- Does your pet respond to loud noise?
- Have you noticed that your ferret does not react on sudden sounds, for example if you are sitting in the room, playing with your furball and suddenly some strong sound comes from the street ( traffic or similar ) and your pet keeps playing instead of hiding?
- Do you have white or ‘blaze’( panda) ferret?
If you answered with no,yes,yes,then maybe your ferret is deaf .
Is it common for ferrets to be deaf? If yes, what would be the reason? Do all ferrets have equal chances to be deaf?
We have raised many questions here and I did a hell of a research to find the answers to these questions but also to answer those questions you did not even think about.
Is it common for ferrets to be deaf ?
The answer is YES. But ( imagine huge BUT here ) ferrets do not seem to take this diagnosis so tragically. Lets put aside what do ferrets think about the deafness and deal with facts and advice that you,as the owner of potential or confirmed deaf ferret, might find useful.
Fur pattern as an indicator
First of all some ferrets are more likely to be deaf from the others. One of the indicators based on which you can assume that ferret might be deaf is its fur pattern. For example blaze (with a white stripe on the head) or panda ferrets ( white head, no mask ) have a great chance to be deaf, even 75% of these ferrets are deaf. Also black-eyed white ferrets belong to this group. This is simply a matter of genetics.
Waardenburg syndrom, and who is Mr Waardenburg ?
- J Waarednburg was a Dutch ophthalmologist ( yes, you read well, eye doctor!) who first found the connection between hearing problems and pigmentation . This syndrome does not occur exclusively in ferrets but also in humans ,cats ,dogs and other animals .
Waardenburg syndrome is a neural crest disorder. It is genetic defect highly connected to white markings on the ferret’s fur but as any rule has exceptions I need to outline that not all ferrets with white markings are deaf nor all deaf ferrets must have white markings.
Ferrets that suffer from this syndrome have an underdeveloped hearing mechanism in the inner ear and deafness ( partial or complete ) comes as a result of this.
Deafness is only one of many symptoms of Waardenburg syndrome. Others are cranial defects, wider set eyes ( Downs) , lack of social skills, mental retardation etc.
Another important thing – not all deaf ferrets have Waardenburg syndrome. Ferrets can be deaf and not having this syndrome.
But ferrets that do have this syndrome have more health issues besides deafness and also their lifespan tends to be shorter.
How to Diagnose if the Ferret is Deaf (DIY)
The first step is your careful observation. You need to focus and observe your ferret while playing, does it react on loud noises, your voice commands. It can be tricky though as ferrets sometimes are not in the mood to do what is told so it might happen that you think that your pet is not hearing you but the truth is it just does not want to listen and do what you have told him to do.
For example one of my friends who have ‘business’ ( a group of ferrets ) noticed last week something strange with one jill from the group. He was playing in the backyard with them and suddenly a neighbor nearby started to drill something on his fence. The noise was horrible and almost all ferrets hid, except for one!
Snowflake stood on the grass, alone, totally confused. I am sure she was asking herself – where did they all disappear? At that moment my friend was sure that something is wrong with his black-eyed white ferret. He visited the vet two days ago and go the diagnosis – Snowflake was deaf.
On the other hand, you can try something else – if you approach your ferret from behind ( so it cannot see you before you reach it ) and you notice that it is very surprised or even scared then you should think to visit a vet for further consultation because normally it should be able to hear you and react before he sees you.
I also read that some owners do the home test, turn the vacuum cleaner but place it in some hidden spot in the room so the ferrets cannot see it but can hear it very well and look for their reaction – if they jump and quickly vanished, then they are probably ok but if they stay, show no excitement nor fear but continue playing then maybe you should see the vet.
Another thing you should be aware of is that ferrets are very responsive to movements and vibrations. So if your ferret cannot hear you, maybe it will notice that you are moving and will react on that or maybe you decide to clap your hands and it responds on the movement and not the sound. This can confuse you and let you think that your ferret is ok.
Of course the best way to get diagnosed is to take your ferret to the vet. There are different tests that perform routinely and your vet will share more information on this topic with you.
Deaf Ferret Care
Now we can get back to the point that deaf ferrets are not so concerned about their diagnosis. They live their lives like any other ferret. Deaf ferrets are also very lively, playful and unless they have some other health issue, deafness ( except deafness caused by Waardenburg syndrome) will not affect quality of life .
What I have noticed by searching this topic is that deaf ferret is a bit hard to train as it cannot hear your commands. Also it seems that deaf ferrets are louder then others so it will ‘talk to you’ more often. Unlike normal hearing ferrets which are rather quite, deaf ferrets are screaming more frequently.
As deaf ferret cannot hear your voice command and you need to learn it not to bite you for example, the solution might be to move your finger in front of its face every time when you see its intention to bite you. It will most probably understand that movement as one big NO-NO, do not put your teeth here!
You can also give your ferret more of your time, cuddle more often, pick up and handle your pet as much as you can. If you do this, your ferret eventually learns to trust you even if it cannot hear you.
Also you can make extra effort to prevent any of your friends or people who come to your house to approach your deaf ferret from behind. That will decrease your pet’s level of stress.
Other things such as feeding, bath, walks … you can do like with any other ferret, no need to take any extra precaution.