Ferrets Mustela putorius furo Ferret Relatives The domestic ferret is a member of the mustelid, or weasel, family. Other members of the weasel family include badgers, ermine, and otters. The endangered black-footed ferret is considered more of a cousin than a direct ancestor to the domestic ferret. Skin and Hair Coat: Three naturally occurring coat color patterns Sable is the most commonly observed but albino and cinnamon are also seen Sable ferret is also known as “fitch” and has been reported as a cross b/t the European polecat and ferret • They typically have black-tipped guard hear, cream undercoat, black feet and tail, with a black mask In the US, enthusiasts have developed over 30 color combinations • Some of these include silver, chocolate, panda, and Siamese • http://www.ferret.org/events/colors/colorchart.html Anatomy Conformation: Has an elongated body that allows for animal to enter small areas and holes for the pursuit of prey • This provides challenges for both owner and vet staff in caging and handling Remember: wherever the head goes so follows the rest of the body Males are larger than the females and their weight fluctuations vary according to season, as does that of dogs, cats and people Skeletal: Veterbral formula: C7, T15, L5(6), S3, Cd18 Anatomical considerations of interest include a small sternum and thoracic inlet, nonretractable claws and a Jshaped os-penis Digestive Tract: Has 30 deciduous teeth and 34 permanent teeth Permanent teeth erupt b/t 50 and 74 days Dental formula: 2 x (3/3I, 1/1C, 3/3P, 1/2M) = 34 Have five pairs of salivary glands Care must be taken not to confuse the mandibular salivary gland w/ the lymph nodes in that area Stomach is simple and can expand to accommodate large amounts of food Small intestine is short in length and has an average transit time of 3-4 hours Heart and Lungs: Heart lies approximately b/t the 6th and 8th ribs Lungs consist of six lobes Left lung has two lobes and the right has four Spleen: Varies greatly in size, depending on the animal’s age and state of health When enlarged, the spleen extends in a diagonal fashion from the upper left to the lower right quadrant of the abdominal cavity The size of the spleen is a very distinct finding during P.E. Reproduction During estrus, the vulva becomes enlarged Natural breeding season is from March to August Fertility in both genders is dependent on the photoperiod Females are seasonally polyestrous and induced ovulators Ovulation occurs 30-40 hours after copulation Gestation: • 41-42 days If fertilization does not occur, pseudopregnancy often occurs and will last 41-43 days Reproduction cont. If these females are not bred, a large percentage of these individuals will remain in estrus with the potential for bone marrow suppression due to elevated estrogen levels Estrus-induced aplastic anemia Birth condition: • • • • Born blind Eyes are open at 21-37 days Can start solid food at 14 days Wean at 8 weeks Females are called jills, and males are hobs. Baby ferrets are called kits. In North America, spayed females are sometimes called sprites and neutered males called gibs. A group of ferrets is a "business of ferrets." Lifespan 5-8yrs Females are 13-14 inches long and weigh anywhere from 0.75 to 2.5 lbs, whereas males are on average 15-16 inches long and weigh 2-3.5 lbs if neutered and are even larger (4 or more lbs) if not neutered. Most ferrets obtained in North America are spayed or neutered and descented at a very young age before being sold. Behavior/Appeal Sleep 75% of day Vocal Interactive, playful, entertaining Relatively easy to care for Thieves Independent Should not be left alone with small children or other pets jplehmann.com Legal restrictions Housing Groups or individual Indoor or outdoor Recommended caging Indoor- multi-level, wire or solid, no glass Outdoor- protection, escape proof Play areas Slings, shelves, hammocks in cage Boxes, bags, plastic tubing www.petcratesdirect.com www.ferretlove.co.uk Housing Enclosed sleeping area Towel, old shirt, commercial product One per ferret Litter box High sides Pellated instead of clumping litter Short GI transit time Housing Ferret proofing your house Block off holes Cover bottom of chairs, couches, mattresses Restrict access to recliners No foam or latex rubber