Message Number: YG11530 | New FHL Archives Search
From: cw1046
Date: 2002-02-26 17:41:00 UTC
Subject: Giardia/Antibiotic Questions

I'm new to the list, although I have been reading it for some time,
and the posts regarding giardia caught my attention. My first
ferret was only five months old when she died, supposedly of
giardia. I have a hard time believing that, since she never had
diarrhea and was the picture of health until the weekend she died,
and I did not think giardia was something that could kill. She was
being treated with antibiotics (valbazen and flagyl -- not both at
once, but alternating valbazen for one period and flagyl for
another). For the better part of the three months I had her, she was
on one antibiotic or the other. She died very suddenly and
unexpectedly -- she got sick on Friday and died Sunday night/Monday
morning. I did take her to the veterinarian on Friday, as soon as I
discovered that she was sick, but I was a new ferret owner with no
other resources than a couple of mostly useless reference books and
relied totally on my veterinarian to advise me. My veterinarian was
as shocked as I was that she went downhill so fast. I know I did
some things wrong out of ignorance, but I always felt my baby
shouldn't have died. I can provide a chronology of what happened if
it would be useful.

Since then, I have been trying to determine how serious giardia is,
but there doesn't seem to be a lot of information. The veterinarian
who treated her said it must be treated since it causes severe
diarrhea and is transmissible to humans and other pets. Another
veterinarian I spoke with was of the opinion that giardia is very
common in both humans and animals where I live and is usually benign,
causing no real harm to the host, and does not require treatment
unless it is causing symptoms or someone in the home has a suppressed
immune system. I am also wondering about whether long-term use of
antibiotics can actually do harm and possibly cause death. The
treating veterinarian said no.

I was horrified to read on this list that ferrets can actually starve
to death if they have an upset stomach or ulcers and refuse to eat.
Maybe that is what happened, and I should have syringe fed my ferret
sooner when she refused to eat. Another post by Dr. Williams said
that yeast is sometimes confused with giardia, so it seems possible
that my ferret never had giardia at all.

I'd just like to get a clearer idea of what may have happened. A
necropsy was performed, but it was only a basic one and no
pathological studies were done. Cause of death could not be
determined. There was no blockage or any other problem other than
some small ulcers probably caused by my ferret's refusal to

P.S.: My apologies to the moderator if I have accidently sent two
posts. This is my first one and I was trying to edit it.