Ferret News 1999

Table of Contents

A Note From the Editor
Ferret Shelters in Kansas
Support for FFS
What is Abuse?
4 Paws Ferret Shelter Happenings
When is it Time?
My Special Ones
Mailing Lists
Summer Heat and Keeping Ferrets Cool
Medical Briefs:
Rare Symptom of Hypertrophic
Adrenal Disease

A Note From The Editor
Troy Lynn Eckart (aka tle)

Yes, we are still here and working away! Our ferrets are facing old age ailments and much of my time is spent nursing and loving them. My evenings are filled with cuddles, feedings, medicating, cleaning, and helping others with ferret issues so there i s little time to work on our newsletter. However, I always make time to help in any ferret issue.

This past year has been a sad one for many of us. Several close friends and wonderful FFS volunteers and many members have had their beloved ferrets pass away. I have too. The loss of a loved one is devastating, but knowing that our little ones had a g ood life filled with love, care, and plenty of joy makes the pain of loss worthwhile. I cherish each day with these wonderful little beings.

Throughout the years our ferrets came by way of others. Second hand ferrets. Some had behavioral problems and some had physical, mental or medical handicaps, but it wasn’t long till they embedded themselves deeply within our hearts. It is absolutely am azing what a little love, proper care, and patience can do. As the years have gone by, these little ones have aged gracefully and have now reached the point where old age ailments step in. The financial burden mounts and the emotional aspect is enormous.

Adrenal disease ran rampant in our home. Several little ones succumbed to the disease even though we did all that was medically possible. Spiccup and Ollie’s (also adrenal ferrets) hearts gave out, or at least that is what we believe to have happened w hen they seemed perfectly healthy and necropsy showed no abnormalities. Others with various ailments or old age have left as well. A sad year indeed.

But there is a silver lining to our cloud of sadness. We’ve learned much about different ailments and have been able to help others by sharing our knowledge and experiences with them. Every week I get requests for information on medical issues and it i s through personal experiences that I am more readily able to help others. Experience is the best teacher.

Our group is still very active in working for ferrets. We send out many packets of information, monitor pet stores and animal auctions, help find homes for unwanted ferrets, and assist in assorted ferret related issues. We are here to educate and help whenever needed. Last year we conducted several educational meetings in different locations in Kansas and on September 11th this year, we will have a booth at the Paws in the Park event, Gage Park, Topeka.

The past two years I’ve written several articles for Ferrets and Ferrets USA magazines so if you see an article by Troy Lynn Eckart, that’s me! All in all, any spare time is spent working for and with ferrets and their caretakers. I wouldn’t have it an y other way.

So even if we don’t put out a newsletter regularly you’ll know we are still here working as diligently as ever for the ferrets.

Ferret Shelters in Kansas

There are two state licensed ferret shelters in Kansas. These shelters aren’t like typical dog/cat type shelters, these shelters only take in ferrets and are run out of the individual’s homes. These shelters don’t receive governmental funds to operate, the financial burden falls on the shoulders of the individuals and their supporters.

Stonehenge Ferret Sanctuary - Burrton
316-830-2305 (No longer in service as of 2000)


Kansas Ferret Assoc Shelter - Lawrence
785-843-0934 (No longer in service as of 2000)

Some dog/cat pounds also take in ferrets. If you are considering adding a ferret to your family, won’t you please consider adopting from a shelter? Many secondhand ferrets are just waiting for a loving responsible their own home. Reasons we find ferret s in shelters -

Owners moving - Landlord won’t allow pets - Owners having a human baby - Allergies - Owners don’t have time - and a score of other reasons, none of which are the fault of the ferrets.

Support for FFS

Dear Friends:

If you have internet access would you be willing to support Ferret Family Services (FFS) without investing anything but a bit of your time? Membership is absolutely free, and there is no obligation to you or Ferret Family Services.

When you sign up to surf for Ferret Family Services, every time you surf or shop online for everyday or special occasion needs from the iGive FFS page, you can earn up to 15% for Ferret Family Services, depending upon what you buy. There are over 60 me rchants with everyday and special items, including office supplies, books, videos, CDs, gardening supplies, sports equipment, computers, furniture, gifts, clothing, kids stuff, and so much more. Just for surfing/browsing, FFS earns 1cent per click up to 5 clicks per day. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot per person but we have 84 surfers and with the addition of YOU, FFS will earn more!

