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Ferrets/Ferret question


QUESTION: Good day,

I just got a ferret from his previous owner, where he lived for about 1 year, I guess, because the ferret himself is 1.5 years old, as I was told.
The old owner told me he is neutered and had his vaccinations. I should get his "passport" soon to see when he was vaccinated last, and I was wondering - how often should I take him to vet for vaccinations if I plant to take him out on a walks time to time??
He is quite active, he plays, he eats, he goes to toilet, he is nice with me, he is playful, I guess nothing abnormal. The only problem I noticed since yesterday (I had him for 1.5 weeks now) - he has a little red area by his bottom lip, just on one side. You can barely see it, but it is there, and I was really worried, because it is written everywhere in the Internet that when they get dismember they develop a red rash on their chin! He has no other typical signs of distemper, but still I am very worried! What else can that be? He is in the middle of changing his fur, so he has blackheads on his tail and scratches all the time.

Hope you will help me!

ANSWER: Hi Anna:

Thanks for your question and congratulations on your new ferret!  There is SO MUCH different about owning a ferret than any other pet. They are fun and loveable, but also much work and daily responsibility...not a pet to just be caged, they are so social, he will need two to three hours a day of your time to play with him if he is to stay happy.

In regards to your question, I am sure he doesn't have distemper.  You would know...he would be vey very sick, not just a red lip and itchy. So rest assured of that :-)   In regards to shots needed, he should have received a series of three "baby shots" of distemper vaccine given within the first few months of his life. This establishes his immunity.  He also should have received one rabies vaccination. The shots are all given at separate times, never a rabies shot t the same time as distemper.  Also, the proper way to get all vaccines is to get an injection of benadryl about 15-30 minutes before the vaccines are given. This is to lessen the possibility of a fatal reaction that ferrets CAN have occasionally.  Even with the benadryl injection, the ferret can have a reaction, but it should not be as severe.  However, some ferets can have fatal reactions, so always remember to get the benadryl before evey vaccination.  So, up until now, if correctly vaccinated, he should have records of having THREE DISTEMPER BABY SHOTS AND ONE RABIES VACCINE.  These shots will last for ONE YEAR, then he should receive a BOOSTER vaccination of both rabies and distemper YEARLY (with benadryl shots before each).  Get rabies at one time, wait at least two weeks, then distemper or vice versa.

I can only guess without seeing his chin, but possibly he has been chewing at the bars of his cage and made his mouth sore?  Is he in a new cage?  Has he had 2-3 hours out of the cage playtime daily?  Have you changed his food?  Maybe he is having an allergic reaction to the food (unlikely) or maybe hpe just bumped his chin while playing. Ferrets play hard and thes things can happen if not watched closely when they are out of cage playing.  If he is an outside ferret (I have no idea what a ferrets life is like in your country.  Here in the U.S., ferrets are either in a large cage or in a ferretproofed room where there isn't anything they can get hurt on or get into that will make them sick such as rubberbands, erasers, anything rubbery, foam, styrofoam, etc are all dangerous to ferrets.  I strongly recommend you read all you can online about ferretproofing before your ferret spends much time out of cage unless you are right there to be sure he eats nothing but his food. They love nipples from baby bottles especially if they still have a milky smell, but they are deadly to ferrets because they cause intestinal blockages.  Also you need to learn how recognize symptoms of blockage and understand how quickly your ferret would die from it if you don't recognize the signs.  You can find that information and so much more at     It is just tons of information I could neve cover in one email....maybe a book!  Which is an excellent idea also...thee is a book called FERRETS FOR DUMMIES which is excellent for new ferret owners. The information is online, but you need to read everything you can to be prepared for eveything with ferrets because when anything goes wrong, they go downhill fast.

