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

Summary Information

Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords  
  • Usually, subcutaneous injections are given into the loose skin between the shoulder blades. (B631.18.w18, J15.24.w5, J29.6.w3)
    • The flank can be used. (J15.24.w5)
  • Scruff the ferret and use the same hand to "tent" the skin. (B631.18.w18)
    • The ferret can be on a surface, or scruffed with the hind legs dangling. (B631.18.w18)
    • Consider distracting the ferret by offering a palatable nutritional foodstuff. (B631.18.w18)
  • Insert the needle caudal to this, pointing cranially, and inject. (B631.18.w18)
  • Up to 20 mL can be injected at one location. (J29.6.w3)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • For injection of many drugs. (B631.18.w18)
  • For administration of fluids in fluid therapy. (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 skin of the scruff is tough. (J15.24.w5)
  • Absorption from this site is relatively slow. (B631.18.w18)
  • Not suitable for use in a collapsed individual. (B631.18.w18)
  • Ferrets find subcutaneous injections uncomfortable; good restraint is needed while giving the injection. (J15.24.w5)
  • Some ferrets resent repeated use of the subcutaneous route for administration of fluids. (B631.18.w18)
  • Only suitable for the administration of isotonic fluids. (B631.18.w18)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Needle; 21-23 gauge. (J15.24.w5)

  • Syringe

  • Required medication/fluids

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, J29.6.w3

Return to Top of Page