Garret Looses the “Urge”

I have been running the Main shelter for 18 years and Garret’s medical problem was a first for the MFA!  Garret’s mom and dad were at their wits end when they called me.  Their handsome boy who was a year and a half had become very aggressive with their female ferret Luna and also their cat.  Garret was “mounting” them incessantly. Garret had also become really really stinky! They were trying to juggle 2 separate ferret play times, hide the cat and look after a new baby.  They felt that Garret was not happy and needed a different playmate. Luna and the cat were so stressed out.

Now I love, love, love the way ferrets smell, but Garret was way over the top! He smelled just like a whole male ferret! Actually, it’s a little strong, but, I didn’t mind it! Sidebar, if you don’t change your clothes after handling said ferret, people at the store give you peculiar looks when you walk by them!

Now years ago we had a young dark eyed white male ferret, approximately 2 and 1/2 years old that was surrendered because he was stinky.  A trip to the vet and follow up surgery revealed a huge tumor on his left adrenal gland.

Off to the vet’s we went with Garret.  My guess was adrenal tumor or maybe incomplete neuter.  I have had female ferrets in with incomplete spay but never an incomplete neuter. Dr. Singh was 95% sure that Garret had a undescended testicle.  Dr. Singh had time that very day to do the surgery. So, before I had time to worry about Garret and the anesthetic be was whisked away.

Garret sporting stitches aftr having a testicle removed. Notice how long he is!

Garret sporting stitches after having a testicle removed. Notice how long he is!

Garret was awake and ready to party when I picked him up 4 hours later.  I was told to keep him quiet for a few days-right! Garret did 36 hours in the hospital cage and then made it clear he was going crazy being confined.

 

I want to thank Garret for his donation to our Show and Tell Kit for the Second year students at Red River College.  I have a Cordoma tumor, a spleen and now a testicle!

Garret's testicle

Garret’s testicle

Garret back to his old self

Garret back to his old self

 

Silly Jocko modifies his bed

Jocko is a spoiled rotten ferret.  He has the “big cage” aka my main bathroom. He has 3 different beds, a gigantic tube to play in, a couple of stuffies and or course his food, water and litter box.  Jocko gets to be the King of the Bathroom because he always uses the litter box except in the last 4 months he has discovered he can poop behind the door which remains open at all times and Mommy doesn’t notice it right away. Brat!  This is his place so now we put newspaper down to catch the extra gifts behind the door.  Yes – I don’t have the heart to put him in a real cage now.  He would miss all the extra attention!

I have a half Plexiglas “door” that I put  in when the bathroom is not being used by a human.  Jocko gets to watch the traffic going by and he get lots of ear scratches and cuddles when a human does come in to use the facilities.

So, I went into the bathroom to run a bath and I was puzzled by Jocko’s position in his favorite bed.  This bed, is his all time favorite even though he is really too big for it.  I have several pictures of him hanging out of it; doing a nose plant over the side!

Jocko curled up in his favorite bed

Jocko curled up in his favorite bed

I went and got the camera before I gave him a poke to wake him up. He thinks bath time with Mommy is his special time. He will beg to be picked up even though he is very afraid of water. I give him ear skritches and hang a leg over the edge of the bath so he can lick it dry!

Back to the story! I am looking at him in the bed and I know it doesn’t look right.  A gentle poke and Jocko wakes up. A slow stretch, and then he slithers off (not outthe bed.  Silly Silly boy!

Jocko fast asleep on his favorite bed

Jocko fast asleep on his favorite bed

Jocko slithering off his bed after Mommy poked him awake!

Jocko slithering off his bed after Mommy poked him awake!

Jocko's favorite bed flipped over -he was sleeping on the bottom of it!

Jocko’s favorite bed flipped over -he was sleeping on the bottom of it!

Jocko's bed put right side up.

Jocko’s bed put right side up.

So it seems that Jocko wanted a “raised” bed and decided to fix his bed to meet the new criteria!  He sniffed at the bed after I put it back upright!  I am not sure I like the dirty look I got for my troubles! See if I let him lick my leg dry!