items- cat/dog toys, athletic shoes, rubber bands, headphones Video (Cage-Housing) Nutrition Ferrets are strict carnivores and have very different nutritional requirements than dogs and cats. Ferrets need a high protein, high fat diet that is made from animal proteins. Protein levels should be between 36% and 37% and come from high biological value (BV) sources (chicken, chicken byproduct, egg, or liver for example). Cat or kitten food is not appropriate for ferrets! A raw, chicken based diet is probably the best choice, but very few people have the time or resources to provide their ferrets this diet. Totally Ferret® and Natural Gold from Pretty Bird® are most likely the best prepared foods currently available. Treats Ferrets definitely enjoy treats, but usually it’s not something they should be eating. Don’t give your ferret sugary treats, fruits (including raisins), or chocolate. These can lead to serious health problems. Vitamins and Supplements If a ferret is on a quality ferret food there shouldn’t be a need for any vitamins. One “supplement” every ferret should get is Laxatone® (hairball prevention paste). Give a dime-sized amount every few days, especially during shedding seasons! In dry areas skin can become dull and dry. Offering a small amount of a fatty acid oil like Ferretone® daily can help with this problem. Supplements to dry food Whole prey (Pinkies or juvenile mouse) Fresh raw organ (liver) or muscle meat Omega-2 oils, fish oils, meat fat Difficult to change an adult ferrets diet Water Video (Proper diet) Enrichment Instinctive behaviors for play, hunting, marking, digging, going through tunnels 3 hours exercise/day Appropriate toys Enclosed area for sleeping Video (Toys, playing) www.getelastic.com P.E.: Should follow routine small animal veterinary protocol Questions: Coughing Sneezing Vomiting Diarrhea Discharge: • Eyes • Nose • Any other body orifice Diet and appetite Drinking water excessively or increased urination or straining to urinate Active/alert Restraint The proper technique for restraining a ferret. The scruff of the neck is held by one hand, and the other hand supports the body. Often this technique will elicit a “yawn,” at which time the oral cavity may be examined. P.E. Normal Body temperature: • 101-104F HR • 200-250 bmp Respiration • 33-36 http://www.bva-awf.org.uk/resources/tutorials/BVA02Introduction.html Medical Considerations Grooming (video) Spay/neuter/remove anal glands Ear mites, fleas, heartworms Vaccinations- rabies, distemper Physical exam/blood work recommendations: Annual until 4-5 years Biannual Medical Considerations Young- foreign body, traumatic Old- insulinoma, adrenal gland disease, lymphoma, dental disease www.afip.org Dr. Eckermann-Ross Routine Wellness Procedures Depending on ferrets age and lifestlye, you may recommend other procedures like deworming, ADV (Aleutian Disease Virus) testing, and routine bloodwork. It is highly advisable to run bloodwork on ferrets at least annually. Many diseases have been detected early by running bloodwork when the pet was healthy. Blood collection Page 251 Jugular vein Caudal artery Cephalic vein 10% Video http://www.bvaawf.org.uk/resources/tutorials/BVA0 2-Introduction.html Clin Path Considerations (A Ferret is Not a Cat nor is it a Dog) Ferrets normally have high PCV and low WBC. PCV (43.0%-55.0%) Persistent lymphocytosis does NOT mean lymphoma. Hepatic enzymes are usually elevated simply as a result of inanition in the ferret. Older ferrets are commonly mildly hypoproteinemic due to chronic bowel inflammation due to coronavirus or Helicobacter infection). Ferrets with adrenal disease rarely have abnormalities on routine CBC/chemistry. Surgical Considerations Use inhalation anesthesia without premeds. Injectable anesthetics are very unpredictable in ferrets. Isoflurane safest with mask or chamber induction. Heating pad suggested during and after surgery ferrets get hypothermic very quickly. Should provide fluid therapy for all surgeries more serious than neutering Diseases on Ferrets 1. 