And best of all, only at iGive, a portion of every purchase from these stores can be tax deductible to you!

When you sign up as an active member of iGive by the end of the month, Ferret Family Services will receive an extra $2.00. And to introduce you to shopping at iGive, you'll receive a ‘Gift Basket' worth hundreds of dollars in savings and special offers from many of the excellent 60+ merchants in the iGive Mall.

So please go to:

http://www.iGive.com/html/ssi.cfm?cid=46&mid=58395 and register. It only takes a few minutes, and it's completely private. iGive will never sell or reveal your name or email address to anyone, without your consent. And, if Ferret Family Services isn't your cup of tea, you can select another cause from a list of over 5,000, or even list YOUR favorite charitable cause.

Why support Ferret Family Services? Because the more support we have, the more ferrets and their caretakers we can help!

If you have trouble registering to surf for Ferret Family Services, please email help@iGive.com and sprite@ksu.edu.


What is Abuse?

Ferrets are extremely clean, social, active, and loving beings. They crave human interaction and depend solely on us for their care. What some people don't realize is that neglect IS ABUSE. If you are a parent and your child has a ferret, it is your re sponsibility as the parent to see that

the needs of the ferret are met each and every day. Some children are very responsible and others are not. Do not let the ferret suffer because your child is involved in other activities, friends, or just doesn’t care.

If you don't clean litter boxes daily or as needed THIS IS ABUSE.
Dirty litter boxes breed deadly bacteria and maggots.

If you don't let your ferrets out to exercise daily THIS IS ABUSE.
Cage confinement leads to muscle weakness, depression, and illness.

If you don't provide fresh food and water daily THIS IS ABUSE.
Dirty water breeds bacteria and odors causing ferrets not to drink which may lead to dehydration and illness.  Left over foods can be nothing but crumbs which make the bowl look full but the ferret won't eat. Wet, moldy food breeds deadly bacteria and maggots.

If you don't give them clean bedding when it is soiled THIS IS ABUSE.
Soiled bedding breeds bacteria and doesn't provide warmth.

If you don't clean cages as needed THIS IS ABUSE.
Dirty cages breed deadly bacteria and cause illness.

I can't say it loud enough to make people listen. If you are not taking proper care of your ferrets, then YOU ARE ABUSING THEM. If you are reading this right now and your ferrets are stuck in dirty cages with dirty litter pans and unchecked food and water bowls GET OFF YOUR DUFF AND GO TAKE CARE OF THE FERRETS. YOUR NEWSLETTER WILL BE HERE WHEN YOU GET BACK BUT IF YOU DON'T TAKE PROPER CARE OF THE FERRETS IN YOUR CARE THEY WON’T BE THEY WILL SUFFER AND DIE. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE LOCKED IN A CAGE 24 HOURS A DAY TOTALLY DEPENDENT ON SOMEONE ELSE WHO DOESN'T EVEN CARE IF YOUR NEEDS ARE MET? IS THIS LOUD ENOUGH FOR YOU?

I’ll stop yelling now. Please take proper care of these innocent loving beings. If you know someone who isn’t doing so, tactfully and politely SPEAK UP. If you don’t and the ferret suffers, will you be able to live with that thought? If the person is a true friend, the friendship will remain strong. Closing your eyes to a situation will not solve the problem. Be pro-active!

And just in case you didn’t know, states do have enforceable animal cruelty laws, if the offense is reported. If you need more information on how to proceed in abuse issues, please contact your state animal control dept or if this is not possible, Ferret Family Services may be able to help. If this is a ferret abuse case in Kansas, FFS definitely wants to be alerted. Confidentiality is readily granted upon request.


4 Paws Ferret Shelter Happenings
Dick Bossart

Joan called to tell me about Tanner and Duncan this morning. They were out playing. Tanner found a small, stuffed, toy rabbit. He was running up and down the stairs with it; tossing it in the air; scooting it between his legs; in general, just having a great time.

Tanner developed an itch. He dropped the rabbit to scratch. Eyes closed, he scratched his ears and neck and sides. Meanwhile, Duncan saw his opportunity. He dashed over; grabbed the rabbit and ran off with it under the futon.

