Due to their smaller size, ferrets will experience complications from only a handful of adult worms. Even one worm can endanger a ferret’s life. Diagnostic and treatment options are minimal, but can help.

Ferrets with heartworm disease may show the following symptoms:

  • Decreased activity level
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Coughing
  • Respiratory problems
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Heart failure in severe cases

Diagnosis and Treatment

Blood tests in ferrets are often unreliable. Veterinarians rely on the ferret’s symptoms, chest x-rays or ultrasounds to determine if heartworm disease is a possibility. Typically, a veterinarian will use an antigen test to detect adult heartworm skin in the ferret’s blood and an echocardiogram, which will produce a picture of the ferret’s heart. These two, combined with the ferret’s symptoms, may determine if heartworm disease is at play.

When treating heartworm disease in ferrets, the focus is to kill off the worms and increase lung function with drug therapy. The treatment itself can pose serious risks to the ferret’s health. Close monitoring for four to six weeks is recommended.


Heartworm treatment can be detrimental to your pet’s health. It’s often costly for pet owners when surgery is involved and the risks are high with such limited treatments available. In the case of heartworm disease, prevention is best. There are a variety of FDA-approved preventatives that your ferret can take to keep them healthy and safe. Call us to get more information about preventative measures for your ferret.

Act Now

At Valley Animal Hospital, we are prepared to answer your questions about heartworm disease and offer the best preventatives to keep your pet safe. Call today at (956) 787-2709 to schedule an appointment.