Q: I have a 1-year-old, neutered male ferret that has recently been diagnosed with a bacterial ear infection and allergies. His ears are painful, have an odor and produce a dark brown discharge. He also has buildup on the right side of his face from his ear to his eye, and he has a cough. My vet prescribed Mometamax (1 drop once daily for 14 days) and Benadryl (1/4 mL once daily). His ears have not improved after 10 days, but his cough has subsided.
Do you have any advice for treating ear infections in ferrets and proper ear cleaning techniques? The Merck Veterinary Manual recommended using povidone iodine and warmed saline to cleanse the ears. Would you recommend this? Should the iodine be diluted or mixed in any way? Also what would you suggest for treating allergies long term?
A: Bacterial ear infections and allergies are very uncommon in ferrets. If your ferret has not responded well to the treatments for these conditions, it is time for you to recheck with your veterinarian and let him or her know that the medications are not working as well or as fast as you might like.
When a diagnosis has been made and appropriate medications are given, we expect our ferrets to respond to those medications within a few days to a week. If this does not happen, we think one of two things — either our diagnosis may have been incorrect or we need a different dose, frequency or type of medication. This is the stage you are at with your ferret.
It is time to re-evaluate the medications your ferret is on and the diagnosis. Ear mites could cause a dark brown discharge. Was your ferret examined for ear mites and, if they were found, were they treated? Ear infections that do not improve on medication should be further examined. In this case, a cytology examination of the ear discharge might help to determine what type of bacteria are present and if fungal organisms are present.
I would not try the iodine until your veterinarian has looked again at your ferret and approved of that treatment. Because allergies are very uncommon in ferrets, there are no long-term treatments for allergies in ferrets. To find out why your ferret was coughing and to investigate why there is swelling on the face, your veterinarian may need to do more testing of your ferret.