2. A ferrets normal life span is from 5 8 years, and beginning at the age of 2-3 they are susceptible to two very common serious illnesses: Insulinoma Adrenal Disease, (both require medical and/or surgical intervention, which could become quite costly). Insulinoma Insulinoma is a very common problem in ferrets. Small tumors form on the pancreas and cause an overproduction of insulin in the body. This in turn causes the blood sugar to drop dangerously low! Symptoms of insulinoma include: staring into space, staggering when walking, pawing at the mouth, lethargy, and possibly seizures. Action needs to be taken immediately if your ferret exhibits signs of insulinoma. If you suspect your ferret’s blood sugar level is low you can rub some Nutrical® or Karo syrup on their gums. This will provide the body with some sugar to help lower the insulin level. Islet cell tumor (Insulinoma) May be function or nonfunctional Inappropriate secretion of insulin resulting in trances, hindlimb paresis, salivation, seizures and coma. Pancreatic islet cell tumor in a ferret Diagnosis -History and clinical signs -Blood glucose test 60-80 g/dl - questionable <60 positive -Insulin testing generally not necessary -Unfortunately, 40% of ferrets will experience recurrence within 10 months. Normal pancreas in a ferret (note gastric and jejuna arms Adrenal Disease Tumors on the adrenal glands occur in about 75% of domestic ferrets Symptoms include: hair loss, excessive itchiness, swollen vulva in females, prostate problems and sexual aggression in males, and an inability to keep weight on The best option is to remove the tumor(s) with surgery. Medical treatments include Lupron injections (a human hormone product) or Melatonin implants Adrenal-associated endocrinopathy Extremely common Due to hyperestrogenism. Proliferative lesions (hyperplasia, adenoma, carcinoma have identical clinical signs) (Photo courtesy of Erik Stauber) Classic bilateral truncal alopecia in ferret with AAE Clinical signs • Bilateral truncal alopecia • Vulvar swelling in spayed females • Dysuria in males • Return to intact sexual behavior Treatment Surgical treatment treatment of choice Adrenalectomy Cryosurgery Medical treatment Lupron Lysodren Normal anatomy of adrenal glands in the ferret Intestinal Blockages Ferrets tend to eat a lot of things they shouldn’t and often these objects get lodged in the stomach or intestines and must be removed surgically. Hairball blockages are also common in ferrets. Prevent these by giving your ferret some Laxatone a few times a week. Symptoms of ferrets with blockages include: pawing at the mouth, vomiting, diarrhea, and lack of appetite. Gastrointestinal foreign bodies Very common in ferrets High index of suspicions in ferrets less than 1 year of age. May be seen in bored, caged ferrets. Latex, rubber, cloth, and hair most popular. Only show up on X-rays <10 percent of time. Donot wait on surgery for confirmation! Cut on first suspicion! NO house is completely ferret-proofed! Gastrointestinal foreign bodies Other types of injuries may occur from exploring the environment with their mouth. Electrical cord injury (Note broken canine teeth and wood oral foreign body ) Electrical cord injury with oronasal fistula and amputation f tongue Contagious viruses in ferrets Epizootic Catarrhal Enteritis ECE, or “green slime diarrhea,” is most likely a corona virus that attacks the lining of the intestines and the stomach causing diarrhea and dehydration. ECE is highly contagious and great care should be taken to keep it from spreading. Adults are most susceptible and even after recovering ferrets can have bouts of diarrhea There is no prevention or vaccine for the virus and it is believed that the virus can be shed for up to 6 months, even if the ferret appears healthy. ECE can be deadly if not treated. Symptoms include: diarrhea that looks like bird seed or is neon green, watery, contains mucous, or has a foul fishy odor as well as lack of appetite and dehydration. Keeping a ferret with ECE hydrated is critical and aggressive fluid therapy is vital!. Ferret Coronavirus Epizootic catarrhal enteritis (ECE) High morbidity, low mortality Asymptomatic carriers often pet store kits. Older animals more severely affected Prolonged shedding of virus Diagnosis • • • • Clinical signs and history Histology Immunohistochemistry Clinical pathology not specific Jejunal inflammation and atrophy with malabsorptive feces in ferret with ECE Pathogenesis -Viral infection of villar tips -Necrosis of cells -Loss of