Q: Why Is My Ferret Sneezing?

Answer: Observe the pet ferret  and you’ll hear it sneezing – loud and screechy. The sneezing is so loud it may even alarm you with the high frequency and force of it. 

Your pet`s sneezing is dependent upon environmental factors surrounding it.

These are the primary causes of sneezing in Ferrets:

  • Dust in the air
  • Allergies
  • Loose hair (during Summer shedding season)
  • Using clay, wood shaving, or clumping cat litter
  • Cold and Flu (especially in winter time)
  • Scent spreading
  • Sensitivity to bedding/hammocks (from specific laundry detergents)
  • Dusty carpeting

Ask yourself these three questions to figure out why your ferret sneezes:

1.) Do you live in a dusty area?  Do you have things lying around he can “snorkel” in?  If your home is carpeted, it can collect crumbs, loose carpet fibers, dust and hair, which makes him sneeze. Frequently, dust causes ferrets to sneeze, because they tend to roam around with their noses to the ground. Ferrets are also short animals, with low noses, making them the perfect height to inhale pesky dust particles.

2.) What fabric softeners are you using on his bedding? If you use carpet cleaning powder on his bedding or around his cage, discontinue use, and see if the sneezing stops. If you wash his bedding or carpeting with a particular scented detergent, switch to unscented, and see what happens.

3.) What sort of litter are you using?  Avoid wood shaving litter, sawdust, or clumping clay cat litters for ferrets. These litters are dusty and oily, which makes them sneeze.  They might also get some of this litter caught in their nose or bottom, which can lead to infections or blockages. Switch to natural corn cob, or shredded paper litter like yesterdays news.

Open a window or boil some water to get moisture into the air, brush your ferret frequently to catch loose hairs, discontinue use of scented products, and vacuum your carpet more frequently for several weeks, to see if the sneezing in your ferret stops.

Ferret Sneezing Caused by Bedding Changes

My ferrets sneeze a good deal when I use certain types of bedding.  I changed their bedding to aged tshirts and also pajamas (washed in baby or “free” detergent) rather than litter/bedding to decrease the dust.  Ferrets have sensitive asthmatic systems, so they are easily irritated by allergens. Ferrets have no need for any sort of bedding though.

Find a litter that works for your ferret. For mine, I used to use corn cob, but switched because I found that it’s still somewhat dusty and is  a breeding ground for mites and spiders (*shudder*.)  Shredded newpaper is slightly better, but it can be messy, and not very absorbent.

Scent Spreading Sneezes

A ferret’s deliberate sneezing could also be due to its need to spread out and also emit scents that are released from glands behind or beneath its ears. This is actually done to clean their face, too. This sneezing is actually not as a consequence of any kind of illness. Sniff behind your pet`s ears. If you smell a musky scent, it’s simply aroused and spreading its scent about with sneezes.

Is My Ferret Sneezing Because He’s Sick?

Ferrets do get sick from “human” viruses like the common cold and flu – which is why they’re even better than mice as scientific research animals. If you or someone who is watching your ferret is sick, take extra precautions, like covering your sneezes, to keep your ferrets from getting sick.

But ferrets and weasels are itchy/twitchy/sneezy creatures by nature, so it could be totally normal for your ferret. If they’re sneezing more than you think is normal, it might be time to take your ferret to the vet. Since they can go downhill so quickly, any potential symptoms shouldn’t be ignored, especially in ferrets with weakened immune systems, like the very young or old.

As long as there’s no loss of appetite, and they’re drinking plenty of fluids, they’re probably fine. But if they act sick for more than 3 days, stop eating or drinking, or have green/yellow goopy discharge around their eyes or nose (clear is okay), then they need to get in and see a veterinarian.

If your ferret is sneezing without other symptoms like those mentioned above, mention it at your next checkup, but he’s most likely fine, and just doing his best impression of the “weasel sneeze.”

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