Message Number: YG5122 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Bruce Williams, DVM
Date: 2001-07-04 09:40:00 UTC
Subject: Re: Polycythemia Vera

--- In Ferret-Health-list@y..., Sukie Crandall <sukiecrandall@t...>
> >My 4 year old male ferret was recently diagnosed with polycythemia
> >vera (many thanks to Dr. Williams). We will be starting
> >phlebotomy on him this week.
> I have a question about this, too. Is this one of the red blood
> disorders for which leeches can be useful?

Actually, we've come quite a bit further than leeches today. There
are specialized pieces of equipment called needles and syringes, when
properly applied, can extract a relatively precise amount of blood in
a short period of time.

Seriously, the use of leeches in surgical therapy is restricted more
to traumatic wounds in which there is interrupted or diminished
venous outflow (such as crushing injuries). The leech helps in these
situations by removing a portion of the congested venous blood, as
well as releasing natural anticoagulants and anti-inflammatories
locally - substances that are primarily release for its feeding, but
also have beneficial effects in these wounds.

P. vera is largely a neoplastic proliferation of the red blood
cells. In these cases, the blood becomes so thick that it can
actually sludge in the small vessels of the body, resulting in
hemorrhage and infarction of these tissues. Periodic bleeding is
needed simply to keep the level of the RBCs at a normal level.

This is an unusual case, and it will be interesting to monitor over
time to see how effective periodic phlebotomy (still the primary mode
of treatment in humans) works in this ferret.

With kindest regards,

Bruce Williams, dVM