From: Jacqueline Snyder
Date: 2001-09-18 14:32:00 UTC
Subject: Re: back injuries
We recently euthanized a ferret who had a degenerative spinal condition. I
posted to the FHL last summer on it, when his problem appeared. In a
nutshell, a previously healthy ferret suddenly began losing control of his
back legs. This ataxia spread upward so that he eventually lost bladder and
bowel control. By the end, he was facing infections due to the inability
When the loss of control first appeared, we tested him for a variety of
possible causes--viral, bacterial, trauma, etc. (bloodwork, radiographs,
spinal tap, myelogram). His fifth lumbar vertebra was slightly misshapen
and dye would not move past it in the myelogram. The situation was somewhat
confused because another of our ferrets developed a hind end weakness at
the same time, but that turned out to be unrelated. However, we did
determine that three half siblings (various related mothers and one father)
appeared to also have a very slightly abnormal gait and the vet felt there
was some degree of spinal abnormality in each of them. In short, we felt it
was a genetic problem. In any case, the only treatment was steroids, which
seemed to make the ferret more comfortable. Surgery to open up the ferret's
spine and find and repair whatever was wrong was beyond the capability of
anyone in our area.
The vet performed a necropsy and sent slides to a pathologist. The ferret's
spine was abnormally thick and the spinal cord was severely compressed.
This explained the loss of function. The pathologist concluded that the
damage was due to earlier trauma. The vet, however, disagrees and still
feels it was due to a birth defect.
This ferret, and his siblings, had been bred to have a short 'baby' face
and a wide, stocky body. He was indeed an adorable ferret, but it seems
highly likely to me that breeding for the short face inadvertantly also
bred for the spine defect.