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Ferrets/Hurt leg and mystery illness


Hi Jacquie,
First, I want to make it very clear that while this is a health related question, I do have an awesome ferret vet who I have been seeing for this problem. So far, I have spent over $700 in tests and treatment (and I am willing to spend more) but I have no answers. Last Saturday (July 26th), I noticed that my little female ferret was limping and slightly lethargic. I took her to an emergency vet but after waiting for 45 minutes she seemed to be acting completely normal with only a slight limp. I assumed she had just hurt herself on her very large cage and took her home. I worked all day Sunday but I did check on her once to see that she was alert and eating and drinking. By Monday, she was completely limp and had a fever of 106. I rushed her to the vet where she was treated for severe dehydration and given painkillers and antibiotics. Since then, she has had a full blood test, x-ray and ultrasound. The blood test revealed low albumin levels and the other two were apparently normal. The vet doesn't suspect lymphoma as her lymph nodes were normal but is considering IBD a possibility. Her poop is seedy suggesting she isn't absorbing the protein from her diet. I have been giving her baytril, fluid injections and liquid food through a feeding syringe. She perks up a little after food and hydration but at best she takes a few shaky steps to her kennel then collapses. She likes the food but wont eat kibble or drink on her own. Yesterday, the vet started her on prednisone. This terrifies me because it is based on a hunch and if she is struggling with a bacterial infection than this kind of immunosuppressant could be deadly. No one I have talked to understands any possible link between this illness and the leg problem. If you are able to shed any light on this situation or offer suggestions I would really appreciate your input. Some background info: I have had my ferret, Folly, for 2 1/2 years. The shelter told me she was about one year old when I got her but it's hard to tell. She is a Marshall's ferret. She lives with a male Canadian ferret named Felix. He is about 3 1/2 but again, it is really hard to tell as I wasn't his first home. He is acting completely normal. No one in my family is sick. I work at a zoo but there are no mustelids in my department. They eat a Marshall's kibble now. I switched them from EVO several months ago when my pet store stopped carrying it. Folly has always been a tiny ferret. She is very skinny but this has always been the case. She is free-fed. No fur loss. She has diarrhea sometimes but mostly soft, seedy stool. I am in my mid-twenties and have had ferrets (only these two) for about three years.

Hi again Hallie:

Be sure to let me know if I can be of any further help.  Give that sweet little girl a hug for me!  See you on THUNDERING FERRET PAWS!  :-))


Dear Hallie:

I replied a few minutes ago but it did not show up.....if two replies show up, please forgive me, as I will try again to reply to you.....

Thank you for an excellent explanation of your situation. You were more thorough than most and it certainly helps see the whole picture.  

From your information, it appears to me that your vet has the situation very much under control and you definitely should stick with him/her.  I believe your ferret has two unrelated problems going on, probably irritable bowel syndrome and least that seems to be what your vet is suspecting by his prescriptions.  

Antibiotics are the first line treatment for bowel problems just to be sure there is no infection, etc. A partial blockage that becomes infected can make a ferret very ill, so antibiotics are administered to eliminate that possibility before a definitive diagnosis of irritable bowel disorder is given.   Seedy stools do indicate malabsorbtion as you know.  That makes him suspect the IBD.  

Totally unrelated, the leg weakness is fairly common in a ferret with insulinoma, a tumor of the pancreas, or a ferret with blood glucose problems, often caused by a tumor on the pancreas.  Prednisone is the treatment of choice for insulinoma. The overall lethargy may be caused by either. I had a ferret with IBD and he was terribly lethargic, but did thrive to live a full life when I took him off kibble and handfed him warm, thinned Hills A/D canned feline prescriptive food. This was a lifelong food change, so if you do it, it removes the carbs from her diet, but is like feeding a baby every 3-4 hours the rest of her life.  It would likely increase her energy tho and possibly help stabilize her glucose to some extent since there are no carbs like corn or rice in it.  

Hills A/D feline, canned, can be purchased at your vet office by prescription and I am sure he would okay it in this case.  You sound like an excellent ferret mom and I believe you have an excellent vet who is on top of this.  Be sure to have him show you how to test her blood glucose at home, remove ALL sugars in any form from her diet (read labels, anything ending in 'ose' is a sugar, also malts and syrups; carbs are lso not good for a ferret with blood glucose problems).  Check that Marshalls Food for sugars!  It truly is NOT a good food compared to others on the market.  Remembet, ferrets are obligate carnivores.   They MUST have MEAT, not corn, rice, sugars of any kind.   EVO was excellent, but was taken off market after some manufacturing recipe problems, but there are still other, better foods to feed.....check this link:

Keep Karo syrup on hand in case of a BG crash (rub it on her gums till she regains consciousness or her legs strengthen back up and is 'normal', then follow immediately with a full protein meal to prevent spike/crash/spike/crash scenarios.

$700 is a bargain for a good ferret vet and I think you have one.  I hope you will stick close to him/her and work thru this. He spunds excellent!  I have spent thousands before getting a diagnosis before, so you are doing great!  

