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How To Clean Ferret Ears (3 Simple Steps)

vet cleaning a ferret's ear

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Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet)

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The ferret is an exquisite small mammal in the family Mustelidae, which also includes mink, ermine, and weasel. But, unlike its wild counterparts, the ferret is fully domesticated. This makes it an intelligent, affectionate, playful little companion animal with a very entertaining mischievous side. However, it does require some special grooming, especially when it comes to cleaning its delicate ears.

Like other small pets, ferret ears are very fragile, so special attention should be paid when cleaning them. Indeed, these little creatures tend to accumulate a lot of secretions in their ears. Regular cleaning with a mild pet cleanser is a must. In addition, it is important to accustom your ferret to these manipulations from an early age, in order to make grooming less stressful and more pleasant for everyone.

Follow the steps in our handy little guide to ensure a gentle and proper cleaning of your ferret’s delicate ears.

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Before You Start

Here’s everything you’ll need to ensure a proper cleaning:
  • Ear cleaner for ferrets
  • Cotton ball or swab (be extra careful not to push it too far into the ear)
  • A few tasty treats
Ferret eating a treat
Image Credit: Lili Exe, Shutterstock

1. Choose a Ferret-Friendly Ear Cleaning Solution

There are a variety of suitable ferret care products available online (such as Marshall Ear Cleaner for Ferrets) or at a pet store. Alternatively, you can also purchase an ear cleaning solution that is safe to use for kittens and other small pets, such as the Bodhi Dog Aloe Vera Dog, Cat & Small Animal Ear Cleanser.

When in doubt, you can also ask your veterinarian to recommend a reliable product.

  • Side note: Never use rubbing alcohol to clean your ferret’s ears, as this will dry out the delicate lining of the ear canal.

2. Handle Your Ferret Properly

Unsurprisingly, ferrets don’t particularly appreciate having their ears cleaned. Therefore, you must know how to handle your pet gently so as not to stress him:

  • Grab your ferret by the scruff (the loose part of the neck skin, located above the shoulder blades). To give you an idea, it’s the same way a mother cat would pick up her kittens.
  • Gently lift your ferret and hold him above a flat surface. This way he won’t hurt himself if he manages to get out of your grip.
  • Give him a few strokes on the belly to calm him down. You can also distract your ferret with his favorite treats during the cleaning process.
  • Be very gentle and patient! Do not force the cleaning if your ferret is really too agitated and tries to bite you. Instead, leave him alone and try again later in the day.
ferret in a vet clinic
Image Credit: Irina Vasilevskaia, Shutterstock

3. Gently Clean Your Ferret’s Ears

  • Dampen a cotton ball or cotton swab with the ferret ear cleaning solution.
  • Gently remove debris from the outer ear.
  • Clean only the parts of the ear that you can see. Avoid sticking a cotton swab into the ear canal.
  • If the ear is very dirty, put a few drops of cleaning solution directly into your ferret’s ear.
  • Massage gently to dislodge the earwax.
  • Remove excess product with a cotton ball.
  • Reward your ferret with extra treats!

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How Often Should You Clean Your Ferret Ears?

It is recommended that you clean your ferret’s ears once every two weeks. If you can’t do it with this frequency, you should clean them at least once a month.

  • Warning: Don’t clean your ferret’s ears too often, as this could lead to infections or irritation. Indeed, too frequent cleaning will remove the protective oils from the ferret’s ears, which can allow the proliferation of bacteria or ear mites, such as Otodectes cynotis. This mite feeds on debris and secretions from the ear canal lining, exacerbated by too-frequent cleaning.

So, if you notice that your ferret’s earwax smells bad and is black or gray in color (normally earwax is red and odorless), it’s time to visit the vet. Fortunately, this infection is easy to treat when caught early.

Person holding an albino ferret
Image Credit: LAWJR, Pixabay

Other Important Grooming Care to Keep Your Ferret Healthy

  • Tooth brushing. You should use a ferret toothpaste and cotton gauze or a finger to scrub the teeth. Ideally, your ferret’s teeth should be cleaned once or twice a month.
  • Nail trimming. Regular trimming of your ferret’s tiny claws is also important. You can use a kitten claw clipper or a human nail clipper to cut the tip of the nail while being careful not to touch the quick, a red vein inside the nail that will hurt and bleed if nicked. But if you are not comfortable trimming your ferret’s nails, do not hesitate to ask your veterinarian for advice.
  • Regular brushing. During shedding, in the fall and in the spring, it is recommended that you brush your ferret every day.
  • (Very) occasional baths. Ferrets give off a rather strong body odor that may upset some owners. To limit these odors, it is possible to bath your ferret with a mild shampoo suitable for these small pets. However, the frequency of baths should not exceed once every two or three months. Indeed, if you bathe your ferret too often, you will eliminate the natural oils produced by its skin and stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce even more oil. As a result, your ferret may smell even stronger.

Does a Ferret Need Special Health Care?

Ferrets are quite hardy animals, but they can suffer from certain health problems, such as diarrhea, parasites, and intestinal obstruction (caused by ingesting a foreign object).

Regular visits to your veterinarian will help identify potential problems early. You must go to the veterinarian at least once a year, so that he can carry out a thorough physical examination and administer the necessary vaccines, in particular for rabies and canine distemper.

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Final Thoughts

Ferrets are wonderful, entertaining, intelligent, and inquisitive pets, but they do require some specific care to live long, healthy, and happy lives. Regular and gentle grooming of their ears is one of them. But even if ear cleaning can be a bit of a hassle at first — especially if you are both nervous — but with a little practice and our tips, you should quickly get the hang of it!


Featured Image Credit: Irina Vasilevskaia, Shutterstock

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