Breeding Control in FerretsIn recent years, reproductive management advice for ferrets has changed. This information guide outlines some of the factors you may want to consider when deciding upon the best breeding management strategy for your ferrets.
Reasons for controlling breeding in ferrets
- Jill Ferrets
- Hob Ferrets
Jill ferrets reach sexual maturity in the first spring after birth. Increased day length stimulates oestrus in the Jill between March – September. The Jill ferret will remain in oestrus until she is mated or until day length decreases.
Remaining in oestrus for long periods of time can cause serious life-threatening illness in the Jill. The hormones which cause oestrus also suppress the production of blood cells. If this goes on for a long period of time, the Jill can become severely anaemic.
The aim of breeding control in Jills is to prevent illness due to prolonged oestrus and to prevent unwanted litters.
Hob ferrets reach sexual maturity at 9 months of age. During the breeding period, Hobs produce increased musk and skin secretions. This increases their smell and causes a sticky, greasy coat. Hobs are much more aggressive towards other ferrets during this period. They will fight with other males and bite females when attempting to breed.
The aim of breeding control in Hobs is to prevent unwanted litters, reduce aggression and reduce smell/skin secretions to allow increased handling.
Options for Breeding Control
- Neutering – Jill ferrets can be neutered or ‘spayed,’ by which procedure the ovaries and uterus are removed. Historically, neutering was the procedure of choice for the Jill. However, it has now been shown that neutering ferrets increases their risk of developing adrenal gland tumours. For this reason, we no longer advise neutering as the procedure of choice. Some owners still consider neutering the best option for breeding management. In these cases, Jills should be neutered in the first spring following birth. In these Jills, we advise placing a hormonal implant at the time of neutering to prevent the development of adrenal tumours (see below).
- Hormonal Implant – A hormonal implant can be placed under the skin of the Jill prior to the first oestrus (at 9 months of age). This implant will last 18-24 months and should be replaced when signs of oestrus recur. This implant is licensed in the Hob but is used off-license in the Jill. It has been used for many years in the Jill with no reported side-effects and is now the procedure of choice.
- The Jill Jab – An injection of Proligesterone can be used to suppress oestrus in the Jill. This is traditionally referred to as the ‘Jill jab.’ This injection is given when the Jill first comes into oestrus, usually in March. A single injection once yearly is sufficient for most Jills. However, some Jills will come back into oestrus 3-5 months later and will require a second injection in July. Jills must be closely monitored for signs of returning to oestrus.
- Teaser Males – A vasectomised Hob may be kept to mate with jills in oestrus and take them out of season. 75% OF Jills are taken out of oestrus after one mating. However, the Hob can be quite aggressive towards the Jill during mating, which can result in injuries to the Jill. Mating without fertilization causes pseudopregnancy in the Jill. Jills in pseudopregnancy can show increased aggression towards their owner and towards other ferrets. As the vasectomised Hob is entire, he will display the behaviour and smell of an entire male ferret.
- Neutering – Hob ferrets can be ‘castrated,’ by which procedure their testes are removed. This will prevent all of the problems associated with keeping a male ferret as a pet. However, just as in Jills, neutering the Hob predisposes him to the development of adrenal tumours. For this reason, neutering is no longer considered the procedure of choice for Hobs. If the Hob is neutered, we would advise placing a hormonal implant at the time of surgery to prevent the development of adrenal tumours.
- Hormonal Implant – A hormonal implant can be placed under the skin of the Hob to produce a ‘chemical castration.’ Depending upon the size of the implant, this can last up to 4 years. The implant has all the benefits of castration and will also prevent the development of adrenal tumours. It is the procedure of choice in ferrets.
We hope you have found this information useful. Please contact us at MKVG if you would like to discuss breeding management in your ferret.
Pav Brain MA VetMB MRCVS - Pav graduated from Cambridge University in 2004 and has worked in small animal practice since that time. She enjoys all aspects of general practice and has a particular interest in medicine and small furries.