You mentioned your ferret has blackheads on his tail.  These are easily cured by taking a soft toothbrush and mild shampoo and gently scrubbing the tail daily for a week or so and they will disappear.  It is a condition not necessarily related to shedding.  Does the feret have any bald areas?  If so, he *could* have adrenal disease. It first shows by fur loss at the base of the tail usually, then spreads up to neck, shoulders, etc until the ferret becomes bald. Another symptom of adrenal disease is very dry, scaly itchy skin.  Please read up on adrenal disease, also on ferret central...there are some excellent articles by renown vets there's at will tell you all about it.  If your ferret is actually just shedding normally, it would be a good idea to give him a bath in baby shampoo that is pH balanced so it won't further dry his skin. During bath time, you can also pull out loose fur and help him shed while rinsing him (I call it 'plucking' my ferret.  It keeps him from swallowing all the loose fur, which becomes a potential intestinal obstruction.  It is important to remove as much loose fur a possible as intestinal obstructions can be deadly also.

I have an onIine Facebook group called THUNDERING FERRET PAWS and there are "files" posted on the group about how to prevent intestinal obstructions from hairballs.  Its a good idea to do regular treatments to keep healthy intestines...all i structions are very easily obtained in the files.  I hope you will join the group and read them there, or at least SOMEWHERE.  I do have a different, very effective way of treating them that I devised that is very very effective and I hope you will try it.  If a ferret isn't treated regularly, they can get blocked and need surgery to remove the hairballs or other obstruction to save their lives.

As long as he is eating a good, hi protein MEAT food (ferrets are obligate carnivores which means theyir tummies are designed to digest ONLY MEAT and meat byproducts, no vegetables, no fruitsm NEVER any sweets or treats with sugar in them.  Sweets can cause a disease called insulinoma....another thing you should read up on, how to recognize it in case your ferret should begin showing symptoms.

Not all vets are familiar with ferrets as they are just not a common pet, so it is kind of up to us ferret parents to constantly be on the lookout for things like skinny or scant poops, not eating or playing normally or any other daily differences in behavior.  Ferrets hide their sicknesses until they are literally on deaths door, so we have to be even more attentive to every little thing on a daily basis and when we see a problem, we must get them to a good vet immediately.  So, you may want to be shopping around, calling vets to see who would be best with a ferret.....hopefully one with some ferret experience. That can be hard to find, but it is critical.

I don't know of any disease that would show by a eddened lip, so I really think he has been chewing the cage or ot hurt playing, as long as he is eating and pooping okay, he is probably healthy.  Here is a list of good ferret foods, but I don't know what would be a ailable where you are.  Look for 35% to 50% protein from meat sources, or you can feed raw meat if he is already eating that. It is healthy for them, but they imprin on their food early, so it can be i possible to change them to a real meat diet i stead of kibble if they are used to kibble.  There is much online about feeding raw foods to ferrets if that is what you do. There are guidelines to keeping it fresh and healthy for them too.  Kibble is eafsier if you can get high quality.  Here is the list we use here in the U.S and they are listed according to how good they are for your ferret, a 10 being best, then 9 and so forth.  We try not to feed any food under a 9 category:

Hopefully I have given you some useful information to get ypu started to your first vet visit.  Do be sure to get his papers so you know he has been properly vaccinated and know when he is due for his yearly booster shots.  Best of luck. I hope to see you on THUNDERING FERRET PAWS on Facebook.  We have folks from all over the world and we share our experiences and knowledge freely, along with pictures of our babies and play ideas, etc.  Hope to see you there!  I think you will find it a great way to learn quickly about ferrets. You can ask anything there 24 hours a day abnd someone should be there to help you with any question. You can post a pic of your baby's mouth there if you like so I can see it too.


Jacquie Rodgers

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Jacquie, its me again.

I noticed yesterday that some of my ferrets nails have split! They are not broken, but they split like human nails, and some of them split quite close to the quick, so I am afraid to cut them! What should I do? Other than that he is doing great, he slept in my hands for several times now, so I feel like he had adapted and he is not afraid of me anymore. He plays with me, and follows me around, and I am in love with him!)

Thank you in advance!

ANSWER: Hi again Anna:

So glad his tail cleared up and the nail cutting went well.  You mentioned the vitalin paste from in a tube.....could you please read the label and be sure it doesn't have sugar, syrup or malt into it?  Any ingredient ending in "ose" such as sucrose, lactose, etc, is a sugar.  Sugars have recently been found to cause insulinoma and blood sugar problems in ferrets that can be fatal.  He needs *oil* type supplements, either Ferretone or (I remembered the name of the other one finally :-) Linatone.  Give no more than a tablespoon of either, not both, over a weeks period of time, little at a time.  I am betting the tubed stuff you have is full of sugars if its the one I am thinking of.  Read the ingredients and you will know for sure.  He would be better with no vitamin supplement than one with sugar in it.

