Message Number: YG4705 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Bruce Williams, DVM
Date: 2001-06-19 23:49:00 UTC
Subject: Re: Questions About Ferret Cancer

--- In Ferret-Health-list@y..., "Beverly" <poetica@i...> wrote:
> Hello. My partner and I currently share our home and lives with 2
> wonderful ferrets. Unfortunately, our older ferret is sick and the
> doctor doesn't seem to know exactly what's wrong with her or what
> do, so I'm hoping someone on this list can help me.
> Snowball, a beautiful albino, is between 6 and & 7 (her exact age
> unknown).
> Snowball was always as active as Fisher. However, over the past
> several months she has become less so. That didn't overly concern
> at first, though we did certainly make note of it. It was gradual
> and
> she is getting older. However, a few months ago we noticed that
> had started what looked like dry heaves. She never puked up
> anything,
> but she seemed to be gagging...
> A few weeks ago, however, she started having occassional, short
> periods of hind quarter weakness, especially when she first woke
> She would be up for a few minutes, eat some treats and be fine.
> was also losing weight that could no longer be associated with
> seasonal shedding.
> We took her to a vet who ran blood tests but said that they were
> "inconclusive" though she was sure it was some type of cancer,
> probably of the digestive system, particularly the bowels as she
> that she had felt it was too soft during the physical examination.
> (Snowball, however, has been having regular bowel movements of
> color and consistancy.) The doctor recommended exploritory surgery
> which would 1) of course cost a lot, 2) might not find anything,
> 3) be very dangerous. We've read that ferrets, particularly older
> ferrets as weak as Snowball is, do not fair well with surgery. The
> doctor also recommended hundreds of dollars of other procedures
> may not find anything (according to her own admittance).
> Snowball is dehydrated (which we are now treating with Pedilite).
> She's lost a lot of weight and looks so frail. She less active
> she was. We are very worried about her and want to do what is best
> for her.

Dear Beverly:

Access to the blood values would certainly be of help in this case.
Mike's assessment of the possibility of hypoglycemia is certainly a
valid one, based on the history of intermittent hindleg weakness
(which could in truth be due to any number of things), but
hypoglycemia is at the top of the list.

The assumption that there must be cancer in there somewhere when the
bloodwork is inconclusive is a pretty good leap of faith, and the
observation that the abdomen feels too soft really is not one that I
ever tend to make. Abdomens should be soft - it is the hard ones
that are the problem.

At this point, the ruleout list is still wide open, but perhaps a
peek at the blood results might point us in the right direction.

With kindest regards,

Bruce Williams, DVM