Message Number: YG1088 | New FHL Archives Search
Date: 2001-03-11 07:06:00 UTC
Subject: steroid use in ferrets

I am not a vet. the info i am sharing here is from a personal
in our ferret family. My best baby charlie died on january 20,2001
from stealth adrenal disease (per the vet).

Charlie was 4 years old, and had been a little off episodically since
Christmas, but we had just moved so we thought his problems were
stress related to the long distance move and change in climate. I
made an appointment for his annual exam and immunizations for the
second week of January 2001 with a supposedly ferret knowledgable
recommended by a local shelter. On the day of the appt, Charlie
showed some rear leg weakness, and appeared slightly jaundiced (to
undr the bright flourescent lights at the vet's, so i asked that they
run labs and get results back before giving him immunizations.

I won't get into all of it, but basically charlie was dead within 2
weeks of that visit. he had blood transfusions, extensive lab work,
O2 administration, xrays, all in the next week's time. the first vet
i took him to told me he had leukemia and needed steroids, had me
start him on prednisone bid as soon as the labs were in. Charlie had
been basically stable at that point, just a little rear leg weakness
and anemia. I noticed about 2 hours after each dose of pred, he would
develop severe weakness, and lose all use of his voluntary muscles
about the next 8-10 hours. i stopped the pred after 3 doses, went
to vet and was told my observations were erroneous, that it is
"unheard of" for a ferret to react in the manner i was describing to
pred. it "always" makes them better. i refused to give him any more
pred and was told by the vet i was condemning him to death by my
refusal to give pred. i found another vet 2 days later. charlie
seemed ever so slightly better for the next 2 days, and started to
move around again.

the second vet looked at all labs already done, said that charlie had
a slow chronic gi bleed, possibly from c diff, and would start
antibiotics immediately. i told him of the reaction to the pred, he
too said he had never heard of such a thing, and i must be mistaken.
charlie seemed to be responding to all the treatments he was being
given, no more pred, 1 blood transfusion, 02, the works. he seemed
be getting better. when i took him in for checkup at 10 day
vet said he wanted to try im pred to see if it would help perk him up
faster. i warned of previous pred reaction, and again was told i was
mistaken. he was given im pred and was dead within 24 hours, died a
horrible death of seizures, total loss of voluntary muscles, was
essentially paralyzed for the last day of his young life.

autopsy revealed adrenal glands that were triple normal size, and an
astronomically high cortisol level. there is a form of adrenal
disease that elevates serum cortisol levels, and affects rbc
production. his symptoms from the oral pred doses were indicative of
elevated cortisol levels, although i didn't know this at the time.
was my first ferret. he had no clearcut signs of adrenal disease.
prior to moving, dr weiss was our family vet and saw charlie a few
months before our move, so if he had had any signs of adrenal, it is
highly likely dr weiss would have noticed.

sorry to be so long winded, but with the above scenario in mind, it
easy to stop an oral medication if an undesirable reaction occurs. it
is not possible to take back an injection once it is given. if i had
known then what i know now, my charlie might have lived. i should
have trusted my instincts. keep in mind that charlie was never
diagnosed with adrenal disease when he was alive, so i had no
objective reason to believe the im cortisone would injure him in any
way. when i asked if there could be any untoward reactions, i was
no way, the worst that could happen is it won't work.

my usual philosophy in medical treatments, whether they be for humans
or pets, is to choose the least intrusive treatment that is
an oral medication is less intrusive than a shot, so if the choice
were ever offered to me, i would always choose the oral, if the
will be the same.