Heartworm disease caused by Dirofilaria immitis can occur in ferrets.Treatment options are very limited, so prevention is the best alternative.

Ferrets are as susceptible to D immitis infection as dogs and develop a disease similar to that in cats, often with low worm burdens but occasionally severe clinical signs.There are currently no approved drugs for the prevention of heartworm disease in ferrets.This study evaluated the use of a commercial product developed for cats (AdvantageMulti) to prevent D immitis in experimentally infected ferrets.Twelve ferrets were infected with third-stage larvae of D immitis.Thirty days later (study day -1), the ferrets were divided into 2 groups and 1 group of 6 was treated with a combination of 10% imidacloprid/1% moxidectin at a dose of 0.4 ml per ferret.The second group served as the controls. On day 124, the ferrets were euthanized and worm burdens were determined. One or more adult worms were found in the ferrets in the control group but none was found in the treated group.The treatment was well tolerated with no adverse events noted.Study by Bayer HealthCare

COMMENTARY: Ferrets are a very popular pet in North America and are highly susceptible to D immitis infection. Prevention in endemic areas should be considered. Ferrets rarely have microfilaria, so diagnosis is based on serology.

Imidacloprid plus moxidectin to prevent heartworm infection (Dirofilaria immitis) in ferrets. Schaper R, Heine J, Arther RG, et al. PARASITOL RES 101:S57-S62, 2007.