Message Number: SG18038 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Chelsey Baker-Hauck
Date: 2006-07-29 00:25:05 UTC
Subject: [ferrethealth] Elmo update/herniated disk/neuropathy

Thank you to everyone who responded to my questions about herniated/
ruptured disks and ferret wheelchairs. Here's an update on Elmo's

Last Friday, he was back in to his vet for a recheck. He had actually
improved somewhat and was taking a few steps at a time before falling
and then dragging. Elmo even tried to run and do the war dance for
the vet, which was pretty funny, as he was falling all over himself.
Because he didn't improve immediately after steroids but showed
rather sudden improvement 5 days later, Dr. M. felt there might be
something else happening other than the disk as originally suspected
(also b/c the x-ray had shown no change between the time he could
walk and when paralysis started). Since that appointment, Elmo also
started walking sideways and showing other strange symptoms. For
example, sometimes when he gets his feet under him to get going, his
back legs take off faster than his front legs, and sideways, so he
winds up looping around on himself and essentially doing a flip. Very
weird. He also seems to have lost his hearing on the right side--same
side as a cataract and the worst of the paralysis.

Dr. M found a neurologist willing to see Elmo (there are no neuros
here who normally treat ferrets), and Elmo went for that consult this
morning. After an extensive evaluation, Dr. L. said Elmo was showing
a pervasive neuropathy--we were only recognizing the obvious problem
with the hind legs. There also were problems with vision, hearing,
front reflexes--some of which I knew about but hadn't connected w/the
paralysis. Dr. L and Dr. M then consulted w/a neurologist at the
state vet school re: possible causes. They think that he has canine
distemper, which he likely picked up as a kit before he was fully
vaccinated. Apparently, in some cases, instead of making the animal
sick right away, the virus will take up residence in the brain/
nervous system. It causes inflammation that leads to these
progressive neurological symptoms once the animal is several years
old. The way to definitely diagnose it is via spinal tap to look for
antibodies, but that doesn't seem like a necessary step, as they tell
me there is no treatment and these ferrets are euthanized. Why put
him through that if it won't change the outcome at all?

Elmo had all of his vaccinations until this started, and he never
goes outside or has contact with animals who might carry it (unless
he was exposed at the vet). So, having been exposed as a kit before
he got all of his vaccines is all we could come up with.

They also tell me that animals with this condition are not contagious.

I certainly don't think Elmo should be euthanized. He's still getting
himself around, playing with toys and his buddies, eating, using his
box and generally behaving like a happy but not-very-graceful Elmo.
He shows no signs of actually being sick. Obviously, that can and
likely will change, but for now...there is no cure for this, but we
will continue the pred (with carafate and zantac), which helps with
the nerve inflammation.

I definitely am worried about the contagious part, though. I have a
ferret that is extremely allergic to distemper vaccine and hasn't had
it for 2 there any way he could catch this? Has anyone
heard about this condition in ferrets? Could there be another cause?
How long does he have? Should I consider the spinal tap for the sake
of medical knowledge? (I suspect we could learn the same things from
a postmortem once the time comes, right?) These vets are great but
don't have experience w/ferrets w/this condition, though the
university has done a couple of spinals on ferrets before. Any info
or advice would be appreciated.

Thanks. My heart is breaking over this. I think it's sort of like
watching a loved one die of ALS, except my loved one is a goofy
little golden weasel with a bad habit of chewing his litter box.

and Elmo, Zuzy, Patches, Rocky & Merlin

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