Kai and her ferret Leo

img_5763Let me tell you a story about one of our younger members in the Manitoba Ferret Association.  Kai wanted to have a ferret for a pet.  She knew she would have to convince her mom that it was a good idea.

Kai knew the best way to do that was by learning everything she could about ferrets.

I sure wish more grownups would have done their due diligence like Kai!

Kai learned all kinds of neat things about ferrets.  She got to work and wrote out lots of ferret facts on pieces of paper and put them up on her wall.  This way she could study her ferret facts and become an expert. Every day she researched ferret web sites. Kai went to the library and found a book about ferrets. Kai worked very hard.

Terri (Kai’s mom) was very surprised by all of Kai’s hard work. The hard work paid off. Kai and Terri came to visit the main shelter. Deb at the main shelter was not sure that Kai was old enough for the responsibility of taking care of a ferret.  Deb told Kai that having a ferret was nothing like looking after her cats at home or a bunny or gerbil or even a guinea pig.  Deb started asking questions. Kai didn’t hesitate at all; and best of all she had the right answers.  

Deb showed Kai and Terri Lou aka Leo. Kai reached for Leo and gently cradled him. She had no fear.  Leo in turn gave Kai little kisses. It was love at first sight for both of them!

 Leo say’s he is the luckiest ferret in all of Winnipeg.  Kai plays with him every day.  They are best buddies. She has taken him outside to play in a safe playpen.  Kai has taken him for walks. Best of all Kai gives him lots of cuddles that puts him in cuddle heaven!

For Christmas Kai was thrilled to get a stroller so she can take Leo on longer walks in the neighborhood. Leo approves!

Leo has made friends with the family cats.  They share their cat condo with him. Now he even sleeps with them. Leo is never lonely.

Fred, the MFA president had a chance to speak with Kai about her learning about ferrets.  In a telephone interview Fred asked Kai the following questions (Kai was not aware which questions Fred was going to ask her, she only knew that the president of the association wanted to talk to her).

Fred: What is the most important thing you learnt about ferrets.

Kai: I learnt that ferrets are carnivores like cats and they need meat in their diet

Fred:  What are their wild cousins?

Kai:  Ferrets are related to Skunks and Badgers. Kai knows all about the Black Footed Ferrets which is the domesticated ferrets wild cousin.

Fred: How do you play with your ferret?

Kai:I let him run around the house when we home.   Leo plays with their two cats… they’re the best of friends and even eat together from the same food dish when he’s out of his house.  When she is at school or they are out, Leo stays in his own house for safety.

I also take him for walks, but mostly he takes me  for walks… he mainly goes where he wants to… 

We have a playpen they put in their back yard for Leo, and in the fall we took him outside everyday to play in a pile of leaves they put in the playpen… and he LOVED it… but it’s a little too cold for him outside in the winter…

Kai:  I tried to dress Leo up but he is too wiggly for that.  I got a stroller for Christmas so that I can take Leo for long walks this summer.  My cat thinks he should come along too.

Terri has fallen in love with Leo too.  She honestly didn’t think she would bond with a ferret but Leo has stolen her heart too.

Hank ‘s Close Call

Hank’s Close Call (as shared with Deb)

Hank is one of our three fur babies. He has a cinnamon coat, is one and a half years old, and is probably one of the most well-mannered ferrets around. He’s had many great adventures since he came to live with us but just last week after one of Hank’s big romps around the house is where his next adventure began.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Hank along with his one-year-old sable little  brother  Riley, and three-year-old marked white older sister Darla were having their daily fun time outside of their cage. Under the watchful eyes of their feline sisters Francine and Lucy, all three ferrets were bouncing around having a grand old time. The room was full of dooks and the pitter-patter of their little feet as they chased each other around. Hank was paying close attention to the new automatic cat feeder that had suddenly appeared in the room. Unbeknownst to him his feline food dish had been moved downstairs in order to be closer to their litterbox (Francine has a hard time remembering where to go when the time arrives).