What do you use for hairball treatment?  It is a life/death thing that ferrets get treated regularly for fur that accumulates in their tummies, especially while shedding, but always some even with their daily licking and self grooming.  I have devised a really effective way of clearing accumulated fur from ferret tummies, but it is a bit more complicated than I can go into here.  It is listed as Hairball Remedy in the File section of my Facebook group THUNDERING FERRET PAWS.   If you cannot or do not want to do that, the next best most effective hairball treatment is to give the ferret about a teaspoon of just plain Vaseline . Let him lick it from your finger at least once every couple weeks.  You can use that for his belly while nail cutting and accomplish two things at once :-)  Do not give it too often because it can accumulate in their intestines and interfere with absorbtion of nutrients from their food....which is why I came up with this other treatment that basically is adding a product like Metamucil to warm, thin 'soup' or mush.  The fiber pushes the fur thru his system. You have to feed it several times a day for 3-5 days every two or three months, or towards the end of a shedding period. That way it keeps them cleaned out so they don't get blockages, which will kill them.

Hope that helps. Write any time, I am always happy to help you.  Thanks for updating me.  Take care and I hope to see you on THUNDERING FERRET PAWS!

Jacquie Rodgers

Hi again, Anna!

I am so glad your little one is getting settled in and feels loved enough to actually sleep in your ams. That is full trust!!  Mine slept under my chin when he was tiny, but unfortunately outgrew it :-( and would now rather go to his dark little hidey hole to sleep now that he is grown, so enjoy while it lasts!  :-))

About his nails, I assume you have cut ferret nails before?  If not, I have found the easiest way is to dribble some Ferretone (ferret specific vitamin oil) on his tummy and while he is busy licking it, I gently take one paw at a time and clip each nail, being super careful not to get near the pink vein that grows in the middle of the nail.  If you happen to clip one of those, it may bleed kind of a lot. So immediately pinch down pressure on the toe, then dip the whole foot into cornstarch...if you don't have corn starch, you can use flour, but cornstarch works best.  I usually have to reapply Ferretone on the tummy several times before finishing all nails.  If you don't have Ferretone (get some, or you can even try an Omega or salmon oil for cats....just  teaspoonful or so a can overdose on those, so use sparingly.  You can even massage a little oil into the brittle nails daily to help strengthen them.  :-) OR...if you can't get those,  you can try putting a bit of olive oil on his tummy and let him lick that. It may not keep him as busy aor be as good for him as  the Ferretone will, but hopefully it will distract him till the job is done.

His nails are probably split because they were allowed to get too long, OR this could be another symptom of the low quality food, especially if they are really dry and solit.  I use people-type nail clippers - the kind like guys carry on their keychains that flip open - OR the other good ones are the teeny little rounded tip scissor type clippers used for cats.  If his nails were cut with dull clippers, even that can cause nails to split, so you will want some new ones if possible. Sharp clippers will cut a cleaner cut.

Even tho they are split back very far, this first time clip very carefully only back to a very safe point, not near the vein....then in 3-4 days you can clip a tiny bit off again.  Do this every few  days till all the brittle split ends are gone.  This way, doing it over a period of time, little by little, you don't need to try to get so close you risk a too close cut.  With a baby, his first experiences with nail cutting can set the tone for nail cutting the rest of his life. In other words, if you cut even one too close, he will always remember that and be agraid to get his nails trimmed.  If it is a good experience for him, you will find he will be easier and easier to work with each time they are trimmed.  The object, eventually, is to clip off the hooked portions of the nails without going near the vein.