Congrats on being such a good ferret mom. I would like to invite you to join my Facebook Group THUNDERING FERRET PAWS where you will find lots of ferret owners with more experience to share with you.....rescue moms also!  Hope to see you there!


Jacquie Rodgers


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Jacquie Rodgers


PLEASE READ ALL BEFORE ASKING QUESTIONS... WHAT I CAN DO: Being a ferret owner for 20 years, I can answer questions re: general care, cage ideas & requirements, healthy foods and snacks, safety issues, ferretproofing play areas, common causes of intestinal blockages, appropriate housing, litterbox training, making bathtime fun, toys, games galore, outdoor trips, "Do`s and Don'ts, traveling w/ferrets by car or RV, safe environmental temperatures & keeping your ferret cool in summer (NOT A FAN!!), setting up a hospital cage, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), helicobacter (ulcers), adrenal disease symptoms & care,intestinal blockages, helping your ferret recover quickly/safely from surgery; common problems of ferret ownership, illnesses; care of sick or injured ferrets, hospice/palliative care, facing & coping with your ferret's death, choices that must be made when a ferret dies, memorializing your pet online and in your daily life. #1 TIP: FIND AN EXOTICS VET BEFORE YOU GET A VET...IF YOU WAIT, YOU MAY FIND YOU HAVE TO DRIVE UP TO 6-HRS TO GET TO A PROPER VET!..if you did not find one first, be WILLING to drive as far as possible for proper care. AND.... #2 TIP: FERRETS ARE EXPENSIVE TO FEED, HOUSE, VET & CARE FOR PROPERLY...IF YOU CANNOT AFFORD ONE/OR NOT READY TO SACRIFICE, PLEASE DON'T GET ONE!! A FERRET IS NOT LIKE HAVING A CAT OR DOG!! THEY REQUIRE MORE TIME, ENERGY, CARE AND MONEY to properly care for them. Prepare to spend up to $8,000-$10,000 OVER A FERRETS LIFETIME (6 to 8 years usually) FOR NECESSITIES & VET CARE. WHAT I CAN`T DO: I can`t take the place of your ferret vet; if your ferret appears sick,PLEASE have your ferret examined by a ferret vet .TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE FOR A SICK FERRET - PLEASE, IF IN DOUBT, GET THEM TO A VET! 24- hours of a ferret not eating/drinking may kill your ferret! NEVER FORCE FEED A SICK..he may choke. Sub-Q or IV fluids from your vet who is not eating WILL help save his life IF he gets it in time.


I have nursed ferrets through many illnesses, an injury, and a variety of diseases over the years.Ferrets are so very delicate, yet incredibly strong-willed; a well-loved ferret will fight courageously to live if given proper medical care, close monitoring, and especially lots of TLC.& LOVE. A ferret can entertain for hours on end when they know they are the center of attention; and they can make even the grumpiest person laugh. They do require a LOT of time, love and daily care, but the love you give a ferret always comes back to you tenfold OR MORE!! I dedicate the time I spend helping others here to my precious little ones who have gone to the Rainbow Bridge. They taught me how to laugh, to love unconditionally....and how to live each & every day to its fullest, and for that I am forever grateful.


Yuma Daily Sun (local newspaper) recognition for being an outstanding ferret mom and having incredibly well-trained ferrets. I am currently working on book of ferret care to share my experience. JOIN ME ON FACEBOOK:!/groups/thundering.ferret.paws/ for faster answers to your questions and input from other experienced ferret owners. Lots of past questions answered on that you can still reference by category. If you don't find your answer there, please submit it and I will be happy to help you :-)

I read everything I can get my hands on regarding ferrets, I learn from my great Exotics Vet, and my own experience and interactions with other ferret owners. I am writing a book on ferret care (Great Need for a CORRECT one!) never rely on a ferret book OR a website when your ferret is sick. I can help with suggestions to use IN CONJUNCTION with proper care by your exotics specialist vet (ASK when you call for an appointment whether or NOT your vet has EXPERIENCE in working with EXOTICS..if not, move on and continue to seek one. The wrong vet can KILL your ferret. I learned this early when my ferret hurt his front paw jumping off the couch...a vet, NOT EXOTICS SPECIALIST couln't handle ferret properly because he was afraid of the ferret...and ended up xraying THE WRONGBARM, telling me it was not hurt. I took xray & ferret to EXOTICS SPECIALIST VET 3-hrs away & found out the arm WAS BROKEN & wrong arm had been xrayed. THAT is how important it is to have a PROPERLY TRAINED VET FOR YOUR FERRET!

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WANT TO BE A FERRET EXPERT? I serve as the resident "guru" for this category. IF YOU WISH TO VOLUNTEER IN THE FERRET CATEGORY, please email me at and request an application. All volunteers must complete a general ferret information questionaire to be a volunteer in this category. Thanks for your cooperation :-)

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I try to educate anyone who is interested in ferrets, as I take my ferrets with me in public a lot. There is a lot of MISinformation out there about ferrets that needs to be dispelled with fact, and ferret owners who need to be keep abreast of the latest and best information. FACEBOOK FERRET GROUP (OPEN): THUNDERING FERRET PAWS - Join us as we all share our pictures, stories & experience!! :-)

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