Ferrets: biology and husbandry

image of Ferrets: biology and husbandry
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The ferret is a small carnivore of the Family Mustelidae, which also contains stoats, weasels, otters and badgers. Ferrets are long thin carnivores with short legs, adapted for hunting in tunnels and cavities. Many of their features are similar to those of the dog or cat. The chapter considers where the ferret differs greatly from other species in the following areas, Skeleton; Gastrointestinal tract; Respiratory system; Urogenital system; Adrenal glands; Blood, Skin and fur; Nervous system; and Senses. In addition, the chapter discusses Reproductive biology; Behaviour; Husbandry; and Health care.

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17.2 Note the long thin body shape.
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17.3 Ferret dissection: (1) cranial lobe left lung; (2) heart; (3) caudal lobe left lung; (4) diaphragm; (5) liver; (6) stomach (note large size of full stomach); (7) spleen (this is an old ferret, euthanased with barbiturate – both factors contribute to a very large spleen); (8) left kidney; (9) sublumbar fat; (10) sixth rib cut; (11) small intestine; (12) fat deposits in site of thymus gland.
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17.4 The teeth are adapted to a carnivorous diet.
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17.5 The upper incisors are longer than the lower and normally are rostral to the lower when the mouth is closed.
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17.6 Superficial musculature of the ferret: (1) sternocephalicus; (2) brachiocephalicus; (3) trapezius; (4) omotransversarius; (5) deltoideus; (6) teres major; (7) triceps (angular head); (8) latissimus dorsi; (9) deep pectoral; (10) cutaneous trunci (cut); (11) triceps (long head); (12) triceps (lateral head); (13) brachialis; (14) flexor carpi ulnaris; (15) ulnaris lateralis; (16) lateral digital extensor; (17) common digital extensor; (18) external carpi radialis; (19) brachioradialis; (20) external abdominal oblique; (21) sartorius; (22) tensor fasciae latae; (23) superficial gluteal; (24) caudofemoralis; (25) biceps femoris; (26) semitendinosus; (27) lateral gastrocnemius; (28) abductor cruris caudalis. Drawn by S.J. Elmhurst BA Hons (www.livingart.org.uk) and reproduced with her permission.
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17.7 Gastrointestinal tract of the ferret: (1) stomach (simple monogastric structure); (2) pancreas (partly obscured by pancreatic tumour); (3) duodenum; (4) jejunum; (5) colon; (6) ileocolic junction; (7) rectum.
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17.8 Kidneys. The right kidney is still contained in its capsule. The left kidney has been exposed, showing the normal slightly pitted surface.
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17.9 Female reproductive system.
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17.10 This enlarged left adrenal gland (arrowed) is clearly visible craniomedial to the kidney. Note the venous drainage of the caudal pole to the vena cava (as an exception to the norm).
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17.11 Position of sublumbar lymph gland(s).
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17.12 Colour variations. Polecat: note the very dark mask typical of the European polecat from which ferrets were domesticated. Colour varieties; from left: polecat-ferret, sandy, silver mink. The classic albino ferret. Note the all-white fur and red eyes compared with the silver mink in (b). Sandy ferrets. There can be a great range in colours. Polecat-ferret and albino.
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17.13 Swollen vulva of the in-season jill. This animal has been in season for a while, hence the ventral alopecia.
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17.14 Ferrets are not vicious. This polecat-ferret is enjoying being handled and mouthing the hand of the handler.
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17.15 Basic ferret unit with sleeping quarters (upstairs) and play area.
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17.16 Hutches for ferrets. Many keepers will stack hutches.
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17.17 Two types of sleeping hammock for ferrets. Importantly, they are suspended above ground level.
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17.18 Environmental enrichment. Playball for ferrets. Food can be hidden inside so smaller animals can enter, or larger ones can roll the ball to remove the food. A drainpipe provides an excellent enrichment device for ferrets; food can be hidden inside, or ferrets will simply play by running through it. Overhead runs for displaying ferrets to the public in a zoo. Ferrets are very active along these runs, even though they have ample sleeping quarters and a basic enclosure.
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