Playtime continued until pretty soon we realized that it was suddenly a lot quieter and that someone was missing. After some investigation we realized that Hank had quietly retired back into his cage and was curled up under his blanket. Peculiar we thought, but he must just be tired after his playtime. Riley and Darla finished their play-time and soon it was bed time. Hank was still laying in his cage; he wasn’t sleeping though, just staring at nothing in particular. After picking him up we realized how lethargic he was. He just laid there in Teekca’s arms with his head down. Very  strange. We thought maybe he was just very tired from his playtime so we put him back in his cage to sleep.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

In the morning Hank perked up like he usually did when we fill up their food bowl and he walked around a bit. He seemed to be well rested and back to normal. Fast forward a few hours to around 4:30pm after we were done work. Teekca noticed that Hank was just lying there in his cage like the night before. She picked him up and found that he was drooling… a lot. He also didn’t eat or drink anything all day. This was when we knew for sure that something was not right. We immediately got on the phone and called our vet at Tuxedo Animal Hospital. We needed him to be seen right away.

Unfortunately, Hank’s vet was not scheduled to be in until 9:00 am the next morning. They suggested we phone Henderson Veterinary. Same  thing. No one would be able to see him until the following morning at 9:00 am. This continued for a while. Birchwood? Nope. Sage Creek? Nope. Centennial? Nope. Southglen? Nope. We were told to contact Winrose. Finally, someone would be able to see Hank at 7:30pm – a bit later than we wanted but this was better than waiting until the next morning. After the vet technician heard Hanks symptoms she briefly put me on hold and spoke with the vet. The vet wanted us to bring him in ASAP.

We packed Hank up as quickly as we could and drove down to Winrose Animal Hospital to meet with Dr. McDonald. Hank was brought into the examination room immediately. We took Hank out of his carrier and all he did was lay on the table like he was speed bumping. A  very sad speed bump. We were both so worried for Hank because we have never seen him behave like this before. We brought Dr. McDonald up to date on everything and even mentioned that Hank ate some of Francine and Lucy’s kitten food the night before. Dr. McDonald immediately took his temperature and heart rate. She found that his body temperature was somewhere around 34 degrees (extremely low), and his heart rate was very slow as well. She said these are usually the symptoms of organ failure. Our little Hank was very, very sick.

They immediately brought him in for x-rays to check for a blockage and wrapped him in heat to try bring his body temperature back up. Nothing showed up on his x-rays to immediately to  indicate a foreign body, but the area around his pancreas showed up foggy (usually caused by inflammation). They still did not want to rule out that Hank had eaten something that would have caused a blockage (objects like string and foam do not show up well on x-rays). They decided to give Hank fluids under his skin to keep him hydrated, force fed him some medicated digestive food, and gave him some anti-inflammatory medication. Dr. McDonald told us to take Hank home for the night and make sure we keep him warm. We needed to get Hank’s body temperature up again – this was very important. We scheduled a follow up appointment for 9:00am the next morning.

Friday, January 6, 2017

We brought Hank in for his follow up appointment first thing the next morning and found that Hank’s temperature and heart rate increased and was almost close to normal. Unfortunately, there was no improvement to his behaviour and he had still yet to eat or drink anything on his own. Dr. McDonald hospitalized him for the day so they could do blood work and more tests. Throughout the day they gave Hank a barium swallow followed by an x-ray. The barium in his body would ‘light up’ under x-ray and would give a better idea if there was a blockage.

They drew blood for testing, gave him an IV (which of course he pulled out twice), some pain killers, and kept him under heat. The new x-rays showed that the barium did not make it past his stomach except for a small amount that made it to his colon. This was an indication of a blockage although there was still no indication of a foreign body. The blood tests showed a high red blood cell count (sign of dehydration), low creatinine level (caused by low protein), and immature red blood cells (result of inflammation). His blood sugar was normal at 10.5 which ruled out insulinoma. His lipase level (pancreatic enzyme) was extremely high at 3475. Normal lipase levels for ferrets are anywhere between 0-200. This was extremely worrying. Dr. McDonald immediately began treating Hank for pancreatitis. Dr. McDonald gave us a brief lesson on pancreatitis.