I like to do mine when they first wake up, before they get too hyper. Calmly pick him up , gently cuddle him, then sit down with him on your lap, tummy side up. First let him just lick some oil or Ferretone from your fingers and/or the palm of your hand and let him get used to it, be sure he likes it,  then, gently turn him over onto his back and dribble about 1/2 tsp on his belly.  It may surprise him at first, so be careful he doesn't hop up real fast and look at you like "what is THAT on my tummy for???"  LOL  i like to talk calmly or sing to mine to keep us both very calm when clipping nails. I tell him what a good boy he is when he cooperates (positive feedback is so much easier than a wrestling match to try to hold them still enough to trim the nails!)  This helps them relax and not dread it so much.  I have done my current ferrets nails that way since he was a tiny baby and to this day, he is so calm when we do nails he barely noticrs anything is being done....will even hand me one paw after the other as I go from one paw to the next. He has the system down pat. It usually takes more time the first 5-6 times you cut them till he trusts you are not going to hurt him (and you never know if someone trimmed them before you got him and he may have already had a bad experience, so its important to let him know you are taking your time, being calm and not going to hurt him. Lots of firm reassurance and love help....take your time doing them...never do them when you are in a hurry.

If you can get Ferretone, giving him that regularly will help keep his nails from splitting, as will regular trim sessions. You can give up to a tablespoon of Ferretone weekly, OR if you mix it half Ferretone and half olive oil, you can give twice as much and he will like it just as well while keeping from overdosing him on some vitamins in the oil.

I usually cut nails about every 10 days.  You don't want them to grow long enough to get caught in carpets or blankies or his towel after a bath. They can actually tear a toe off if nails are not trimmed on a regular basis.  Cut off the curved 'hook' of the nail, being careful not to get the vein. Be sure you are near a good light and never cut unless you can SEE exactly where you are cutting.....and be careful not to accidentally clip skin from the the nail AND the foot pad underneath before clamping down and cutting.  Again, if you should happen to nick him, dip the foot in cornstarch and keep pressure on the foot, holding the corn starch against the cut until it stops bleeding.  If you should happen to accidentally cut the pad deep or bleeding does not want to stop  after a minute, might be a good idea to head to the vet,but have someone else drive so you can continue to hold direct pressure on the boo-boo to prevent blood loss. Pinch  directly where the blood is coming from.  Hopefully you won't need that information, but thought I would include it just in the rare case something happens.

Again, I can't stress how important high quality food is for a ferrets overall well being. Nail health can reflect the ferrets overall health, so if they are thin and brittle, he probably isn't getting proper nutrition. Of course baby ferret nails are tinier than an adults nails - more like little hooked needles,  but still they should not be peeling or brittle on a good diet.  I would hope you will look into buying fa higher quality ferret or kitten food online.  There are a few kitten foods (check the list I sent you in the link in my previous email above) that are better than Marshalls food....maybe one of those are available where you live?  Be sure it is kitten, not cat food, even for a grown ferret.  You can also supplement with Salmon oil , which will give him extra Omega vitamins (salmon oil, krill oil, etc) maybe your vet can recommend something available in your area, as I am just not familiar with what may be available in Astonia.  Online is an excellent option tho, that's where I get my ferrets food.

So, in summary, you will want to trim just a little at a time every few days until the split parts of the nails are removed. You can also gently use a soft nail file to file off any especially bad areas you fear may snag on something after trimming.  I find my ferrets front foot nails grow about twice as fast as his back leg nails, so I only trim the 'hooked' parts about every other time on rear feet.  You can also massage oil into the nails to help strengthen them till his diet is bette. It may help the symptoms, but a quality diet is overall better for him. With a high quality food, a ferret needs no other supplements.  Omega oils or Ferretone are also good for a soft healthy coat.

Hope that helps!  Give that sweet little guy a hug from me, k?

Jacquie Rodgers

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Jacquie!

I looked at the paste I have, and its a Vitamin-Mineral complex with Taurine and Omega. There are just vitamins and minerals in the ingredient list, and the previous owned had it from the vet to give to ferret every day. So I think its a good one, right?

Anyhow, I have another question. When I was cutting his nails I saw that some of his little pads on his paws are yellow. And they were like this before as well, they are not dry or bruised, just not pink but yellow. What can cause that? Is that a problem? I remember when I had ginipigs and they lived in cage their paws also were yellowing from urine. But the previous owner said the ferret wasn't caged, so I have no idea why he has that...

And another problem. He is litter trained, he mostly goes to his toilet. But then time to time he would go right in front of the main entrance to the flat. I tried putting a toilet there, but he ignored it and was still doing his businesses all around it. How can I prevent that? Again, the previous owner said that he always used his toilet, which is kind of hard to believe with a ferret...

