Message Number: YG435 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Dr. Bruce Williams
Date: 2001-02-28 22:08:00 UTC
Subject: Re: Dr. Bruce Williams........

Dear Rhea - I did post a reply, but for some reason it never got to
the list. Must be lost in cyberspace.

First let me tell you that I am so sorry for your loss. The
accidental, sudden ones are the most tragic.

When reviewing the case, it appears that this is a tragedy, and there
is no blame to assess or fingers to point. While I of course was not
on scene, I would surmise based on your description, that heatstroke
was the cause of death here.

Remember that ferrets tolerate heat very poorly, and prolonged
exposure to temperatures in the mid-80's can be life threatening in
some instances. It is very likely that the inside of that dryer tube
was significantly higher, and gets hotter the closer an animal is to
the appliance - we are probably talking over a hundred degrees for a
single load of clothes - possibly 40 minutes or so. We are not in the
presence of an open flame, or a high radiant heat source, so evidence
of burns would not be expected.

The fact that she was vomiting and having diarrhea immediately after
removal from the tube indicates that the time spent in that location
was the cause of the injury, and the pinkish appearance suggests
vascular damage in the GI tract, which is very consistent with shock.

Although the rectal temperature was 101 when the animal arrived at
the clinic, that doesn't tell us what it was when Cocoa was in the
vent, or immediately after. I have a fair amount of experience with
heatstroke in animals, having spent a 3 years as a vet in Cuba, where
the ambient temperature is 90-95 degrees year round. Heat stroke is
a very difficult and unrewarding disease to treat, as animals that
look good one minute can die the next. Bloody vomiting and diarrhea
is a fairly consistent sign in heatstroke in many animal species.

I cannot place any blame on the emergency clinic here from your
description of the events - a ferret that does not survive catheter
placement, would not have survived the inhalant anesthesia to insert
it. It is likely at that point, even oxygen would not have saved

It is also likely that her alertness at the end belied the
seriousness of the injury. How many of us have not seen ferrets
rally in spite of severe illness, only to die less than an hour
later. It doesn't indicate any wrongdoing on the vet's part, but
simply an unfortunate chain of events starting with an open door.

In such cases, all we can do is try to eliminate any possibility that
it could happen again, honor the lost, and move on. Let what is in
the past remain in the past; we have too much to do in the present.

With kindest regards,

Bruce H. Williams, DVM
Join the Ferret Health List at

--- In Ferret-Health-list@y..., bama1803@y... wrote:
> Dr. Williams,
> I posted earlier this week with a question addressed to you
> the death of my ferret, Cocoa. I never saw a response from you,
> although it is quite possible that I missed it if you did respond.
> apologize for re-posting, but I really would like to hear what you
> think may have been responsible for Cocoa's death. As I said in my
> other post, I have spoken with you by phone and email about 1 1/2
> years ago regarding Squirt, my ferret that had adrenal disease.
> back to Cocoa......Due to an unsupervised child leaving my
> door open without my knowledge, Cocoa escaped. She apparently
> to get back in via the clothes dryer vent from the outside. Once
> was in, she was trapped in the hose in a virtual wind tunnel while
> single load of clothes was dried. Once we found her, she began
> vomiting and had diarrhea, both of which were pinkish. (I'm
> blood?) She was alert, but obviously sick, and we headed to the
> emergency animal clinic after speaking with a vet by phone who
> recommended that we do so. Upon arrival, her rectal temp was 101,
> which we were told was normal for a ferret, and she had no
> burn injuries that could be seen such as singed whiskers or fur.
> vet said her lungs sounded clear but that she could develop
> from having inhaled lint. He also said she seemed a little
> dehydrated, and he recommended keeping her, starting an IV for
> fluids, dexamethasone and a broad-spectrum antibiotic. We said we
> wanted to stay until after she had her IV started, but were called
> back shortly and told that she had arrested and was unable to be
> resuscitated. The vet said that he did not use a mask to settle
> down due to the fact that she didn't try to fight him. He had to
> stick her twice to get a vein, and she arrested after he got it
> started. What happened? Did the stress of it all hit her then, or
> was she worse than she appeared? She was alert when he took her
> to the treatment room. I know ferrets are very fragile, but this
> seemed so sudden. Can you shed any light on the situation? Again,
> sorry for the second post, but I really want a better explanation
> that what we were given, which was simply "stress". Thanks in
> advance.
> Rhea Fulmer