About this time, Tanner satisfied the itch and reached down to pick up his rabbit. Joan said that he got this puzzled expression on his face. He looked around; turned around a few times; looked under his stomach. No rabbit. Joan told him, "Tanner, Duncan took your rabbit under the futon."

Tanner looked at her and jumped up and down in frustration, then took off after Duncan to retrieve his toy. They sure do act like kids.


Tanner and Duncan got going at it the other day. Both are a little over a year old, late neuter gibs. Tanner has a strong paternal instinct, while Duncan is full of mischief.

I bought some stuffed toys for them to play with: a dog, rabbit, Kola, and Teddy Bear. They had a small stuffed dog and rabbit before. I set the new ones down on the floor. Duncan came over and nosed them around, scattering them across the floor. Tanne r picked up each one and put it in a "ferret pile" by the door, stood back then decided that they needed to be safe. He hauled them under the china cabinet and piled them up there.

Last Sunday, I saw them in the lower level of the tower. Tanner would check on them from time to time. Once while Tanner was off eating, Duncan ran over and climbed in. Tanner went nuts. He tried all which way to drag Duncan out. He grabbed him by the back, the tail, the neck, the ears. Finally Duncan had enough and ran out. Tanner had to go in and check each and every "kit." He then began carrying each and every one up one level in the three story tower. He had most of them up there when Duncan sneake d over, grabbed the small dog and carried it off behind the tower where he dropped it and went off to play.

Tanner came down and carried up the remaining "kits." He got this puzzled look and frantically began looking around for the small dog. He even went back up the tower and pushed through the pile of toys with his nose. No dog. He jumped down the tower an d began searching outside. About that time I told him, "Tanner, it's over there," pointing to where Duncan hid the dog. Tanner ran over to the toy, sniffed it and carried it off to his new nest. Then he came back down and camped out at the entrance as if daring Duncan to try that again.


Scamp and Tupper were sharing the den with me this morning. Scamp is getting to be unbelievably big. He's less than 4 months old and already weighs an even 4 pounds. Huge! Name suits him too. I heard some squabbling upstairs then a loud "thump thump th ump" as he ran down the stairs, followed by much softer thumps as Tupper followed. Scamp had the tiny stuffed dog in his mouth as he scooted under one end of the futon and came out the other end without it; then over to a laundry basket full of clothes. T upper only saw him at the basket and jumped in to try to retrieve his dog. He tore every piece of folded laundry out of the basket trying to find it. When he couldn't find it, he leaped on Scamp who was lurking nearby. Scamp is so much larger than Tupper that all he had to do was roll over and Tupper was pinned. They wrestled and chased one another until it was time for me to leave for work. Sometime in there, one of them must have gotten the dog since I saw it in front of the TV. By that time, though, it was no longer an issue. They were too busy chasing one another. They're worse than kids.


Duncan was trying to fly the other night. He climbed up on top of a big food container that we keep in the ferret room. The container is about 18 inches tall and comes to a peak at the top. It sits about 3 feet from the plywood "door" I've installed to separate that room from the kitchen. That door is about 3 ft. plus high, made of plywood.

Duncan decided that he really wanted out in the kitchen, so he climbed to the top of the food container. It was very slippery up there and he had a hard time keeping his footing. That didn't deter him though. Feet slipping and sliding, he attempted a running takeoff; leaped in the air toward the door; all four feet stretched out to the side to get maximum lift; and splatted on the floor all of 6 inches from the container.

OK, I'll give him credit for figuring out and implementing the attempt, but he then tried it three more times before he gave up. I don't know whether he quit because he realized that it wasn't going to work, or because I was rolling on the floor laughing at him.

When is it Time?

