Message Number: YG151 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Mildred Moore
Date: 2001-02-25 09:17:00 UTC
Subject: [Ferret-Health-list] Re: AutoImmune Disease in my ferret

Dear Dr. Bruce,

Thank you so much for your answer, and to everyone else that has responded
to Suzy's problem. I am printing everything out to give to my vet. He had
even called MI State University and got very little help.

I am also very thankful for this list. I signed up as soon as I saw it
mentioned mainly because of Suzy's condition.

Oh yes, I also had asked about my boy's blood panel having high protein,
etc. on it. He did get retested all the way around, panel and CBC, done by
an outside lab. and everything is in normal range. I will be getting some
of mine tested for ADV when they go in for their shots next month, but I
don't feel like it is a high priority at this time.

Thanks to all of you.


-----Original Message-----
From: Dr. Bruce Williams [mailto:williams@e...]
Sent: February 24, 2001 9:43 PM

Dear Millie:

Pemphigus is not as uncommon in ferrets as one might think.
However, it is rarely diagnosed in ferrets for a number of reasons.
first, very few vets consider the diagnosis - it is not currently
written in the literature, so aside from the few vets that read lists
such as this one, there aren't going to be a lot of biopsies taken
and sent in for diagnosis. Another problem with the diagnosis of
pemphigus is that very, very few biopsies are diagnostic. I've seen
many bipsies that hinted at the diagnosis, but only one that
confirmed it.

Let me explain. Pemphigus is a disease in which the bodies own
immune system attacks substances in the epidermis. Autoantibodies are
produced against components of the cells f the epidermis, literally
digesting the structures that holds the epidermis to the underlying
dermis, resulting in the formation of blisters. If the intact
blister is biopsied, the diagnosis is very clear. However, because
these animals are scratching and rubbing, the blisters often rupture,
leaving an ulcer, which eventually becomes a scab. Once the blister
is gone, the biopsy becomes virtually useless, unless the pathologist
knows exactly what he/she is looking for and knows about pemphigus in

Steroids are commonly used to treat pemphigus, as they inactivate the
inflammatory response generated against the skin. There is no set
dose, as everycase is different. The key is to find the lowest dose
that controls the signs - there is no cure, because as you decrease
the pred below the critical threshold, the lesions recur. Your first
vet was actually trying to do the right thing - find that lowest
dose, but was not having good success.

If 2.25 mg twice a day controls the signs, then we go at that dose
until everything is cleared up. Then I would try for a maintenance
of 2 mg twice a day for 30 days, and if that worked, we might try
1.75 twice a day, etc. The key is no fast decreases, and realize
from the start that you will never be able to remove the steroids for
the rest of this ferret's life.

There are other more expensive and potentially risky drugs that we
can use in very severe cases which are not touched by prednisone, but
since it is working here - there is no need to go to explore that at
this point.

In the case of generalized scabbing, it is always a good idea to at
least ask your vet about this possibility.

If you have any photos of your ferret with this condition, or anyone
else in this thread has some, I would really appreciate them. Non-
or poorly haired skin (or if the animal has been shaved prior to
biopsy would make for the best photos!

With kindest regards,

Bruce H. Williams, DVM
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