From: Sukie Crandall
Date: 2010-12-08 17:40:55 UTC
Subject: [ferrethealth] ferrets and 30 years ago; ah, the memories...
To: Ferret Mailing List <ferret-l@LISTSERV.FERRETMAILINGLIST.ORG>, fhl <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This is a reply to an FML poster but it seemed like FHL members might=20
like the things that I looked up, so I am sending it to both as well=20
as to Joan.
Well, we are in a similar club, having had ferrets for something like=20
29 or 30 years now, Joan.
Back early on what existed of the internet was just some research=20
labs , some military labs, and some schools but people did exchange=20
information, a situation that expanded as the smaller groups like=20
Arpanet were linked with the other small groups and then the internet=20
itself began, and ferret people even rather early on found and=20
communicated with each other. I know because Steve was on the "pre"=20
internet first in Brookhaven National labs and then when he was in=20
Bell Labs I guess maybe the actual internet wound up beginning though=20
it is pretty hard to place a date on something which began gradually=20
from a series of smaller groups interconnecting. BTW, Steve and a=20
fellow grad student at the time, Jim Stekas, in BNL were the ones who=20
made it possible for two of those smaller original networks to speak=20
with each other.
One thing that seemed to be mentioned more often (eve with rates=20
adjusted for animal head counts) back then in electronic info sharing=20
was ruptured spleens. Another was lymphoma.
I recall ferrets with lymphoma early on but never heard of anyone=20
trying to treat any till our Helix. We lived here then so that was=20
about 25 years ago, maybe a few years less. No one had any idea what=20
to do so we smuggled her into NYC to the Animal Medical Center for=20
care, but sadly she had JL (though it did not have a name beyond=20
lymphoma when we took her in). Her remains were used to better=20
understand lymphoma in ferrets because no one had really looked at it=20
yet or treated it according to the experts there.
Something up to five years later (so I guess maybe no more recently=20
than 20 years ago) when Fritter and then later also Hjalmar wound up=20
with lymphoma (not JL in their cases) people were already trying Pred=20
for it in ferrets but even that was pretty new. Fritter had lymphoma=20
in her pancreas but the vets knew it was lymphoma there, too, rather=20
than insulinoma. I don't know for sure if anyone was treating=20
straight insulinoma by then but think that they were by then, at least=20
that is my recollection. Okay, the first journal article on it seems=20
to have been:
Pancreatic beta cell tumor in a ferret.
Kaufman J, Schwarz P, Mero K.
J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1984 Nov 1;185(9):998-1000
which also included surgery if I recall right.
BTW, late in her illness we added Diazoxide and it was such a new drug=20
then that the vet had to buy dregs from partially used hospital=20
bottles for patients in a university hospital trial. BTW, research=20
into lymphoma in ferrets was still so new that we got a letter from a=20
university research project asking if we could possibly give Fritter=20
to them. They were willing to transport her and to care for her like=20
she was their own family for the chance to learn more. We declined;=20
she needed her established family and we needed her.
It may have been as many as couple of years after Fritter got her=20
final illness (or perhaps they were closer together) that Hjalmar got=20
lymphoma based in an adrenal. By then people knew about adrenal=20
disease -- in fact, that was first studied about 20 years before=20
ferret insulinoma was studied -- and some specialty training hospitals=20
like the AMC and the people who had studied exotic med in such=20
hospitals after their doctorates were doing surgeries, including right=20
adrenal surgeries. Lupron depot and Suprelorin of course were not=20
around. The documented, careful first look at ferret adrenal glands=20
appears to have been:
J Anat. 1961 July; 95(Pt 3): 325=96336.3.
The adrenal glands of the ferret, Mustela putorius
R. L. Holmes
Department of Anatomy, University of Birmingham
and the first look at ferret adrenal disease appears to have been four=20
J Pathol Bacteriol. 1965 Apr;89:529-33.
SPONTANEOUS NEOPLASMS IN FERRETS AND POLECATS.
CHESTERMAN FC, POMERANCE A.
(not shouting; that is how the notation is)
and the first documented adrenal removal was about 20 years after that:
Lab Anim Sci. 1985 Jun;35(3):294-5.
Adrenalectomy in the ferret.
Filion DL, Hoar RM.
The first ferret vet text was a thin, orange volume edited by Dr.=20
James Fox of MIT's Dept. of Comparative Medicine. Let's see, that=20
would have been 1989 (with the much larger second edition in 1998), so=20
the first ferret vet text was only 21 years ago, and the first=20
documented ferret adrenal surgery and insulinoma surgery were only=20
about 25 years ago, give or take a little. It is only very, very=20
recently that the mass of knowledge on ferret veterinary care has been=20
So, part of not hearing about those illnesses 30 years ago was not=20
just the lack of research into ferret illnesses but also that most=20
people with ferrets did not get vet care for them, there were not even=20
going to be any vet texts on them for about another decade, and there=20
was not even basic investigation into a number of these medical=20
problems or how to treat them yet.
