June/ July 1998

I just want to write about what happened to my poor little Angel. I still can't believe she's gone.

It started on Friday the 6th of June when Angel had a swollen tummy at night. It came so suddenly, I mean maybe the fluid had built up gradually over a few days but the majority came suddenly on the Friday. I was worried but didn't think it was the beginning of the end. I went to the vet Sunday, I thought maybe the tummy would go down but it didn't so I got worried on Sunday and saw the emergency vet. He did a scan to confirm that she had fluid in her abdomen. At this point he gave her an antibiotic injection in case it was an inflammation of the liver.

Monday Angel had a blood test done and the ascites was also tested, the vet did the blood test the same day and it suggested some kind of liver disease. The ascites was almost as red as the blood and was sent away, when the report came back it said it could be cancer (of the liver) or heart disease. My veterinary surgery has a few vets and they all thought it was something else, the vet who does the scans did another one on Angel and said he could see something on the liver. My vet Mr Batten said he could hear some irregularity of the heart and thought it might be heart disease. So Angel was put on diuretics for the ascites and on heart tablets in case it was the heart. A German ferret vet I asked said I should try heart tablets, she also had the test results and said they didn't look good and if it was liver cancer then Angel would have 2 more weeks to live.

On Sunday the 14th of June, Angel had her first bad phase, I found her limp in the cage and suspected that she hadn't eaten or drunk all night long so I syringe fed her rehydrate drink and also Ensure and she became stronger during the day. Over the next few days she didn't touch food but would drink Ensure on her own as long as I held her and held the warmed Ensure in front of her. On Monday 15th she also got a liver stimulant injection to increase her appetite and to help her liver which was supposed to be sick according to the blood test results. On the 16th she started with her heart tablets and I started the frusemide properly, I had stopped it when I found her on the Sunday. By Thursday, when she got another liver injection, she started eating again, she ate Whiskas Complete and I was so happy to see her eat and bounce back.

On Monday 22nd she got yet another liver injection and by Thursday her activity had increased noticeably- I thought the heart medicine started to work properly. Friday 26th I had Angel x-rayed to confirm that it was the heart- I sent those x-rays off to the German ferret vet because my vets couldn't say if it was normal or not because they'd never seen a ferret heart. The German vet said that the heart was enlarged and not in the middle of the chest but more towards the bottom of the chest and was rounded rather that properly heart shaped. So I was happy that Angel obviously had a disease that could be treated and that allowed her to live for another couple of years.

On Monday 29th Angel even ate ferret food when I let her play with the others in the ferret room. Until then she had been in a cage in the lounge during the day and up in my bedroom at night. So for the next few days I left Angel with the others during the day as she ate well and looked happy.

But on Friday 3rd of July, Angel went downhill again. She slowly stopped eating again and I gave her Whiskas cat milk with cream in it to put weight back on her (she had lost so much weight when she stopped eating) and I bought a milk powder that is used for hand rearing kittens, I thought that would have all the nutrition Angel needed. And she got bigger amounts of Ferretvite as well. I also started feeding her through the night because I felt she couldn't afford to loose any more weight.

On Monday the 6th she got another liver injection that we had stopped when she was so well because we thought it was the heart medicine that was making her better. On Tuesday I cooked some chicken for Angel and she ate a few pieces, on Wednesday she ate some more chicken and some Whiskas kitten food and Thursday she ate more Whiskas kitten and got another liver injection. Friday she ate some tinned cat food with gravy, Friday was also the day my friend Karen came to visit for a couple of weeks. And Angel still got Whiskas cat milk and the kitten milk while she ate as she didn't eat that much.

But by Saturday Angel looked worse again, she didn't eat, only drank Whiskas kitten milk when I held her and held her bowl in front of her. Monday I had to syringe feed her as she didn't want to drink anything but she didn't fight when I fed her. By 10.00 p.m. Angel looked poorly, so bad that I thought I would have to have her put to sleep the next morning. But when I looked at midnight, she looked extremely ill, to the point where she was suffering. She breathed 120 times a minute rather than 30-40 times so I went downstairs, shaking, and picked up the phone and phoned the emergency vet, I thought I could ask calmly if he could meet me at the surgery and put Angel to sleep but then I was crying on the phone but he understood me. I went upstairs to get Angel and felt so sick suddenly when it hit me that I'd decided to end my little girl's life. I took some tablets to calm me down and then Karen and I drove to the vet.

We arrived around 1.00 a.m., it was Mr Jones who was on duty, another of my favourite vets. He said I did the right thing, he could see that Angel wasn't well at all. We went into the operating theatre and Mr Jones got the general anaesthetic Isoflurane ready. I felt sick again, cried, looked at Angel and stroked her, read what was written on the bottles around me. Then Mr Jones put the gas mask on Angel's face, she was struggling and didn't want to breathe the gas, inside I was crying out "No!" but I just cried and held Angel tight until she drifted off. Mr Jones then took her off my lap and put her on the table, I had to go out, I couldn't watch him inject the lethal injection into her vein. The pain inside me was so bad, so overwhelming so I just sat on the floor and cried. I did go back when Angel was dead and said good-bye again, I could see where she was injected into her neck and there was saliva on the table under her head.

