Our Sick Ferrets
I have put down some of the trials and tribulations our own ferrets have put us through since we first got Mash in 1994. Naturally it doesn’t mean that your ferret will have the same problems as ours, but it might give you some perspective on the types of worries ferrets can cause their owners.
And I really don’t mean to appear crass by including the amounts we’ve forked out – I just wanted to give any prospective ferret owner a good idea of what might be in store for them.
Mash gave us a couple of scares. The first one was when she first came on heat. We put her with a vasectomized male and she came out of heat fine. The trouble was a couple of weeks later, when we noticed she appeared listless all of a sudden and seemed warm to the touch.
We took her to the vet and he diagnosed pyometra. She had an infection in her uterus, so she had to be spayed at once. She recovered quickly, thank goodness, and was back to being her usual ditzy self in no time!
~ Ka-shing ~ Around $130.
The other time she seemed off-colour was at 8 at night – naturally! Again she seemed listless and when I held her, her stomach seemed very tight and tender.
We rang the vet and Philip and Nick drove down to see him with Mash. Since the vet was about three-quarters of an hour away from our house, it was about 9pm when they got there.
I was pacing up and down the floor, fretting madly, and rushed outside when I heard the boys coming back close to 10:30. I truly feared the worse.
“What’s wrong with Mash?” I cried, as Philip got out of the car.
“Gas,” he said laconically.
“Gas,” he repeated. “She has gas. Wind. Flatulence! The vet was not impressed.”
“Gas? Is that all?” I asked, stunned.
~ Ka-shing ~ Just over $200 – after hours charges and all that, not to mention the GAS used to drive down there.
Two very black days on Friday the 13th
For the rest of her years we had her, Mash was pretty healthy and didn’t have any problems, thank goodness.
She was fine one morning and then in the afternoon I found her lying on the carpet as if she’d suffered a stroke.
That night she slept in the bed with us and I was keeping a close eye on her. During the morning she felt strangely cool and I just lay on the bed with her in my arms. She suddenly seemed to gasp for breath and I was about to rush her to our vet when she shuddered slightly and died in my arms.
She was my first ferret and, although I know we shouldn’t have favourites, she was incredibly special to me! I haven’t cried so much since I lost my mother, 5 years earlier.
The day was Friday, September 13 ... 6 years to the day that we went through the pain of experiencing our first ferret loss, and it was just 6 days after we had to put Fidget down!
That Friday the 13th in 1996 was a terrible night for me.
Philip had gone to pick up the kids from Army Cadets and I was just watching TV when I saw Scully run through the room, looking very distressed.
I tracked her down and was horrified to see that she was hemorrhaging, so I called the 24-hour vet, told them I was bringing her down and rushed out shoeless.
At the vet they thought Scully was either suffering from aplastic anemia, which I knew she wasn’t since she wasn’t in heat, or that she had eaten some rat poison and that was making her bleed out.
Rat poison? I couldn’t imagine how she could have got to any rat poison, as we had never in our lives used rat bait either in or out of our house.
The vet thought he might be able to do a blood transfusion, so I rushed back home to get Chucky, our biggest ferret, but when I got back they decided they’d just try the blood clotting medicine.
Philip and the kids rolled up at the vet’s. They had gone home, found the place empty and saw the blood soaked towel, so presumed the worst had happened to a ferret.
We left the vet around 11pm and I have never prayed so hard, but my prayers weren’t answered. The vet called at 12:30am to say Scully had lost her fight. The whole family cried after that phone call.
She was our first ferret to die and the pain still lingers when I think about her.
It was a terrible, terrible experience and I would have joyfully paid the earth to get Scully back healthy and well, but it didn’t have a happy ending.
~ Ka-shing ~ $400.
If anyone is thinking about breeding ferrets I would strongly advise not to. There is a huge danger that you could lose your jill, or the kits, or both, and the experience certainly isn’t for the faint hearted.
We bred both Fidget and Friskie with CJ when they both came on heat at the same time. As it happened, they both gave birth within a day of each other.
Fidget’s delivery and kits were all fine. She had 3 boys and 3 girls, all without hassles.
Friskie was another matter. She produced 9 at the time, but we noticed that she still had others inside which she couldn’t seem to deliver. We flew off to the vet, where she had a drip to get all the contractions going again. She delivered 3 more kits, all of which were dead.
We got back home and found that of the original 9, only 6 were still alive. Amazingly they were 3 boys and 3 girls, like Fidget.
~ Ka-shing ~ Around $150.
Mulder got his kiss of death from our eldest daughter. Of course it wasn’t deliberate. He was her favourite ferret and she just planted one on his nose like she always did, but she didn’t realise that her sore throat was, in fact, a strep throat.
Mulder sneezed a couple of times, but apart from that there was no suggestion that he wasn’t right until I heard him breathing strangely. To the vet we went, she put him on medication. It wasn’t strong enough so his lungs became congested. The vet put him into hospital and he was there for 5 days, seemingly on the mend daily until we got a call from the vet on the Friday morning to say he’d died during the night.
Again, we would have happily parted with as much money as it took to make him better but, sadly, it was not to be.
~ Ka-shing ~ Around $450.
"Except the vine, there is no plant which bears a fruit of as great importance as the olive." -- Pliny
I absolutely love olives and would agree wholeheartedly with Pliny. In fact, my love for olives, especially those large green ones with great big pits, was the reason for Snoopy’s visit to the vet!