Recently I made one of the most difficult decisions in my life, to help Dusty leave this world. Dusty had insulinoma and adrenal disease. He was 7-8 yrs old and had been on Pediapred for 2+ years. The previous month he was unable to get into the low lying beds because of his weight. His weight was fat, not fluid. He was obese. He was unable to support himself with his back legs and so he pushed with his back and pulled with his front. He would have accidents and lay in them or barely move away. He’d urinate while sleeping and stay sleeping in the wet spot. He could no longer get up on the hammocks and just moving was a chore for him. In his last week I’d find him laying on the rug, not in a blanket, sometimes near a bed that he couldn’t quite make it to. The past month also brought along more frequent mild low sugar episodes. One morning he didn’t want to eat his recipe. He ate a little reluctantly at noon. At 5 he again didn’t want to eat. We went to the vet and I brought along 3 ounces of recipe and his 7pm medication. At 7 I medicated him and put the warmed recipe in front of him. He ate with a relish. I almost changed my mind.... but I didn’t. My last act of love for Dusty, was to release him from the chains of illness that held him. My thoughts are the same as others that have had to make this life ending decision, was it fair to him to let him go I wonder? As Nancy walked out of the vet clinic, she saw a rainbow. A strange site as there had been no rain that day...

Our vet and I have helped others leave this world, but they were at the point the decision was made for us because the illness was so far progressed they were in pain and/or not responding to medication. I’ve also held screaming, seizuring ferrets in my arms as they died. Each time my heart aches so and the tears flow. My pain will always surface because I care.

I praise those of you that have the strength to help the little ones to leave when it is time. It is so very difficult.

"When is it time?" When life for the little one becomes a burden to them instead of a treasure, when there is no relief for the pain, when the illness has progressed to the point that the normal everyday functions are no longer possible and there is no hope for getting better, when the sparkle in the eyes dims and does not return, and each day becomes a struggle, then perhaps it is time.

And when the time comes, please stay with your little one till the end. I know this is difficult, but remember all the love and caring your little one has shown you throughout the years and all the times they were there for you.

Our veterinarian gives our little ones a sedative to send them off to a peaceful sleep before the lethal injection. This gives us time to say our goodbyes. And when the final injection is given, the little one is sleeping peacefully, and never awakens.

In memory of those who have left us, I ask that all of you spend more quality time with your little ones.

My Special Ones - tle

Since I was very young I’d always wanted a ferret. This dream came true in August of 1985 when Nipper came into my life. He was such a tiny little creature and oh how he played. He had more energy than 10 energizer bunnies! He was little enough that he fit in my coat pocket so he was able to go everywhere with me. Little did the storekeepers know that I had this tiny furball in my pocket! I remember the first night Nipper came to us. His little cries in the middle of the night were like icy fingers along my spine. I jumped from my bed and ran to him, to cuddle and hold him till he’d go back to sleep. But baby ferrets have other ideas in the middle of the night. PLAY TIME! It only took one night for Nipper to teach us that baby ferrets are much like baby humans, they need and crave the loving interaction between adult and baby. We built a bedding box that would fit on the corner of our bed and that is where Nipper slept, or played, during the nights until he was old enough and secure enough to sleep in his cage.

Nipper’s love of life and joyful attitude made even the darkest of days bright. His reasoning abilities amazed us. We soon learned that ferrets can easily outsmart their human caretakers!

Gizzie and Willow I purchased at a pet store in August of 1992. Willow was an adorable little badger looking ferret. His favorite trick was to play vampire. If I was the vampire, Willow would throw his head back so that I could ‘kiss’ his neck and if h e was the vampire he would open his mouth wide so I could see his fangs. Of course it was always Willow who decided who was to be the vampire, but all I had to say was "Who’s the vampire" and he’d happily do his trick. Willow was always a gentle quiet ferret. Sadly, Willow died of liver tumors in late 1996.

Gizzie was a very energetic cream and silver colored ferret. When he was only 9 months old he became very sick. Gizzie pulled through his illness, but not without teaching me how to apply aggressive supportive care (a lesson that helped us through our severe ECE bout in 1996).

Gizzie was our first boy adrenal and our vet performed an exploratory a month before the adrenal surgery because at that time we did not know that prostate problems can be related to adrenal disease. Poor Gizzie was left incontinent due to extensive bl adder/urethra/prostate damage that occurred before surgery. But he was still with us and did well after recovering from surgery.

