Message Number: SG258 | New FHL Archives Search
From: "Church, Robert Ray (UMC-Student)"
Date: 2002-07-12 19:15:11 UTC
Subject: Bob C: Vitamin A and CD-7
To: <>
Cc: "Church, Robert Ray (UMC-Student)" <>
Message-ID: <>

7. Do ferrets have Vitamin A malnutrition?

I don=92t seriously think most American ferrets suffer acute Vitamin A maln=
utrition. Vitamin A malnutrition has some specific symptoms I think would =
be noticed by most vets, including keratinization of the cornea and skin, d=
ry, brittle fur, compromised immune system, incoordination, hind-end weakne=
ss or wobbling, and loss of vision. I think many ferrets may suffer from c=
hronic low levels of retinol that are never diagnosed, especially those who=
eat nothing but dry, extruded foods for their entire lives. Chronically l=
ow levels of Vitamin A may not have many serious repercussions for young, h=
ealthy animals, but it may be a complicating factor in older, or medically =
stressed ferrets who lack appreciable stores of retinol. I am NOT suggesti=
ng a lack of Vitamin A has resulted in all the diseases mentioned above, no=
r do I suggest supplementation with Vitamin A would necessarily cure them. =
I am not suggesting ferret owners start substantial Vitamin A supplementat=
ion; as a fat-soluble vitamin, it can build up to toxic levels (although ne=
w research suggests it is not nearly as toxic as previously thought). I wo=
uld be extremely leery of supplementing ferret diets with various Vitamin A=
precursors, such as beta-carotene; although ferrets are reported to be abl=
e to utilize these compounds about as well as humans, proper doses are unkn=
own for most of them. Besides, I am not sure if people are ready for the s=
ight of bright orange ferrets when they get the dose wrong.

Still, it would be interesting to see the health histories of ferrets given=
Vitamin A (dosage supervised by a veterinarian) to see if they actually ha=
ve significant impact on various diseases. As for canine distemper, PLEASE=
vaccinate your ferrets and NEVER forget their booster shots. Even if Vita=
min A supplementation lowers morbidity and mortality an incredible 20%, tha=
t still would mean 80% of ferrets would die. If ferret owners vaccinated f=
errets for distemper with the same vigilance as we do children for measles,=
it would also probably become as uncommon in veterinarian offices as measl=
es in hospitals. Canine distemper is a horrible disease in ferrets, it is =
extremely contagious, and we cannot assume it is painless; immediate euthan=
asia is the only humane and ethical treatment at present.