Why Is My Ferret Coughing/Wheezing?

Q: Why is my pet ferret coughing up a lung all of a sudden?

Caucasian-Female-Boss-iconAnswer: Coughing in ferrets is actually typical of animals in the weasel family.

Usually, coughing is caused by:

  • A minor throat irritation,
  • Cardiomyopathy. In case the coughing becomes worse, or increases in frequency, it could be an early indication of cardiomyopathy – an enlarged heart.
  • Strep throat. Normally, ferrets are not considered to be carriers or even suffer from “strep throat”. Although rare, certain breeds of ferrets have been implicated in carrying the classic cause of strep throat, the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes. However, a lot of other germs actually have recently been “accused” of causing a syndrome like Strep throat – staphylococcus, Hemophilus influenzae, .
  • Hair balls. Besides coughing from fur stuck in the throat, your ferret can show additional symptoms of hairball issues. The coughing sound that my Critter made was because some hairs were stuck in the back of her throat on the way down. Coughing is often the first sign of when a hairball forms, which in ferrets, is a life-threatening clogging of the intestinal tract.
  • A piece of food that was swallowed too quickly,
  • Coughing is one sign a ferret may have the flu.
  • Or a common cold.

They occasionally cough from minor irritations in the throat. One of mine cut his throat after eating a little bit of corncob litter and it sounded like he was coughing, so I brought him in to the vet, and they looked in his throat and he had a cut.

You could try ferret lax or vaseline (only pure vaseline, with no added fragrances or anything) to help pass whatever may be irritating her throat. This, or laxatone will coat your fuzzy’s throat and help get the stuck item down.

In my ferret’s case, the coughing was just an effect of a minor aggravation to the throat.

Don’t stress unless you see other signs along with the coughing, like for example runny eyes and nose, light sensitivity (he squints his vision in light), and lethargy. As long as it’s just coughing (and not constant coughing or  additional signs or symptoms) I wouldn’t stress; it’s completely normal.

Shedding Season and Hairballs Causing Coughing

Winter is prime shedding time for ferrets. Shedding means hair balls. Throughout this shedding time, you’ll notice the fluffy undercoat hairs floating in the air, and the longer stiff guard hairs all over your ferrets bedding.

The finer undercoat hairs seem to stick on almost everything, including food and ferret noses during the course of shedding season, as your ferret grooms or eats, these hairs may very well be swallowed. They also groom themselves frequently, so hairballs happen as a result.

Here’s how to Prevent Hairballs in Fuzzbutts:

  1. Remove hair from the ferret and the ferrets surroundings during the course of shedding season.
  2.  Buy laxatives or pills to calm his cough, to eliminate the hairballs during shedding season.
  3. Cat hairball laxative pastes are ideal for hairball prevention. Throughout shedding season, give own ferret an inch ribbon of paste, or around a teaspoon every other day. If you are giving him a laxative, give the laxative for about a week to make sure he is hairball free.
  4. Vaseline works for hairballs and also blockages, but it is a petroleum product. During the course of the non-shedding season, you can do preventive maintenance with a dose once a week or two.
  5. Brush your ferrets teeth every week during the course of the shedding season to avoid tartar and decay. The high amount of sugars in most hairball medications can cause oral problems.

these steps, mine have never suffered from serious hairballs, and they are all six years old.

take extra precautions during shedding season. If some hairs are ingested and clump up in the belly, a hairball can easily form. Regrettably, ferrets don’t vomit up hairballs like cats do. Hairballs are Hazardous . The hairball will eventually get too large to be passed through. The hairball can then block up the stomach. The worst-case scenario is once the hairball leaves the stomach, it still blocks the intestines.

Symptoms of Lung Infections in Ferrets

There are some illnesses a ferret may get from dirt digging which includes a lung fungi. Coughing can also mean LYMPHOMA IN THE BRONCHI. The fluid build-up causes pressure on the lungs and surrounding organs and causes  the ferret to cough from the pain.

I put my coughing ferrets on medicine to avoid lung infections. You can also give the ferret a steam mist bath: go turn the warm water on, have the area fill with steam. Place the ferret in this room, loaded into a crate or a running ball for at least 15 mins to inhale the steam because heat rises (do make sure the ferret can’t get out and play in the toilet.) This can help break up the illness in the bronchi and really helps to clear them up.

Allergies in Ferrets

Some ferrets can also suffer from allergies. Look out for possible triggers like mold, mildew, and smokers in the home. Certain kinds of plants and also flowers or fabrics, materials like wool leather or even air fresheners (most air fresheners have chemicals that can make animals sick, so read the label carefully and the contents if you’re not sure.)

Look for anything you may have started using during the time the ferret started to get sick, attempt to correlate  precisely what  changed in their environment.

A cough may very be as simple as an allergy to the bedding, a stuck hairball, or perhaps a small cold. In case of allergies, utilize unscented detergent on all their bedding. The hard part is trying to figure out precisely what the ferret is allergic to.


Ferrets should not be around anything dusty, absolutely no dusty wood litter or bedding as they are able to get respiratory problems among other problems, and it can become chronic, which is exactly what happened to one of my last ferrets.

What are you using for a litter? If you happen to be using litter pans, you should probably visit the store and buy a pellet litter, which is much less dusty easier to tidy. Ferrets do best with a pellet litter, or a newspaper litter called Yesterdays News.

It could be a little bit of litter, his kibble, or even a tiny hair stuck in your ferret’s throat, and making them cough.

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