Through all of his trials, Gizzie’s zest for life and love of others never wavered. Whenever anyone wasn’t feeling well, Gizzie was there to comfort them. And when Gizzie played, he actually smiled. You could see the upturned mouth and the sparkle in t hose beautiful eyes. Gizzie could count to seven. He loved sunflower seeds and each evening I would shell them for him. I told him he could have seven and after the 7th one he would go on his merry way. Gizzie was loved by all, even the dogs. Gizzie died earlier this year. Sunny, my 12 yr old lab/brittany mix dog grew up with the ferrets and now in his older years he is deaf and has survived a couple strokes. On the day that Gizzie died, I walked into the living room tears sprang to my eyes. Sunny, his he ad lowered, was looking down at Gizzie’s lifeless body. Sunny did not hear me come up behind him so I silently stood as tears trickled down my cheeks. Sunny turned, sensing that I was there, looked at me, bowed his head again looking at Gizzie and then turned away.

Gizzie had a good life, he was loved and cared about by many. He taught me important lessons that have helped many ferrets that have shared our home. Gizzie, Willow, and Nipper all taught me many lessons on how to care for ferrets and to live each day at a time with love and joy in my heart. For those ferrets that currently share our home and for those that will in the future, these lessons are invaluable.

Mailing Lists

(This list is no longer in service.  Please visit http://www.miamiferret.org/fhc/index.html for adrenal/insulinoma information).  The FERRET ADRENAL/INSULINOMA MAILING LIST (FAIML) is a group that's come together to share support and information about adrenal and insulinoma diseases. FAIML comes out in digest format three to six times per week, depending on the number of posts se nt, and their urgency. FAIML information is the opinion, only, of subscribers, mostly ferret caretakers. It is not medical advice, comes with no guarantee of accuracy, and is not meant to replace the examination and medical oversight of a qualified veterinarian. If your ferret is sick or exhibiting signs of illness take your fur kid to the most ferret-experienced vet you can find! A ferret- experienced vet is one of the most important services you can provide to your ferret.  TO POST: Write POST at the end of your subject heading (the more specific you can be in your subject heading, the better) and send to <faiml@sttl.uswest.net>.  URGENT POSTS: If you feel the message is urgent please mark it POST URGENT and I'll send it out to subscribers as soon as I can, then include the message in the next list.  Please write POST ANONYMOUS after your subject heading if you don't want your address or last name published.  SUBSCRIBE/UNSUBSCRIBE: Just use the one address <faiml@sttl.uswest.net> for posts, subscription questions, requests, cancellations, comments, etc. The list is run by hand so just send me an e-mail.

ADRENAL/INSULINOMA WEBSITE: FAIML ARCHIVES/PHOTOS: Past FAIMLs are being archived, with a search feature, on Michael Janke's adrenal/insulinoma web site: <http://www.miamiferret.org/fhc>. Michael is also kindly posting pictures of FAIML subscribe rs and the ferrets at this site in the FAIML Album. Check out his site for more info.

PAM GREENE's FERRET FAQs: I suggest people read (and reread) Pamela Greene's Disease FAQ's on Insulin and Adrenal diseases, as they offer a good background. I forward them to all new subscribers, and will gladly send them upon request. I also send the "Disease Package", a file that tells how to get all six of Pamela Greene's FAQs on ferret diseases. Pam also has excellent FAQ's about general ferret care as well, and a link to these may be found on the FERRET CENTRAL web site.

THE FERRET MAILING LIST (FML): The FML has 3,000+ ferret-loving subscribers and the topic is simply ferrets, ferrets, and more ferrets. Moderated by Mr. Bill Gruber, it's a good source of ferret entertainment and information. Visit FERRET CENTRAL on th e web (see paragraph above) for more info on the FML. To subscribe to the FML, send email to its moderator, Bill Gruber, at <ferret-request@cunyvm.cuny.edu> and ask to be added. You can also try subscribing automatically by sending email to <list serv@cunyvm.cuny.edu> with the command SUBSCRIBE FERRET <first-name> <last-name> in the body of the email.

Summer Heat and Keeping Ferrets Cool

Richard Bossart

It looks like the summer is going to be a scorcher. The weather maps show the middle sections of the US at 100+ degrees, and the east is going to be hit with a major heat wave this week. For the new ferret owners, I'd like to post a reminder that ferrets do not do well in the heat. Temperatures above 85 degrees can seriously stress a ferret, especially an older or sick one. Temperatures above 90 degrees for prolonged periods can sicken and kill.