I asked Mr Jones if he could do a post mortem and he did it there and then and the news were shattering. She was full of cancer. Mr Jones had never seen anything like that, there were some bigger tumours, they were a white mass and when he touched them they fell apart. And there were little white tumours the size of a matchstick head and they were lining everything inside her, intestines etc. They perforated some of the intestines or organs and that had caused the blood in the ascites. There was probably more blood than fluid in her abdomen. The liver looked okay... Mr Jones didn't understand how she could have still been alive, that's how bad it was. He just kept saying how amazing it was, what a picture while I stood there numb with pain. I didn't take all in what he said and I didn't understand most of what he said because he used medical words so I don't know if all I said is correct but I'll update this again once the post mortem results come back and Mr Jones wrote a report.

Now I just can't believe she's gone and it hurts so much. During the day I try and put on a brave face but there are times when something reminds me of Angel so much that it brings tears to my eyes. Like when I'm in the supermarket and I see things that I bought for Angel while she was sick, it makes me so sad. At home and at night I sometimes can't stop crying for ages, I just want to have her back, I can't believe she was taken away from me. What hurts most is that she was my special little girl, I used to say that she was destined to be with me. She was so special and there was such an indescribable bond between us. And now she's gone. And all I can feel now is this incredible pain inside me.

I was going to continue this as soon as I got Angel's post mortem report but didn't get round to updating "her story". This is what her report said:



Abdominal Carcinosis


Liver- diffuse mild, focal moderately severe hydropic/ fatty change.

Abdominal wall/ associated tissue- multiple, mostly solid tumour masses, replacing the normal peritoneum/ mesentery and showing some ductal differentiation. Similar subperitoneal metastases.

Liver- a scattering of tumour miliary metastases.

Lymph node- confirmation of a metastatic carcinoma.


Compatible with a pancreatic primary. Pancreatic carcinomas carry a very poor prognosis.

For a while I felt like all ferrets are going to die of cancer, Karen's favourite boy Billy has just died as well, he had insulinoma and it progressed so quickly, almost as quick as Angel. It is so weird how we both lost our favourite ferrets to such horrible diseases and it made us think that we'll loose all our kids like that. But since then I have talked to a lot of people who did say that they lost ferrets to old age- I guess there is hope, yet.

I also had Angel cremated and have her urn in the lounge amidst ferret pictures and ornaments. It's like she is still with me.


Update August 2006

It has taken me all this time to read Angel's page again and it still makes me cry as though it happened yesterday. I have also recently read Mr Jones's autopsy report which I want to add now, as well as the cytopathology of the ascites. Looking back, I wish I'd had her put to sleep a lot sooner but she was my first sick ferret, only 3 years old, I just couldn't believe she was dying. Now I wish I hadn't let her suffer for so long...



Description of fluid: Bloodstained stained fluid
Red cells: 1,260,000 /ul<1
Nucleated cells: 8,900 /ul
Specific gravity: 1.020
Protein (fluid): 20 g/l

Cytological examination:

Sediment preparationsof the fluid contained a large number of erythrocytes and the nucleated cell population consisted predominantly of neutrophils with a smaller number of lymphocytes and large mononuclear cells. Clusters of tightly adherent degenerated mononuclear cells were identified. Within the cell clusters there was a moderate variation in cell and nuclear size and the cells possessed a high nuclear:cytoplasmic ratio with basophilic vacuolated cytoplasm. Nuclei were poorly preserved in many cases.


Cytological features are consistent with a modified transudate with blood contamination. The presence of erythrocytes could reflect intra-abdominal haemorrhage or iatrogenic haemorrhage at the time of sample collection and the best means of differentiating between these possibilities is by observation of the nature of the fluid during sample collection. Genuine intra-abdominal haemorhhage may be noted with neoplasia, trauma and tissue inflammation. Unfortunately the possibility of tissue inflammation is difficult to assess since the large presence of peripheral blood may have affected the cell count and in particular the proportion of neutrophils present.

Differentiation between reactive mesothelial cells and neoplastic cells can be difficult on cytological grounds alone but in this case the presence of clusters of mononuclear cells could certainly reflect a neoplastic process and further investigation would be warranted. Haematology and biochemistry profile may be useful to evaluate the possibility of hepatic disease and cardiac disease should be excluded on clinical examination. However, ultrasound examination of the abdomen and any biopsy of the affected tissue may be necessary fo a definitive diagnosis, especially with regard to the possibility of neoplasia.



Aerobic culture: No bacterial growth.
Anaerobic culture: No anaerobes isolated at 48 hours.

Mr Jones's report:

Angel first presented to me 7/6/98 - weight loss & ascites.
Haematology & general health profile done at our surgery. 10/6/98. Ascitic fluid taken & sent to Grange Labs - see reports.
No diagnosis made but no suggestion of liver disease.
Suggested by someone that Angel may have heart disease and treated ACE inhibitors & diuretics.
Gradual deterioration. steroid & Mefoxin see client record.
Sudden deterioration night of 13/7/98. Angel euthanised & Post Mortem performed. P.M. findings.
Large amount of blood stained ascitic fluid with large blood clots.
Liver appeared pale & mushy.
Mesentery completely covered in thousands of small white friable tumour masses completely obliterating all normal tissue. Small and large intestine also had multiple small white tumours within the peritoneal layer.
Tumours had also invaded thoracic cavity and covered lungs, heart & pleura. Far fewer tumours here than in the abdominal cavity.
Angel's body condition was very poor - she was extremely emaciated.

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