Thank once more for helping me so much!

Hi again Anna:

I checked everywhere and cannot find an ingredients list for Diafarm paste in English, but hopefully since it is  prescription formula, there should be no sugars in it. It looks like a top quality product. If you can, tho...if there is an ingredients list on the tube or box, just be sure there are no sugars or any ingredient ending in "ose" such as sucrose, etc. That would be a sugar and bad for ferrets. The taurine ipand Omega supplements are excellent. Do not give him any Ferretone ir other vitamin while he is taking this because it could overdose him on certain vitamins that could be fatal.  And don't give him more than prescribed, as it could overdose him on vitamins too.

Regarding the dried chicken pieces....ferrets have a very short digestive tract and dried products usually end up causing intestinal blockages, so definitely do NOT recommend even a small piece. It takes very little to block their intestines.  You can fed either raw fresh chicken pieces or cooked fresh chicken and that would be good for him, but stay away from the bones in chicken. If cooked, they can splinter and cut them internally.

As far as the litterbox, some rectangle boxes have sides that are about 5"-6" high and those are the ones ferrets  usually have the best results with. There are shorter ones, but to get a ferret to use the box, the taller ones are better.

Best of luck with the litterbox training. He may even be 'pouting' because he misses his old home....hard to say with ferrets. Hopefully time, consistency in encouraging him to use the box and lots of love and play and attention  will get him to bond stronger with you and encourage him to want to please you by  using it more. One other trick is picking up poop he has done outside the box and placing it in the back corner of his litterbox to show him that is where you want him to put it. Give that a try for a week or so and see it it helps.  Give that little guy a hug and lots of love.


Jacquie Rodgers

Hi Anna:

Without seeing the ingredient list, I cannot say for sure if itthe tubed paste vitamins are good or not. Could you send me the ingredients list from the tube?  Then I can advise you better...OR the actual name and manufacturer so I can look the item up would also work.

Are you using the same litterboxes (toilets) as the previous owner....did she give them to you with the ferret?  Ferrets usually prefet rectangle high sided boxes. My ferret uses his box all the time, but if I put down a triangle one or a low sided box, he will go next to it or somewhere else.  Also, are you using the same litter inside the box he was used to before you got him?  Some ferrets just don't like large pelleted litter. My ferret likes just plain clay litter....NEVER the "clumping" kind, that's dangerous for ferrets.  So, maybe you can check with his previous owner to be sure you have the right boxes with the right stuff in them. Because, yes, ferrets can be 100% box trained, mine is.  Otherwise, you can get high sided rectangle boxes and try using a variety of different things in the box and see if you can find the magic formula for him....I would recommend trying a regular cat clay litter first if you go that direction.

Yellow foot pads.  You have me stumped!  Not all of them are yellow, just some of them?  Also, the first thing I think with whitish pads is...are his gums nice and pink?  Tongue pink?  Paleness on parts that should be pink usually indicated anemia, or possibly internal bleeding, BUT if it was that, he would have pale gums, lips, ears, etc and all pads would be pale, not just a few, and he would feel very weak and sick.   If other parts are not nice and pink, get him to a vet immediately.  Assuming it is only SOME toe pads and nothing else, it must be stained from something, probably urine. Is it mostly on his rear toe pads?  That would make urine make sense.  Maybe he is stepping backwards into it after going?

I look forward to hearing from you again with the tubed paste  information and let me know about which toe pads are yellow just out of curiousity.  Also, I hope you can get his potty habits better with a few changes....let me know if that works, ok? Some ferrets never become 100% litterbox trained, but lets hope if all the variables are right, he will use it at least a lot more often if not 100%.  One last sure you are scooping the box daily because some ferrets are really particular and don't want to use a box that already has poop in it, or has too much in it. Don't forget, you have to scoop deep to remove the urine because it falls to the bottom even if the surface does not look wet, it will be underneath and all wet litter needs to be removed daily. If the box gets too smelly, he may not want to use it.  I totally dump, scrub, dry and refill all boxes at least once a month and scoop thoroughly daily. That tip may also help his potty habits if his box is clean :-)

Looking forward to hearing from you again soon.

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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