Intramuscular Injection in Ferrets (Disease Investigation & Management - Treatment and Care)

Summary Information

Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords  
Injection sites
  • Biceps femoris (front of the thigh). (B631.18.w18, J15.24.w5) OR
  • Epaxial muscles in the lumbar region. (B631.18.w18) OR
  • Epaxial muscles in the cervical region (only for 0.25 mL or smaller volumes) (B631.18.w18)
  • Hamstrings can be used. (J15.24.w5)
    • Avoid injecting into the caudal thigh muscles due to the risk of damage to the sciatic nerve from irritant drugs. (B631.18.w18)
  • Restrain the ferret, with the hind limbs held in addition to the usual restraint of the front end (e.g. by scruffing). (B631.18.w18)
  • Distract the ferret by giving it a palatable nutrient jelly food. (B631.18.w18)
  • Immobilise the muscle with one hand, inject into the muscle with the other hand. (J15.24.w5)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • This injection route is rarely used in ferrets. (B631.18.w18)
  • Use of the epaxial muscles is more appropriate in hobs (males) than in the smaller, less well muscled jills (females). (B631.18.w18)
  • Manufacturer's data sheet recommendations should be followed as to the recommended route and rate of drug administration (subcutaneous, intramuscular, intravenous). 
  • Dirty needles and syringes must be disposed of properly (needles always into a properly marked sharps container).
  • Because of its rich blood supply, the intramuscular route is perceived to be a route for more rapid absorption of drugs than the subcutaneous site. 
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • The muscle masses in ferrets are small; this route should not be used for large volumes (B631.18.w18) or for courses of injections. (J15.24.w5)
  • Intramuscular injection is often painful. (B631.18.w18, J15.24.w5) The ferret is likely to struggle. (J15.24.w5)
  • There is a risk that injections into the epaxial muscles will enter fat pads and drug absorption will then be delayed. (B631.18.w18)
  • Avoid injecting into the caudal thigh muscles due to the risk of damage to the sciatic nerve from irritant drugs. (B631.18.w18)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Needle

  • Syringe

  • Required medication

Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • This procedure should only be carried out by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical experience.
Cost/ Availability
  • Not expensive unless expensive drugs are being administered.
Legal and Ethical Considerations In some countries there may be legislation restricting the use of this type of technique to licensed veterinarians. For example in the UK: "The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practice veterinary surgery." (See: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Treatment of Animals by Non-Veterinary Surgeons).

Use of Drugs (Medication):

  • Many drugs are not registered for use in ferrets and care should be taken in their use, with proper regard for possible toxic effects. Consideration should be give to relevant legislation regarding the use of drugs.
  • In any country, drugs are unlikely to be specifically licensed for use in non-domestic mammals. 
    • In Europe the prescription cascade must be followed, and the client's informed consent should be obtained, whenever a drug is used which is not licensed for use in a given species. (B284.5.w5)
    • In the UK, guidelines regarding the use of drugs are set out in the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Guide to Professional Conduct 2000: (see: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Choice of Medicinal Products).
Author Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
References B631.18.w18, J15.24.w5

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