Of all the many ferrets we have had over the years, not ONE ever showed any interest in an olive, let alone a dried, discarded olive pit! But, as I am sure you are beginning to see – with ferrets, there is ALWAYS a first time
I had been working on the computer and eating olives. Not having any reason to think otherwise, I threw the pits into the rubbish bin by the side of the desk.
Unbeknownst to us, Snoopy decided to get into the rubbish bin during the night and had swallowed a pit. Of course it was not just any old pit, but a great big one!!
She did it just after getting the stitches out from being spayed so she kinda tricked the vet into thinking it was connected to that procedure.
There was a new vet at the surgery I take my ferrets to and he wasn’t familiar with ferrets at all. I suggested that it might be a blockage, but he thought that he was gastro which was connected to her recent surgery.
He gave me some antibiotics for her and a packet of electrolytes to make sure she didn’t dehydrate. As with most ferret dramas, it was a Friday afternoon and I went back home feeling a little unsure of the diagnosis.
~ Ka-shing ~ $75
By the Sunday she was really, really sick so we took her to the 24-hour vet and I voiced my concerns about a blockage.
The duty vet felt her stomach and – lo and behold – actually could feel something which she thought was, indeed, a blockage. They X-rayed Snoopy and came back to show us this whacking great object which was stopping up her guts.
The vet had to call the specialist surgeon into the surgery to do the operation! Fortunately it all went well but she had to stay in hospital for 5 days, because they wanted to make sure there were no complications, as the build-up of noxious gasses in her stomach during the blockage had been cause for concern.
Still, she was released and returned home as good as new, thank goodness!
~ Ka-shing ~ $960.
I think the vet paid for his son’s private school tuition with that bill
Snoopy was fine after that scare but then in November 2006 I noticed a bump on her neck.
I took her to the vet and after tests, she told me it was cancerous and there was nothing we could do for Snoopy because of the position of the tumor.
The little old lady lasted till December 16, when it was obvious that she was so tired and lethargic that it would be selfish of me not to take her to the vet for her final visit.
Snoopy is now playing happily with the rest of our gang at the Rainbow Bridge.
Fidget started losing hair from her tail and up her back. I was convinced it was adrenal problems so got the vet to do an ultrasound. I expected the worse, but I was told her adrenals were fine.
~ Ka-shing ~ $200.
As time went on she didn’t look particularly well so we decided on exploratory surgery and a liver biopsy.
~ Ka-shing ~ $650 – but our vet very kindly gave us a discount.
It turns out she had lymphosarcoma. Fidget only lasted 7 months after that. She was 8 years old when the tumour finally took over and we had to take her on her final visit to the vet.
CJ started acting strangely during 2001 ... staring into space blankly, back legs wobbling as he ran. Uh uh, I thought ... insulinoma.
My vet was on leave at the time and the replacement vet wasn't ferret knowledgeable. As I wanted CJ to get blood tests done, I had to take him to a ferret vet who was about an hour away.
The blood tests came back inconclusive.
~ Ka-shing ~ $125.
CJ still continued to have these strange spells so I decided he should get an ultrasound to see if that showed anything. Luckily my vet could get a specialist in to do it so I went in with CJ and he didn’t need to have an anesthetic for the procedure. I held him while he lay on his back in the cradle and he fell asleep, totally bored with the whole procedure!
Fortunately nothing bad showed up and my vet said the results were inconclusive, so it was pretty frustrating trying to work out what was causing CJ's problem and how to fix it.
~ Ka-shing ~ $180.
Even though CJ was ill, he continued to do his wacky weasel wardance on good days and lasted 18 months from the time I first noticed his strange behavior.
We had to take him to the vet just after Christmas 2002 when it was obvious he was in pain and unable to cope. As always, it was a trip I absolutely loathed having to make
Friskie had a most peculiar collapse during 2001. I was convinced she had a stroke, as did my vet, but I mentioned it on the Ferret Health List, I was told that ferrets don't get strokes!
She kept on going for another 6 months until a serious “stroke” (or whatever it was) made it necessary for me to take her to the vet to be put to sleep.
The day she crossed over to the Rainbow Bridge was the same day that Mulder died 2 years earlier.
By this stage, my vet was extremely kind and didn't charge me for visits, just for any medication or other forms of treatment required.
Chucky, our first male, was an absolutely gorgeous fellow. He was "da man", laid back, very phlegmatic and just so cuddly. He was also CJ's father and passed a lot of his charming and debonair manners to him!
However, from the time we got him, he had a lot of upper respiratory problems and so he was in and out of the vet, and on medication for his wheezing.
Each visit cost $40, medication around $20.
When Chucky was about 5 years old, I was worried that he might be suffering from adrenal problems, as he was losing hair at the base of his tail, so took him down to another ferret vet to check out. Although that vet didn’t order any tests, he seemed to think that Chucky’s adrenals were okay, and sent me home without any charge!
Chucky didn’t have any other problems which caused concern, but one weekend in March 2001 he suddenly seemed to go downhill. I rushed him to the vet first thing on the Monday and she said that it was time to let him go, so we achingly agreed.
A garden full of memories
My good friend Lyn did a wonderful thing when we suffered our first loss. She gave me a plant in Scully’s memory, and that was the beginning of a “tradition” between us. I give her a plant for each ferret she lost, and she gives me one for each of my losses.
I sometimes think we’re going to be overrun with plants, but it is lovely to see gardenias or camellias bloom, and be reminded of each one of your ferrets who will be waiting to greet you at the Rainbow Bridge.