Message Number: YG1301 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Pam Sessoms
Date: 2001-03-15 09:56:00 UTC
Subject: Blindness (Re: [Ferret-Health-list] Re: Calibrating the

Patty wrote:

> As far as the eyesight, anyone have any good advice for telling if the
> ferret is blind, and helping her to have a better time out of the
> cage? I know someone posted to the FML once about using vanilla to
> leave scents on the corner of the walls,etc. I was wondering what
> else I could do.

That was probably my post on the FML you're remembering... My sweety
Sonic is blind and had a much tougher time adapting than most ferrets do -
usually folks say that blind ferrets get along fine and that they can
barely tell the ferret can't see. I'm glad that's usually the case, but
my Sonic had it much rougher than that.

How I could tell when she started to lose her vision:

- She'd get left behind when the ferrets were following me around the
house. I'd notice she wasn't there and go back, and she'd be stranded in
the hallway looking confused.

- She'd lift her nose way high and sniff to try to orient herself. Then
she'd walk a couple of steps in one direction, stop and sniff, pivot and
walk a couple of steps in another direction, etc.

- She ran into objects.

- Oddly, she began having very vocal dreams (don't know if it's really
related, but it was striking).

- When her blindness was becoming more complete, she had a few "panic
attacks" when in new places. In a bag, in a turned-over trashcan she was
exploring, in a visitor's lap. She'd suddenly panic and scramble to get
away in all directions and even screamed once or twice.

- She needed lots more cuddle time and got depressed if she wasn't carried
around place to place. She still wanted to be with me and the others, but
she just couldn't do it on her own when we moved around the house.

- Her eyes looked "not quite right" because they weren't reacting to
light. Hard to explain, but especially in bright light, her eyes just
look different than the other ferrets' do.

- And of course there was the all-important vet exam where it was
discovered that she had retinal atrophy.

Things that help her out:

- The scents trick with the vanilla. Sukie had a great idea that a friend
of mine is trying now that's probably better than the vanilla: essential
oils (careful to let them dry before the fuzzy encounters them and don't
get them right on the skin), perhaps even different scents for different
rooms to help the fuzzy get oriented. I have to refresh the smells about
once a month or she starts bonking into things much more again.

- When I carry Sonic around and put her down on the floor, we have a
designated "landing pad" in each room. She is always placed down on the
floor in the same spot and facing the same way. It seems to help.

- She gets lots of special mom-attention and when she sleeps with the
humans at night she needs special consideration. She licks my face when
she needs down for a potty break because she's afraid to jump off the bed;
her landings are quite ungraceful.

That's about it... Sonic gets along great now - when it started she was
borderline depressed/neurotic. So even if they start out not doing so
well, they can certainly adapt!

Best wishes to everyone,

-Pam S.