Ferrets are inquisitive and active by nature, but those endearing qualities do not always work in their best interest. Your pet may, for example, be fond of chewing on soft or rubbery items and may even swallow them when given the opportunity. If one of those objects gets lodged in your ferret's intestines, however, the situation can quickly become lethal as your pet is no longer able to pass waste or finish digesting its food. Catching the problem and deciding on a course of action as soon as possible will give your ferret its best chance of surviving this dangerous development.
Recognizing the Signs of a Blockage
When your ferret has an intestinal blockage, you may notice it attempting to pass waste repeatedly with no success or by passing long, stringy stools. Your ferret will eventually stop eating and may vomit or show signs of distress as the condition worsens. If you don't notice and react to these symptoms in time, your pet will finally go into shock and die as a result of the blockage. Always take your ferret into the vet immediately if you suspect a blockage; your vet will be able to gently probe your ferret's digestive tract until he or she locates the obstruction. X-rays may also be used to get a better look at the offending item and its position in the intestines.
Attempting to Clear the Blockage Naturally
In many cases, particularly if the object is known and the risk is low, your vet may send you home with recommendations to attempt clearing the blockage without resorting to surgery. This can be as simple as feeding your pet large quantities of olive oil to help lubricate the intestines, while canned pumpkin is both safe for ferrets to eat and a potent laxative. These home remedies may be enough to expel the object, but if you notice your ferret's condition declining or nothing changes within a day or so, you will need to return to the veterinarian for small-animal surgery.
Removing the Blockage Surgically
Once the blockage has persisted long enough, you run the risk of the intestines rupturing or becoming necrotic. At this point, surgical intervention is necessary to save your pet. Your vet will open up the ferret's intestinal tract and remove both the object and any irreparably damaged intestinal tissue. The intestine is then stitched back together and your ferret allowed to recover from the anesthesia. You will need to restrict your ferret's activity and diet for days or weeks after the surgery to allow the incision to heal. From then on, your primary goal should be to prevent your ferret from developing a blockage again in the future.