Back in those days there were not things like green night-lights and=20
green and blue equipment lights (all of which greatly disrupt=20
melatonin production), and at least as important as that, and likely=20
more so there were very, very, very, very few fancies. These days the=20
standard markings with no signs of fancy breeding seem almost as rare=20
in places like pet stores as fancies were back then.
Oh, and back then most of us were feeding cheap cat food kibbles=20
because that is all that there were to feed.
In discussions with people back then -- and I have had this verified=20
by knowledgeable vets who were among the first to learn ferrets well=20
such as Dr. Karen Rosenthal -- the endocrinological diseases seemed to=20
be far, far, far more rare, and this has also been confirmed by others=20
who had ferrets back then and used similar foods, like Wolfy. That=20
was before those equipment lights, better foods with higher protein=20
levels, and all that danged (Pardon me. LOL!) breeding for fancies. =
Does this mean that the kibbles did not make a difference or that the=20
kibbles like Meow Mix were better then, or both? Perhaps, but maybe=20
(or maybe also) with so very many of **today's ferrets** possibly=20
having fancy genetics that MIGHT make them much more vulnerable to=20
endocrinological disorders so any perturbation may be a bit too much=20
extra load added to the genetics burden. No one knows. There is a=20
lot of speculation but you will notice no applicable scientific=20
journal abstracts unless a number of us here have somehow missed a=20
Anyway, I have heard a large number of vets who did treat ferrets 20=20
and more years ago speculate that before people began breeding fancies=20
(for selling at a higher price and gaining notice in shows) the=20
ferrets were a LOT healthier in terms of endocrinological diseases=20
with adrenal disease and insulinoma much more rare, and they seemed to=20
also be longer lived usually. 7 and 8 year life spans were pretty=20
typical even with less that we could do to help them when they did get=20
sick, and many of us knew even older ones, even at times ones who were=20
btwn 11 and 14 years of verifiable age, though 14 was incredibly=20
rare. (BTW, I've been informed that there is now a verifiable aged=20
one who reached 15 years. Those very rare ones are like people who=20
reach 110 and over so pretty much all genetics and luck.) I have no=20
idea why there seemed to be so many more (per capita) mentions of=20
lymphoma back then, but the increased mentions of ruptured spleens=20
back then may have been due to an increased risk of infection.
So, the possible genetic vulnerabilities and how breeders have changed=20
those has to be taken into account as well as husbandry. Dr. Robert=20
Wagner of Pitt has already documented one genetic vulnerability*, and=20
Dr. Michelle Hawkins of UC Davis (for whom Bob Church has been=20
collecting ferret genetic material) is looking at some of the other=20
genetic vulnerabilities which may be possible.
BTW, that early book was wrong about colds and about feline distemper=20
and ferrets. Nope; not ferrets illnesses. People can check for past=20
posts by Dr. Bruce Williams on those in both the FML Archives (URL in=20
each day's FML and also in my sig lines) and the FHL Archives (in my=20
sig lines), but you already know those books were wrong about a decent=20
bit. I have no idea what that author back them meant by "hem-
strepts". It seems to be an old British term for hemolytic=20
streptococcus on searching. I have no idea if ferrets can get those=20
or the infection route if they ever do. Strep in general:
A quick look shows some in poultry (notable enough to be in a vet=20
dictionary even), some can cause tissue (often skin) necrosis, one=20
form is common in female genitalia and causes no problems unless it=20
gets into the bladder, etc, BUT any form of strep in ferrets appears=20
to be rare.
The other term you asked about is "Pseudocyesis" which is false=20
pregnancy and certainly people mention that often enough as something=20
which does happen with ferrets. (Actually, since people were used to=20
false pregnancy I wonder in relation to adrenal if some just assumed=20
that false heat could occur and had occurred, and with insulinoma I=20
wonder if they worried that distemper might be possible -- maybe the=20
source of the mistake that they got feline distemper if no dogs were=20
around -- and just put them down. To this day a number of novices=20
think that insulinoma is something neurological, sometimes even asking=20
about feline distemper, or canine distemper, or epilepsy.)
Sukie (not a vet)
Recommended ferret health links:
all ferret topics:
"All hail the procrastinators for they shall rule the world tomorrow."
(2010, Steve Crandall)
On change for its own sake: "You can go really fast if you just jump=20
off the cliff."
(2010, Steve Crandall)
The FHL has been around for 10 years come February
(in a series of 3 locations) so it has been present for
the last 40% of the time when almost all ferret health
information has been discovered. That is one of the
reasons why the separate archives
are so useful.
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