Date: 2001-04-03 10:37:00 UTC
Subject: Diet, Late Neuters, Adrenal & Pancreatic Disease
Hi - Well, I find this list very scary because of the number of posts.
Didn't read it for several days and found over 300 posts to read.
EeeeeeeeeK! Suffice it to say I have not made it through all the posts yet,
but thought I would write some of my experiences on above for whatever it is
worth. Probably not much because it would fall into the realm of anecdotal.
And I am not a ferret expert by any stretch considering the experts here.
I also plan to write on a couple of subjects - more on diets and one of my
silly stories about ferret behavior - a topic here not long ago, some of
which caused me to fall to the floor laughing like a maniac. Moderators -
probably thinking, she can't be anywhere before she lapses into silliness,
let me know if you don't want these stories.....
As I write these words, I am very afraid that I might be jinxing my ferrets.
Because I am superstitious - like when my (human) kids were young and I would
comment on how healthy they were and then one would get pneumonia or
But, I don't see a lot of the problems described here on this list. None of
my ferrets has ever had a hairball. None of my ferrets has ever had a
blockage - with exception of the carrot eater and one with metastatic cancer
which strangled the bowel.
The insulinomas and adrenal problems I have seen in several decades of owning
ferrets can each be counted on fewer fingers than one hand. I have not yet
had renal or kidney problems, save one who had bladder crystals many years
ago. I have never used ferret food brands formulated for older ferrets. I
have had two heart problems - and perhaps a third on a very old hob who
passed away in his sleep several weeks ago. I have had two cases of Lymphoma
- one many years ago in a 9 year old who went into remission and one a year
ago in one of my older jills (not bred by me and has never eaten meat or
chicken). I just received a post card from my vet that it was time for her
to have a year check.
In this case, with her spleen rising to gigantic size in a matter of days,
lymphoma was immediately suspected. She went into surgery with instructions
to let her go if she was full of cancer. I will not keep a ferret alive for
me if it means that ferret will suffer. She had more than lymphatic cancer.
She also had cancer of the left adrenal. My vet felt she had some good
quality time left and so she has. Within days of her surgery, she was
jumping around and playing like a kit. Now her age is showing a bit and with
a household of wily and rowdy whole jills and testosterone poisoned hobs -
she holds her own but often likes to be near me. She has had no follow on
treatment - not even pred. In addition to Totally Ferret, she gets
Nutri-Cal, Fellovite !!, Ferretone and once a week I pierce a Vitamin E
capsule for her and on different day give her an Evening Primrose capsule -
I did this for Pepper some years ago with widely metastasized adrenal cancer
as well as pancreatic cancer and he survived about a year and a half. BTW,
he was the bowel obstructed ferret and he was silent in his disease - no
outward symptoms and in full lush coat. He was an MF ferret.
I have had MF, Path Valley, Unknown origin, rescue & shelter, breeder
ferrets and finally my own bred lines of ferrets. I have Americans and
ferrets from other countries (particularly like the Germans). Whether it is
diet or not, my ferrets usually get pretty big.
I think there might be a couple of factors that influence my ferret
population. First, I handle them a lot - many sleep in bed with me. I
believe that ferrets should be free roam and have practiced this since first
ferrets. Of course, it is necessary these days to keep hobs up with
rotations out during the day, and jills when in season or with kits. My
ferrets have to suffer a lot of holding, petting, kissing noses, scratching
backs, hugging and silly high pitched lovey talk.
I have been feeding my ferrets chicken, turkey, hamburger, various meats,
etc., for a really long time. Actually, the first time I met Bob C. and he
was collecting two kits, I admonished him that they needed to be fed the
above in addition to kibble. I can't remember how often I suggested he do
this, but it was at a time I was trying to persuade owners to feed their
ferrets in this manner At Least several times a week. I remember that Bob
said "Well, that is a beginning." Which puzzled me at first until I started
reading his posts more carefully and soon he was advocating the feeding of
natural diet. Which is why I remember what he said. Blush
It was at about that time that I started feeding my ferrets mice as well. My
litters are "moused" at between 6-9 weeks of age. Mama makes a quick
dispatch and darling precious sweetie pies, go, well, totally nuts. They
know what they should be eating! But it is difficult to persuade an older
ferret to eat mice - need to be started young along with fowl & meat. For a
little while, I tried to follow Bob's chicken gravy recipe but after trashing
several blenders - I reverted to tearing apart the cooked chicken carcass and
giving them everything, including bones. I have not yet had a problem
feeding them bones - as Bob has commented, they crack let bones, eat the ends
and often leave the centers. Also, I mostly see the gang eat their mice head
first - some will save half for the following day. My hobs will usually bolt
the whole mouse and one boy in particular scared me the first time I saw him
eat a mouse. He bolted it down whole. I was sure he would expire
practically on the spot! No, he didn't eat anything for the rest of the day
and most of the next, but his poops were normal and he has never had a
problem with this "bolt it right down whole" method.
Also, my guys like to share whatever I am eating and have a special penchant
for jerk chicken, seafood and even an occasional McDonald's burger.
Actually, they will eat most anything.
I do not give my ferrets sweets, fruit or even raisins. This may sound awful
to some people.....but then again, rare for an insulinoma! O.K. - so I
cheat a bit here and there a let them have a wee taste of a goody - but not
much and not often. In the past, the few ferrets that have had pancreatic
problems were real raisin junkies. Few of my guys would even eat a raisin
these days. Bottom line - if it is not good for them, please don't feed them
sweets or any fruit. You are not being mean, you are protecting your
My kits stay with their mothers for a fairly long time. I start them on
Gerber's chicken or turkey mixed with some Esbilac Puppy milk - usually from
my finger or a silver spoon <G>. Then they get a mix Gerber's, Esbilac &
some Totally Ferret ground in an electric coffee grinder. Very soon they are
on too diced chicken and other meats - and we move on from there. Whatever
they get during these weeks will be what they will eat forever. They like
mice the best.
Most of my jills are indeed very late neuters (between 4 & 6) and my vet does
a visual check of organs including pancreas and adrenals -- makes for a
slightly longer incision, but we are following my guys to some extent. With
the exception of the one girl mentioned above - every single ferret so far
has had healthy adrenals and pancreas. Honest to God. Ask my vets if you
Few of ferrets I have bred have been reported back to me with any significant
problems. Just heard from a friend though and learned two boys she has from
a litter some years ago have both had adrenal surgery & one pancreatic. Will
check back with her regarding diet.....but I do know in history on mother's
side there were a few problems.
I realize none of the above proves anything at all. Maybe I have just been
lucky - and I am not saying that things don't go wrong. With breeding and
odd ball things here and there - have my share of vet bills. Again, hope I
haven't jinxed my guys - fear the ferret God's will get me for this report.