It's important to realize that fans DO NOT cool a ferret. Fans simply move air. If the air temperature is 90 degrees, the fan will blow 90 degree air. The moving air feels cool to a human because humans perspire. Evaporating moisture cools, and the fan aids evaporation of the perspiration. Ferrets don't perspire. The moving air will not cool them. More over, ferrets don't have a good way of cooling themselves. Dogs pant to move air over the moisture in their mouths and cool themselves. By the time you see a ferret pant, the ferret is already in extreme danger of heat stroke.

If you don't have an air conditioner and the temperature is expected to rise over 85 degrees in the area where your ferret is kept, there are some steps you can take. If you are present, you can occasionally spritz your ferret with water. Moving air (fan) over a damp ferret will cool it. You can put your ferret in it's cage and drape a towel over the cage with one end of the towel in a pan of water and blow air over the damp towel. Depending on the humidity, that will provide some cooling. You can freeze some nearly full two liter bottles of water; wrap the frozen bottles in a thin towel; place the bottles in the bottom of the ferret's cage (cool air is heavy and sinks if left undisturbed, so don't use a fan too). If the temperatures are expected to be over 100 degrees, try to move the ferrets to another location where there is air conditioning.

If you see your ferret panting, dip the ferret in very slightly cool water (not cold or you risk putting it into shock) then get it to drink as much cool pedialyte as possible; even if you have to syringe feed. Then get it to a vet as quickly as possible to check for dehydration and heat stroke.



Coccidia is common in many animals including ferrets. It is normally dormant but can be activated by stress or by exposure to another ferret that has active coccidia.

Coccidia are single-celled parasites that belong to a family of organisms known as Protozoa. After going through several stages, oocysts break out of the epithelial lining of the gut and pass out in the feces of the infected animal. Each stage of development of coccidia within the animal causes physical damage.

Certain coccidia may cause severe illness and even death before any oocysts have been produced. Consequently, failure to find oocysts in feces in a diarrhea disease does not necessarily mean the disease is not coccidiosis.

Oocysts deposited in the environment must undergo additional development before they are infective. When the environment has adequate moisture, oxygen and temperature, the development of the infective stage (the sporulated oocyst) can occur in 24 to 48 hours. The sporulated oocyst can remain infective in the environment for prolonged periods of time, usually 2 to 3 months. Under certain conditions, they can remain viable for a year or more.

Typical signs of coccidia are diarrhea, sometimes vomiting, loss of appetite and weight, and general emaciation. In more severe cases the stools may contain blood, mucus, and stringy masses of tissue. This occurs because the destruction of the epithelial cells results in the sloughing of the epithelium lining the intestine.

Recommended antibiotic treatment for Coccidia in ferrets is Albon given orally once a day for 10 days. Fortunately, Albon comes in a palatable flavor that most ferrets don’t mind. Kaopectate and/or pepto bismal may be used to control the diarrhea. Check with your vet for dosages.
The most important treatment is to correct the dehydration and electrolyte deficiencies immediately. This can save many lives. The following is an electrolyte/dextrose recipe for diarrhea dehydration.
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon low sodium salt with potassium
5 ounces Karo Syrup
Add water to make one gallon. Keep refrigerated.


Ferrets are prone to hairballs from ingesting fur when cleaning themselves, but they don’t throw-up the hairballs. Instead, the hairball will sit in the stomach or move into the intestinal tract. If the hairball sits in the stomach, it will continue to grow as more hair is added. While in the stomach, the hairball may try to move out of the stomach, but if it has grown too large it will either clog up the exit way or bounce around in the stomach. If it stays in the stomach, the ferret may show intermittent periods of not wanting to eat and wasting. If it moves into the intestines and is too large to continue to move out, then it will cause a complete blockage and if not removed, will be deadly to your ferret. Also, be aware that not all blockages will show up on x-rays. We run a barium x-ray if we are unable to find a blockage on regular x-rays and all symptoms point towards a blockage.

Ferrets should get a cat laxative or plain petroleum jelly on a regular basis. A one inch ribbon 2-3 times a week should help keep the digestive tract clear but may not completely stop hairballs from forming so watch ferrets closely for signs of blockage - vomiting, lack of appetite, diarrhea, small stools or no stools. All of these symptoms can be signs of other ailments. Talk with your vet to find out what tests should be run to rule out other ailments.

