The key purpose of vaccination is to prepare the body’s immune system in the chance it would be required to fight off any disease-causing organisms. They may not give 100% immunity so it is important to keep in mind that vaccines ARE NOT A CURE, however they may help aid in the prevention of many illnesses that may affect pets. It does not mean your pet will never get sick again, because even vaccinated animals may get the illnesses they were pre-vaccinated against, it simply means that their bodies should know how to tackle the disease more efficiently. There are also many other factors to keep in mind when it comes to animals getting sick even with being vaccinated, such as the species, the lifestyle, the health status, the diet and so forth.
VACCINATING AGAINST DISEASES
The only two diseases in which a ferret may be vaccinated, is Canine Distemper, and Rabies.
Canine Distemper is a very problematic disease as it is considered almost always fatal in ferrets and thus, vaccinating may not be effective as the sole preventative against this disease. It is not a requirement by law to have your ferret vaccinated against Canine Distemper, and so you as a pet owner can make the decision as to whether or not it would be in yours and your ferret’s best interest. We will cover more on this disease, improving immunity holistically and vaccination at a later date.
Rabies, though it is highly unlikely to affect your ferret, is often a requirement by law in many countries and states. To see whether you are required to vaccinate against Rabies, ask your local veterinarian as they would be up to date on laws and requirements as far as vaccinations go.
There is an ongoing problem when it comes to vaccination, and that is that small animals such as our ferrets are often being over-vaccinated. This is where Titer Tests come in handy.
Also referred to as serum vaccine antibody titering and serologic vaccine titering, the titer test basically measures the existence and levels of antibodies to diseases in the blood of your ferret. Antibodies are produced when an antigen (eg. virus or bacteria) provokes a response from the immune system of the ferret or other animals. Usually this response can come from natural exposure tot he disease, or from vaccination. A positive titer test result in a previously vaccinated pet correlates well with protective immunity and so you do not need to poison your pet year after year using booster vaccinations as long as there’s a positive titer test and you have a vaccine extension or exemption.
Also refer to Titer Test.
For the rabies vaccine, Ferrets get 1 cc, that is 25 times the dose they should really be getting. According to Dr John Robb, It is similar with dogs, the correct dose should be .04 cc and so by giving 1 cc, our ferrets are potentially being poisoned! Always double check with your vet if you do have the rabies vaccine done and once they get the reduced volume follow up with a titer to make sure they have a titer of at least 0.1 IU/ml.
Here is a table for an example sent to me by Dr John Robb.
Dose by weight
Vaccine dosages are linear by weight
2 pound dog- 0.04 cc’s
5 pound dog – 0.1 cc’s
8 pound dog – 0.16 cc’s
10 pound dog – 0.2 cc’s
15 pound dog – 0.3cc’s
20 pound dog- 0.4 cc’s
25 pound dog- 0.5 cc’s
30 pound dog-0.6 cc’s
40 pound dog- 0.8 cc’s
50 pound dog- 1.0 cc’s
All dogs 50 pounds and up get 1.0 cc’s
VACCINE EXTENSION / EXEMPTION
As the rabies vaccine is a requirement by law in many countries and states, you may need to apply for a vaccine extension or exemption to avoid having to do a booster every year or every 3 years. You can get more information from your local vet, or if your local vet is unwilling to assist, reach out to someone who will. If you’re from the US, I recommend reaching out to Dr John Robb at Protect The Pets, as he will surely help you to locate a good vet willing to help, or provide any necessary information on the vaccine extensions and exemptions.
The vaccination protocol is as followed:
1. Seek advice from a veterinarian, have thorough health check done on ferret.
2. Only vaccinate HEALTHY animals, any immune compromised or sick animals should NEVER BE VACCINATED.
3. At approx 8 weeks, first vaccination.
4. At approx 11-12 weeks, second vaccination.
5. 2 weeks following the second vaccination, you can Titer to check immunity levels and then decide the next best time to vaccinate, often you will find you will not require a yearly booster, but rather a booster triennially (every 3 years.) Please keep in mind that this is entirely dependent on your ferret and thus, it is absolutely essential to titer rather than risk over-vaccinating.
6. Booster according to titer result. Often they would be completely immunized for life.
If your ferret has documented current or ongoing health problems, or has been titered you may ask your vet to apply for a vaccine extension or exemption in countries or states where the vaccine is a requirement by law. ABSOLUTELY UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD AN IMMUNE COMPROMISED FERRET BE VACCINATED!
Keep at least 3-4 weeks in between vaccinations or medication for parasites before having the rabies vaccine done. It is not recommended to have multiple vaccinations in one sitting, space it out by 3-4 weeks to avoid the risk of vaccine reactions.
Monitor for at least 30 minutes to an hour after a vaccination to check for any allergic response. This will make it easier for you to get to the vet and counter the vaccine. Often reactions can be quite serious and life threatening so always be cautious and on guard.