This is a condition mostly found in cats and dogs and there is very limited knowledge of it in ferrets. Wonderful, right? She told us that the pancreas is an organ that produces hormones (like insulin) and secretes enzymes into the intestines to aid digestion. Nestled between the stomach and small intestine, it tends to swell (usually painfully and potentially fatally) when it’s egregiously insulted through a variety of different causes like rapid change in diet and/or high fat intake (perhaps kitten food?).

This inflammation and its effects on the body are referred to as pancreatitis. When pancreatitis occurs, the pancreas releases enzymes and other substances into the surrounding area of the abdomen. These substances cause localized inflammation that damages the pancreas and nearby organs and can lead to life-threatening complications. Essentially the organs begin to digest themselves. This is why Hank was so lethargic and quiet. His body was eating itself and he was dying. This was now a life and death situation.

Our options now were to simply continue his anti-inflammatory medication and hope for a change (anti-inflammatory medication takes around 1-3 days show change) or we could admit Hank for exploratory surgery. At this point  Dr. McDonald still has not ruled out a blockage due to a foreign body. If they found a foreign body in his stomach and/or digestive tract they would remove it, if they found that there was nothing there then they would simply stitch him up and continue his medication.  Dr .McDonald offered to give Hank an ultrasound free of charge to check if anything appeared that would indicate a foreign body. After the ultrasound there was still no indication of a foreign body. This was strange since there was obviously something preventing anything from going past his stomach.

At this point we had to sit down and have the hard talk about how far we were willing to go for Hank. We had spent over $700.00 on his vet bills up to this point. Would we pay the $1090 for Hank’s surgery? Would we just simply wait for things to get better? We ultimately decided that we would do whatever necessary to get Hank back to normal. Hank was the first ferret that both of us had ever seen and held, he was our first fur baby and he was part of the family. Both of us have very supportive families so we decided to start a GoFundMe page for Hank. We managed to raise almost $400.00 om our friends and family to put towards Hanks vet bills (Thank you Deb for your generous donation of $50.00!).

We thought about what to do logically. Hank already had two rounds of x-rays done and they could not find any sort of foreign body. He even had an ultrasound that indicated the same. His lipase levels were extremely high and his first x-rays showed up foggy around his pancreas. We figured that the inflammation around his pancreas was causing his organs to inflame so much that nothing would pass. This had to be it. Hank was dying and the last thing we wanted was for him to undergo a surgery that might ultimately be for nothing. We decided to just let Hank continue with his anti-inflammatory medication and wait for it to kick in. If there was no change by Monday, we would bring Hank in for surgery.

Dr. McDonald respected our decision and she showed us how give Hank his medication and how to force feed him with a syringe as he still was not eating at this point. They gave him enough liquid under his skin to keep him hydrated until Monday although this time they warmed it up to help him with his temperature and off we went. We brought Hank home and hoped that his mediation would begin to show change. We even went out and bought Hank a nice warm heated blanket. We attempted to give Hank his medication for the first time that evening and we found out how much a ferret can struggle regardless of how sick they are. It was like wrestling with a big old fish!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

We checked on Hank first thing in the morning and wonderful news… Hank pooped! We didn’t realize how happy one could get over a little bit of poop. Things were obviously getting back to normal inside Hanks little body. He was still a little lethargic but he perked his little head up to say good morning and as if to say “I’m feeling a little better today”.

We phoned the vet to give an update and we decided that we will not be bringing Hank in for surgery that day and that we were going to let his medication continue to do its job. Dr. McDonald was not scheduled to work this day but said she would stay on call for the weekend in case something happened and Hank needed to come in for surgery. Dr. McDonald is wonderful.  We brought Hank in for a checkup because he didn’t eat or drink anything and we were unable to give him his medication the night before.

