Message Number: YG1174 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Brett Middleton
Date: 2001-03-12 19:43:00 UTC
Subject: Book Review

Some of you may not be aware of this recent book, but many of you will
find it a welcome addition to your bookshelves:

Ferret Husbandry, Medicine and Surgery
John Henry H. Lewington
ISBN 0750642513, Butterworth-Heinemann, October 2000
Paperback, 316 pp.
$75.00 from or

Dr. Lewington is an Australian vet, but he has put a great deal of
effort into covering husbandry practices, diseases and treatments from
around the globe, including Australia, New Zealand, England, Europe and
the USA. This is a wonderful source of comparative information for
those who question the feeding and housing practices that are typically
found in the US.

Style-wise, this book falls between Dr. Purcell's very concise handbook
and Dr. Fox's dense academic treatment. (For example, the chapter on
ferret anatomy is actually "Fox lite": a less detailed version of the
anatomy chapter in Fox, using many of the same figures.) The book is
profusely illustrated, and is well-seasoned with clinical examples from
the experience of the author and his correspondents. You will, of
course, have to put up with Aussie-isms ("poops" = "scats"), archaic
spellings that are out of fashion here (faeces, oetiology), and other
un-Americanisms (colour, programme). B-)

The first section of the book, covering husbandry, will probably be of
the greatest interest to the non-veterinarian. The section begins with
the chapter on anatomy and ends with a chapter on handling ferrets in
the clinic, but the meat is in the three central chapters on housing,
nutrition and reproduction. In many ways this section is a good start
on the advanced husbandry book for which I've been wishing, and I would
willingly have paid the full price of the book for either the housing
or the nutrition chapter alone.

The housing chapter surveys both indoor and outdoor housing methods,
highlighting many factors to be considered in the design of cages and
hutches, the selection of bedding, etc. The bulk of the chapter,
however, is devoted to the design of the author's own free-range fuzzy
garden, which includes numerous above- and below-ground shelters,
ferret mazes, ponds, etc. This was can't-put-it-down reading for me.
(If I didn't live in an apartment, I wouldn't be writing this -- I'd be
down at Home Depot buying construction supplies! B-)

The nutrition chapter covers both the commercial kibble diets typically
used in the US, and non-commercial meat diets typically used elsewhere
in the world. Regarding US diets, Lewington reproduces much of the
nutritional data previously published elsewhere by Dr. Judith Bell,
along with information obtained from other experts, such as Dr. Tom
Willard of Performance Foods. This includes detailed information on
the vitamin/mineral content of several popular kibbles. Unfortunately,
there is little, if any, discussion of a dietary role for insects,
live/frozen mice, and other tid-bits used by some to simulate a more
natural diet.

I think I'll leave the critique of the reproduction chapter to the
breeders among us, except to register my disappointment with the
material on genetics. This consists of a few paragraphs noting the
neotenous nature of the domesticated ferret and recommending that
breeders set a priority on health and temperament in their selection

Likewise I'll leave the sections on medicine and surgery to the vets
for comment. The non-vets, however, will likely be interested in the
information on the relative prevalence of various medical problems
(ECE, ADV, neoplasms, etc.) in different parts of the world, and the
possible relationship to husbandry practices.

Overall, I'd have to say that this book deserves a place on the
essential bookshelf of the intermediate-to-advanced ferret enthusiast.
For those on a budget, I'd certainly place it on the to-buy list ahead
of Fox, since it contains a great deal more information with immediate
practical use. (And, for most of us, the fuzzy garden is LOTS more fun
to read about than any of Fox's topics. B-)


*SLMW 1.0* "What a fine day ... for SCIENCE!" -- Dexter