Message Number: YG1098 | New FHL Archives Search
Date: 2001-03-11 05:14:00 UTC
Subject: Tube feeding geriatric ferret

Hi FHLers,

I have a question regarding tube feeding.

But first here's my story. Gidget is a 7.5 year old sprite with
adrenal disease and insulinoma. About 4 weeks ago she began to
refuse to
swallow her normal 1/4 tab of pred. She's been on it for almost one
year. No
matter how well I aimed it for the back of her throat, she would
manage to
not swallow it. I finally relented, realizing this was her will and
I really
felt the pills were making her nauseous. She would froth at the
mouth and
gag afterwards even though I made sure she took it with a ferret
treat or
chicken baby food. She has never had an insulominic episode.

Realizing that I needed to somehow keep her sugar up, I began
with plain chicken baby food twice a day. She would lick it off my
until about 1/3 of jar was gone. During the feeding she would grind
teeth, and sometimes shake her head, flinging the food from her
mouth. I
started her on carafate, but it made no difference. I was also
counting out
kibble pieces and putting some right at the opening to her sleep
sack, so I
could tell how much she was eating. She never ate much, but then
she stopped
eating altogether. She refused to even take the baby food or any of
treats she loved. She also stopped drinking...also shaking her head
gagging even on water offered from my fingertips. Her eyes were a
dull and she just seemed to be giving up.

Hysterical and braced for euthanasia, I took her my very
vet. She felt that there was still a lot of life left in her and
that she was
worth the effort to try to save. She offered to take her for me and
with her and see what she could do. She began tube feeding her with
She also gave her a shot of Lupron and Chloramphenicol injections.
injections weren't helping, so she discontinued. She has her on
now and says she seems to be less nauseous. She still will not eat
on her
own. She has been tube fed for 17 days now. My vet says she is
getting nice
and fat, the sparkle is back in her eye, and her hair has begun to
grow back.

My question is...can a ferret become dependent on tube feeding to
the point
that they will no longer eat on their own?

How long should I continue with this? My vet bill is probably
around $200.00
now and climbing. Finances aren't the main concern here, but I
can't afford
to tube feed her for months and this is something I cannot do on my
What if Gidget is trying to say "enough...let me go", and instead
forcing life support on her. My vet wants to keep her for a at
least a few
more days. She said that she has been able to get other ferrets to
eating on their own again, once they feel stronger. I am really torn
and just
not sure how much more I should allow.

Also, my vet said she has not been able to palpate a hairball. Her
spleen is
not overly large, either. She will run around and is curious about
when she's let out for exercise. I just read about ear mites
contributing to
nausea and I will mention this to her, but my ferrets ears are
annually and never show anything. Her stools are normal and not
indicative of
ulcers, but perhaps we should start her on the standard regimen
anyway. I
also just got some Pet Tinic and Ferretzyme from Ferrets Mart. Do
you think
I should have her add this to the A/D?

She doesn't feel she's presenting the signs for renal failure, but I
her to test anyway. My vet is trying to keep the cost down for me
as much as
possible, which I appreciate, but should I also ask her to go ahead
and run a
blood panel? She is too old for surgery, so we can't visually look
for a
malignancy. Would a blood panel show abnormalities that would help
my vet
and I make a decision? My vet has taken time out of her life, taken
ferret home with her, carted her to and from the office with her and
devoted a lot of time into nursing her back to health. I don't want
all that
effort to be for nothing...but when is it time to stop?

I'd appreciated your thoughts on this, especially from the Docs and
that have been in a similar situation.

Thanks for your help!