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When to de-sex?
Ferrets can be de-sexed once they reach sexual maturity — this usually happens when they are about 6 months old but can happen earlier or later.
Most pet ferrets kept around the world are de-sexed as it reduces body odour and makes them generally easier to live with (as well as making it possible to live with other ferrets without fights or unplanned pregnancies).
* Males can be de-sexed any time after their testicles have descended (when two small hard round lumps can be clearly felt).
* Females can be de-sexed just before they come into season (or after). You can tell when a female is in season because her vulva will become pink and swollen (see photo).
It is important that once a female comes into season she is brought out, as if left in season for longer than about 4 weeks they are at risk of dying from aplastic anemia.
Options for bringing a female out of season:
* de-sexing - permanently solution. surgery should be performed either before she has come into season, or within 1-2 weeks or being in season (ie having an enlarged vulva). If she has been in season longer than this, another method should be used to bring her out of season and once this has taken effect, the de-sexing surgery can be performed.
* hormone injection from a vet - temporary solution. A hormone injection can be administered by a ferret knowledgeable vet. Ideally done at around 1-2 weeks after first coming into season, however this method is also used if the female has been in season longer (eg. a stray ferret who has been in season an unknown duration, or if an owner didn't notice their ferret was in season).
If your local vet is unsure about hormone injections, please contact us to find a ferret knowledgeable vet near you.
* Females should have a litter of kits before they are de-sexed.
Not true. We're not sure where this myth came from, or what the supposed benefit of breeding once before de-sexing, but it is not true that females need to have at least one litter before being de-sexed.
Most female ferrets in Australia are de-sexed at around 6 months of age - either just before they come into season or when they have been in season for 1-2 weeks.
Breeding ferrets is a serious undertaking and should only be considered by experienced owners. Some areas in Australia already have too many ferrets in need of homes and struggle with the addition of kits.
As ferrets are illegal in Queensland, it would be even more irresponsible of owners to bring more ferrets into the state.
* Small animals such as ferrets will die under anesthetic.
This myth stems from the past when vets did not have a lot of experience with small animal surgery.
These days, most vets have experience with some species of small animal and there are much better anesthetics available.
Death during routine procedures such as de-sexing is extremely uncommon, and is almost unheard of.
If you are concerned about how much experience your vet has with ferret surgery, contact us to find a ferret knowledgeable vet near you.