Message Number: YG932 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Bruce Williams, DVM
Date: 2001-03-08 18:52:00 UTC
Subject: Re: Tail necrosis

--- In Ferret-Health-list@y..., Erika Matulich <ematulich@a...> wrote:
> I have a ~9 yo MF rescue who had his tail half-amputated 4 years ago
> (his 'owner' would slam the tail in the door to "hold" the ferret in
> place). Rascal's short tail has been fine for many years, until
now. I
> noticed the tip turned black and there was some mild swelling and
> redness between the healthy tissue and the black part. The margin of
> black has been progressively creeping up his tail, where the last
> of his tail now looks like dark, mummified skin over the bones.
There is
> no discernible odor of infection. He is not in any discomfort, in
> seems to have no feeling in the tail at all, and circulation is very
> poor on his hind legs and tail (cool, but not cold to the touch).
> Amputation is not an option, as this ancient ferret is in poor
> (insulinoma, heart problems, etc.). Any thoughts? How far do I let
> go on?

Dear Erika:

This is a unique one, I have to say. Don't think I've ever seen
this. As it is obviously a vascular lesions (there's no blood going
to the tail tip) I've got to wonder about whether it is heart related
(did he throw a clot to the tail), or whether he might have developed
diabetes, as a result of prolonged medication for his insulinoma.
What does of meds is he on for his insulinoma and when did you last
check his blood glucose?

But back to the question of the tail. Of course, it would have no
pain, as the nerves are dead as well as everything else. But we
can't just let it rot away, either. I would have some advice, had I
ever seen this before in a ferret. (I've seen it in captive spider
monkeys, but we always were able to amputate.)

Of course, my gut says to do surgery, but in this old of a fella, it
may just be an expensive euthanasia. As the tail is an extremity, I
am wondering if the process goes to the base, will it stop there? I
just don't know.

I think that I would get with your vet and see if a quick 5-minute
hack and slash can be done to remove the dead part and do a sloppy
closure. Better a sloppy closure than a dead ferret with a beautiful
suture line.

I'm hoping that some of the other vets will comment.

With kindest regards,

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

P.S. - Any chance of getting us a nice close-up? (I know it sounds
ghoulish, but rare lesions should be recorded whenever possible. And
I get the tail if you decide to do surgery.....)