How to Find the Right Vet for Your Ferret
The world's best veterinarian – that kindly DVM who has been seeing your dogs and cats for years and in whom you have complete faith – may not be the best choice to treat your ferret. How many years has this veterinarian been seeing ferrets?
Ferrets present a variety of unique illnesses that simply are not seen in dogs and cats. While the average veterinarian may be competent to give a routine exam or diagnose one or two of the most common ferret ailments, the day may come when that's not enough, and you'll need a veterinarian well-trained in the intricacies of the internal workings of a ferret.
"The old rule was, 'If you see a ferret, treat it like a cat,'" says Dr. Jerry LaBonde, a suburban Denver veterinarian who specializes in treating exotic animals, including ferrets. "But that's not good advice. You can treat it like a cat, but a lot of times you'll be treating the wrong thing. Ferrets have unique illnesses, and if you're not aware of those, you may be missing the boat in trying to treat an illness."
Word of Mouth Best Way to Find Vet
LaBonde has built his thriving practice through word of mouth – and that's exactly how he advises ferret owners to find an appropriate veterinarian. Ask around: at pet stores, breeders and members of local ferret clubs. Even ask your own current veterinarian. "If you get more than one source referring you to the same name, then you can feel pretty comfortable about that veterinarian," LaBonde says.
If you live in a large city, there almost certainly will be a handful of ferret specialists from which you can choose. But if you're in a rural location, the only available veterinarians may see far more cows and horses than they see ferrets. In that case, look for a veterinarian who's willing to learn. LaBonde says, "If you're in western Nebraska, and you have a veterinarian who is willing to make some phone calls, get some consultations, then that's a good veterinarian for your ferret," he says. "If you're in Denver or some other large city where you have a choice of hundreds of veterinarians, then I'd look for one who has experience with ferrets."
Once you've identified a potential care provider, visit the hospital and make sure you're comfortable with what you see. Ask questions.
"Be sure to ask the veterinarian how many ferrets per week the hospital sees, and if there is more than one doctor on staff who can see ferrets," LaBonde advises. "That's important, because I'm not going to be available seven days a week, 24 hours a day. If they have an associate you can also see, you can feel pretty good about that hospital."
Other Questions to Ask
What are some of the most common ferret ailments he sees?
What are the most common surgeries performed?
What range of services can this veterinarian provide?
What does an office visit cost?
When are office hours?
How are emergency calls handled?
What about methods of payment?
Be on the alert for telltale signs that this is not the veterinarian you want treating your ferret. "Consider your veterinarian's comfort level in handling and examining your ferret," LaBonde advises. "It should be a very thorough exam from nose to tail, and the veterinarian should not seem intimidated or nervous. Secondly, if the veterinarian uses a dog or cat vaccine and not a vaccine made specifically for ferrets, that should be an immediate red flag."