surface area and brush border enzymes -Passive secretory diarrhea -Malabsorption -Mucus hypersecretion -Villar atrophy fusion, and blunting Note the lack of body fat and the forest green unformed feces distending the colon Aleutian Disease Resurgent disease in ferrets new strain? New outbreaks have almost 100% morbidity and mortality. Insidious disease with long latency period Innocuous parvovirus resulting in hyperimmune response Abdominal viscera of a ferret infected with ADV. Aleutian Disease Classic Disease Glomerulonephritis Disseminated vasculitis Coagulation defects Hypergammaglobulinemia Death in 2-3 years Characteristic appearance of glomerulonephritis in ADVinfected ferret (Photo courtesy of John Gorham Canine Distemper -100% fatal in ferrets -12-45 day progression -Most commonly seen in pet store kits or as a facility outbreak -Diagnosis should be made on clinical signs, followed by euthanasia of all affected animals -Antemortem FA testing available but not recommended. Moribund and severely affected CDV ferrets (Photo courtesy of John Gorham) Clinical signs: Oculonasal Discharge Hyperkeratosis of Nasal Planum and Footpads Skin rash Diarrhea Weight loss Lethargy Pneumonia Clinical signs -Oculonasal Discharge Hyperkeratosis of Nasal Planum and Footpads -Skin rash -Diarrhea -Weight loss -Lethargy -Pneumonia Mild footpad hyperkeratosis, ferret (Photo courtesy of John Gorham) Clinical signs cont.. -Oculonasal Discharge -Hyperkeratosis of Nasal -Planum and Footpads -Skin rash Diarrhea Weight loss -Lethargy -Pneumonia Diarrhea and nasal hyperkeratosis in CDV ferret (Photo courtesy of John Gorham) Rabies -Uncommon disease -Less than 50 diagnosed cases -Ferret susceptible to skunk, bat, and raccoon strains -Dumb and furious presentations -Should be a ruleout for all neuro cases. Negri bodies in mink brain Rabies -No treatment -Quarantine period in most states -Annual IM vaccination for all ferrets beginning at 15 weeks � Imrab-3 vaccine Bacteria and more… Helicobacter mustelae Ubiquitous disease - all ferrets infected by 2 wks of age. Contributes to debility in older ferrets. 10% will show clinical signs during lifetime. Gastric damage due to physical destruction of gastric mucosa coupled with profound lymphoplasmacytic inflammation Associated with gastric ulcers Gross lesions usually absent Helicobacter mustelae -Chronic atrophic gastritis with resultant loss of acid production -Bacteria damage to mucosa via three mechanisms: 1. Direct cytotoxic effect to mucus neck cells 2. Inhibitory effect on parietal cell acid production 3. Non-autoimmune inflammatory disease (lymphoplasmacytic gastritis) Lymphofollicular gastritis in ferret with H. mustelae (HE, 20X) Gastric Ulcers -Common in ferrets and other mustelids under stressful conditions or with concurrent disease -May be associated with Helicobacter mustelae Hemorrhage associated with non-lethal ulceration Clinical signs -Often nonspecific -Inappetence -Lethargy Bruxism Tarry Stools -May be found dead Tarry stool (contrast with fresh blood) Gastric Ulcers Perforating pyloric ulcer Pinpoint ulcers in pyloric stomach (Photo courtesy of John Gorham) (Photo courtesy of John King) Proliferative colitis -Sporadic disease of young male ferrets -Ileobacter (Desulfovibrio) sp. -Affects colon only in ferrets -Frequent painful defecation with frank blood and mucus. Grossly thickened colon in ferret with Ileobacter infection (Photo courtesy of John Gorham Diagnosis -Clinical signs and history -Thickened, cobblestoned, painful colon on abdominal palpation -Colonic biopsy �Cobblestone� appearance to colon in ferret with PC (Photo courtesy of Lois Roth) Proliferative colitis Silver stains reveal numerous apical intracellular bacteria. Ileobacter bacteria within apical colonic epithelium Splenomegaly -Commonly seen, especially in older ferrets -Stereotypical response to chronic smoldering inflammation -Less than 5% are neoplastic Marked splenomegaly in a ferr Splenomegaly -95% are benign extramedullary hematopoiesis -Splenectomy is treatment of choice in lethargic ferrets Splenic extramedullary hematopoeisis in enlarged ferret spleen Common Incidental Findings Fatty livers -Common physiologic finding -Due to inanition and mobilization of peripheral fat stores (Photo courtesy of Richard