Rare Symptom of Hypertrophic Heart Disease

Hypertrophic heart disease is the thickening of the heart muscle and can be successfully treated with medication. We recently had a little one with very rare symptoms of this ailment - chronic diarrhea and wasting. These were the only symptoms he had. We ran numerous tests and x-rays to try and figure out what was affecting our little one, but it was not until necropsy that this ailment was discovered. While this is a rare symptom of Hypertrophic Heart Disease, it is important to keep it in mind just in case it ever happens to your ferret.

Adrenal Disease

Adrenal disease is caused by the overproduction of certain hormones by the adrenal glands which results in growths on one or both of the adrenals. The growths may be on the underside of the adrenal buried deep within fat layers or they may be perfectly obvious on the top side. Symptoms of Adrenal disease include - hairloss (hairloss on the tail may be caused by other things such as dust mites, carpets, blackheads, etc. so don’t panic at the loss of hair only on the tail - consult your vet), mating behavior or a drastically more assertive behavior with other ferrets, swollen vulva on girls, prostate enlargement on boys, urinary tract infections, a pinched look around the eyes, muscle wasting (saddlebags), wrinkly thin skin or in earlier stages baby soft bare skin. Prostate enlargement can cause complete urinary blockages on boys. If your boy is having difficulty urinating, take him to your vet immediately.

Adrenal disease may occur even if there is no hairloss at all, but typically there will be hairloss somewhere. Throughout thick coats you might find a streak of missing hair or a small patch missing around the ear or neck area, stomach area, or on the bottom of the feet, top of feet, etc. Sometimes hairloss may be caused by allergies normally accompanied by a rash, but more typically it is adrenal related. In our home, we see more signs of adrenal problems in spring and fall.

Surgery to remove the affected adrenal is the recommended treatment but for those that cannot afford the cost, there are chemical alternatives such as Lysodren, Lupron, or Casodex. Of these three, Lysodren is the only one that works to kill off the adrenal tissue, however, it may also cause lowering of blood glucose. Lupron and Casodex stop the symptoms but do not stop the growth on the adrenal. If the growth is not stopped it will continue to grow and can attach to or invade other organs. If you suspect your ferret has adrenal disease, discuss your treatment options with your veterinarian.


Insulinomas are tiny pancreatic tumors that release excess insulin causing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Symptoms of insulinoma are - staring off into space, pawing at mouth, excess salivation, drunken walking, licking air, hindend weakness, seizures and coma.

Diagnosis is based on symptoms and a non-fasting glucose reading every 2 weeks for 3 times. NOTE: Insulinomic ferrets should not be fasted more than 4 hours, and preferably not at all.

Treatment is surgery or drug therapy. Surgery is sometimes difficult due to the small size and number of the tumors. Drug therapy consists of Prednisone (we use Pediapred which is a very palatable oral form of prednisone) initially and possibly later the addition of Proglycem (Diazoxide). Pediapred promotes more secretion of glucose and Proglycem blocks insulin.

The addition of brewers yeast to the ferrets diet is believed to be beneficial in that it is a good source of Chromium which is important for normal sugar and fat metabolism and B vitamins. A high protein diet and frequent meals are especially helpful in maintaining blood glucose levels.


ECE is a corona virus which causes the intestinal lining to shed. Intestinal linings contain small hairlike fibers that grab and absorb nutritional elements. When ferrets are infected with ECE, this lining is shed and the ferrets are unable to absorb the vital nutritional elements.

ECE causes severe diarrhea, dehydration and sometimes vomiting. Treatment of ECE requires prompt aggressive supportive care consisting of anti-diarrheal medications, antibiotics to ward off secondary infections, nutritional liquid recipe feedings, and electrolyte replacements.

ECE itself is not lethal, but the lack of supportive care is.

If you or your veterinarian would like more information on the topics listed above, Ferret Family Services has medical packets for distribution. Our veterinarian Dr. Larry Snyder, University Small Animal Clinic, Topeka, KS, 785-233-3185, is a good source of information with quite a bit of experience with various ferret ailments.

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E-Mail Address:

If you would like to receive your newsletter by mail please send the address & $5 to cover costs of photocopying and postage to:

Ferret Family Services
PO Box 186
Manhattan KS 66505-0186