He was seen by another Doctor at Winrose. She took his temperature, checked his heart rate, and gave us more doses of medication. One of the nurses gave us some tips on how to make sure Hank takes his medication. This involved us making a Hank burrito. She also showed us that force feeding is even messy for her too. Hank stayed in his cage for the rest of the day, watching us from the comfort of his new blanket as we did our normal Saturday things.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Teekca had to work today so it was just me and Hank at home. When I went to check up on Hank he jumped up and put his paws on the cage to meet me. I opened the door reached my hand in and he climbed right up my arm like he always does. Our little guy was feeling better! I decided to let him roam around the living room and what would you know… he started to play with me! Under the watchful eyes of his feline sisters Hank and I played until I brought out Riley and Darla. We kept Hank apart in our ‘sick time’ cage while he was feeling down. Even though they could always see each other they were so happy to be reunited.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Hank had a follow up appointment today. They gave him a checkup and what would you know, it looks like Hank is almost healthy again! His temperature is normal, his heart rate is normal, and he is back to his personable self. We will continue giving him is medication until he is done on Friday. Hank was on the mend!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Well it’s been over one week since Hank had his near death experience and we are happy to report that he is pretty much 100%. He is done his medication, is back to eating and drinking, and is back to his playful, mischievous self.

We wrote this story in the hopes to show others how quickly things can go downhill for ferrets. Hank didn’t eat a mysterious foreign body like an earplug, but simply ate his sisters kitten food. We didn’t think anything of it because he eats a mixture of ferret food and cat food every day. What is a little kitten food going to do, right? While maybe adult food is okay for ferrets, definitely keep your kitten food away from them. Kitten food is high in fat which helps the kittens grow. The adult cat food that our ferrets have mixed in with their ferret food is super high in protein and is a bit higher quality than the kitten food we buy. As you already know ferrets are fairly sensitive little creatures and we definitely need to keep a close eye on what they eat. In total Teekca and I have spent around $1300 on Hank this past week on vet visits, medications, and his heated blanket. We hope that you can learn from our very expensive and scary lesson that we learned.

Stewart

&

Teekca

IKEA Rug

The other day I picked up this rug from IKEA – just $12.99 fake fur rug – thinking my ferrets would like it. Apparently ‘like’ is an understatement, the first thing Bandit does when being let out is search for her rug. She then proceeds to spend the next hour curled up on it like a princess.

Princess Bandit

At first I was really worried that she was feeling ill because of how much she slept, she would spend hours there, only getting up to eat and drink. Even her brothers were worried. I caught Radish trying to get her attention (if you see in the background Turnip didn’t seem to notice, he just kept stashing things in his ‘hideout’). Radish tried to play, then eventually just sat on her. At this point I was like ‘omgosh she’s dying!’

Brotherly love

I tried enticing her to play, she just wanted to sleep, I tried laying with her she just ignored me.

Then, I tried treats…

Treats?

Magically she had tons of energy*, even wanted to come up to help me do chores like usual. Then of course I gave her a treat and away we went.

In the end I calmed down again, didn’t even call the vet crying this time! Moral of the story is I’m an excellent ferret accessory shopper, therefore I should go out and buy them more.. Just an FYI this is the rug I’m talking about.

Here’s some cute ones of her brothers looking serious;

Ninja ferret

There was this space under the cupboard that only a ferret could fit through, I tried blocking it off a million times, they were so darn determined they got through every time. Eventually I just took pictures with my phone to verify they weren’t going to hurt themselves getting in there, it was safe, so I gave in.

Turnip looking epic

The construction people that put together my kitchen in my bachelor apartment seemed to have put all the counter stuff in, figured there wasn’t anything to do about the corner (too tight for another cupboard) so they just left that section empty, nothing but a ferret noticed.

By ferret I mean Turnip specifically, first thing he did was search out the perfect stash spot for all my dish cloths, socks, shoes, bras (he ate so many of my bras!), etc.

Standing guard on his hideout

* anyone concerned about insulinoma, her burst of energy came from hearing me open the treat cabinet not from eating it. She really was fine, just being a lazy bum, who gets away with it because she’s freaking adorable.