Montali) Fatty Liver in a Ferret Common Incidental Findings Renal Cysts - Over 25% of ferrets have benign renal cysts Fatty liver in a ferre (Photo courtesy of John Gorham) More tumors… Malignant lymphoma (Lymphosarcoma) Most common malignancy in ferrets -1-2 years - Juvenile (Lymphoblastic) - visceral distribution -2-7 years - Lymphocytic - lymph node distribution 2-7 years - Immunoblasticpolymorphous Lymphocytic lymphoma in an adult ferret Diagnosis -Clinical signs -Organ-specific changes in clinical pathology data -Biopsy of enlarged lymph node or organ -Can not diagnose on CBC alone!!! Lymphoblastic lymphoma in a young ferret Malignant lymphoma (Lymphosarcoma) Prognosis -Poor prognosis except in primary cutaneous cases -Chemotherapy regimes available, but less than 10% respond. Renal lymphosarcoma in an adult ferr Malignant lymphoma (Lymphosarcoma) Cutaneous variant -Few reports -Longest survival times -May have good prognosis if completely excised early -May represent cutaneous metastasis (Photos courtesy of Randy Belair, above and Betty Janner, below) Neoplasms Sebaceous epithelioma -Most common skin tumor -Warty appearance -May be multiple -Surgical excision is curative. Other Neoplastic Goodies Chordoma -Axial skeleton -Usually tip of tail -Very invasive low grade malignancy -Poor prognosis if other than tail tip. (Photo courtesy of Jeff English) Tail tip chordoma in a ferret Neoplasms Mast cell tumor -Invariably benign -May be multiple -Affected animals often develop more over time -No systemic complications (Photo courtesy of Steve Sanders) Mast cell tumor Surgical excision curative, good prognosis!(?)!!! Other Neoplastic Goodies Squamous cell carcinoma -Mandible a common site, but may see anywhere in skin Poor prognosis in oral cavity Mandibular SCC in a ferret Other Neoplastic Goodies Hemangiosarcoma -Neoplasm of vascular origin Low grade malignancy in skin Much worse prognosis if seen in viscera. Hepatic SCC in a ferret (Photo courtesy of Mike Garner, Northwest Zoo Path) Other Neoplastic Goodies Bone tumors -Osteomas much more common generally flat bones -Osteosarcomas flat and long bones Osteoma in a ferret (Photo courtesy of John Gorham) Parasites- Earmites Earmites are the most common ectoparasite in ferrets and are caused by Otodectes cyanotis . The same organism is found in dogs and cats, and the disease can be passed between species Ivermectin 0.5 mg/kg Topical half dose in each ear, repeat 2 weeks Fleas Fleas are occasionally seen in ferrets, especially in households with multiple pets, and can be transmitted between ferrets and other household pets. Diagnosis is by visualization, and treatment is the same as for cats Heartworms Dirofilaria immitis Preventive in heartworm endemic areas use Ivermectin Liquid formulation of 100mcg/suspension of Ivomec in propyline glycol (in amber bottle) given at dose of 0.1 ml. per pound BW Alternative 0.5-1 tablet of ivermectin for small dogs. Ferrets over 6 months of age should be tested Fungal Diseases: Ferrets are susceptible to Microsporum canis and Trichophyton mentagrophytes Transmission is by direct contact or fomites and is often associated with overcrowding and exposure to cats. Infection is more common in kits and young ferrets and is often seasonal and selflimiting. VIDEO (behavior, medical considerations) Preventive medicine Vaccinations There are currently two vaccinations for ferrets – canine distemper and rabies. Technically, the rabies vaccine is required by law, but the distemper vaccine is not. It is vital that ferrets be vaccinated with a ferret vaccine for canine distemper, not the one they give to dogs – it could kill them. Canine distemper vaccines for ferrets should be of chick embryo or recombinant origin PureVax Ferret Distemper Vaccine Reactions Unfortunately, ferrets have a high incidence of vaccine reactions. Ferrets should be vaccinated at ~6 weeks old with booster every 2-3 weeks until 14-16 weeks (distemper). Vaccine reactions occur frequently in ferrets and it is recommended that vaccinated animals be monitored for 2030 min following vaccination Profuse vomiting, diarrhea, and a skyrocketing temperature are the most common symptoms of vaccine reactions and they can be fatal! Questions???
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