John R. Dinsdale, BVMS MRCVS
A new product to the UK is the spot on flea preparation “Advantage” by Bayer this has no product licence for use in ferrets, however, it is being used in the USA and has been for some time with no side effects being observed. This information is by personal communication and is not from Bayer who do not have a product licence for this drug in the ferret.
Advantage is a drug called Imidacloprid, about three million doses have been sold in the USA without side effects being observed. It is a completely new generation of flea treatment and is not an organophosphate, the drug is also surface acting and does not become systemic. This means that the drug remains on the surface of the animal where it has its action.
In the cat and the dog it will kill fleas within two hours of contact with the drug and is effective for at least four weeks. The drug has a residual effect in the environment and so given correct application and regular use will avoid you having to use environmental sprays. Advantage in these species is shown to be up to 100% effective in killing fleas during that period and can withstand four routine baths, and given monthly will break the flea life cycle. There is no reason why this should not be the case in the ferret but it should of course be remembered that the use of this drug is off licence and the drug company could not be held responsible for any adverse reaction.
The drug itself has a very wide safety margin in the species it is licensed for and acts on post synaptic nerve endings found only in insects such as fleas and so should be of no risk to the ferret. It is widely known that a lot of ferret owners already use an extremely effective product called Frontline to great effect and with no reports of side effects, again this drug also has no product licence for use in ferrets but is one of the new generation of flea preparations designed to be as safe as is possible for both the animal and the owner, the appearance of Advantage should add another useful drug to the list for effective flea control in the ferret, it is only available through veterinary surgeons as it is a prescription only medicine.
Flea infestation is a significant problem in the ferret and their control should be a matter of routine for the ferret keeper. You may be asked to sign a disclaimer for the use of any prescription only medicine not licensed for use in the ferret as is the case with the vast majority of drugs used in their treatment.
Perhaps with the rapidly increasing popularity of the ferret as a pet and the generally high standard of care the owners take of them that the drug companies will licence more drugs for their treatment in the future.