A young man wrote to me and asked me to help him rehome a ferret he found. The ferret was a young jill who he found wandering on the road, he took her in and she attacked the family rabbit and she was also nippy. I approached a few people who never got back to me and then I thought this jill is not going to find a good home if she bites and then my way of thinking is that if she ended up in a bad home, it would be my fault for not taking her. So I got really upset, it was a stressful and sad time for me anyway so I said I would take her. One worry taken away at least. We got her on the 25th of March 2007 and then she quickly started coming into season so she had a jill jab a week later. She bites a little, I hope it's hormonal and if not then it's just plain bad behaviour and I hope it'll stop soon. I handle her a lot and stroke her, play with her and hand feed her. The hand feeding bit worked so well with Kobi and bonding with him. I called the girl Honey and she eats anything. She was on cheap cat food, supermarkets own brand, I wonder how cats survive on this... She luckily ate the 2 dry foods that I feed and then she had a chick one night which wasn't enough so then she had 2 chicks for a night, greedy little thing. She loves the mince I feed and also chicken chunks. At the moment I have stopped giving her kibble to give her system a rest from the carbohydrates since she got too many of those before she came here. Anyway, Honey is lovely. She looks like a mix of Willow, Rose and Gremlin... It was just so spooky how well she fit in here. She arrived and walked around like she already knew our place. I tried her with Spike and they immediately got on, Spike is a softie anyway and is very nice to other ferrets. Spike lives with Leo and Piper and since Leo and Piper are so hyper and clever and destructive, they're not allowed in the kitchen or utility room. I found Piper on the fridge freezer one day, almost 7 feet up! Plus there are just some not very ferret proof places that they can get in and on. But Spike loves the kitchen and utility so in the evening he has 30-45 minutes by himself where he can go anywhere in the house and recently also out in the garden. So Honey shares this time with him. Spike is a bit dodgy and I almost fear the insulinoma is coming back because he has some little funny turns at times. So I want him to have as much fun as possible and he loves being out with Honey and the both of them go in the garden. I have to be careful with Honey because she can get through the mesh we put on the fence so I have to follow her around but most of the time she's happy following the dogs and skunks and Spike. :-) I must film this, I throw balls for Poppy and Honey just keeps following Poppy and runs and runs. Or she stalks the skunks, she also loves to tease the dogs and just keeps creeping up on them and then they run away so she can follow them or the dogs stamp their front feet like the skunks and that is such fun that Honey just starts dancing. :-) She really is a special girl. I feel so happy that I am blessed with all the animals and it is so amazing how well they all get on, I just wish it was less work and that I had more time to enjoy them. But this half hour at night when I'm out with Spike and Honey and the dogs and skunks, that is a very special time. Oh, and Honey used her toilet from the beginning. That is one thing with taking on rescues, the mess they make because they don't know the concept of a toilet. But when we fetched Honey, I had my travel cage which has a litter pan in it and she used it straight away. Then she had 1 accident in her cage so I wiped it up and put it in her toilet and she's been using her toilet since. There were a few tiny accidents but all in all she is very clean.
Honey with Spike
I've been letting Spike out with Honey almost from when she arrived. Most nights they were even allowed out into the garden but I had to supervise Honey because she could fit through the fence mesh. On 11 April 2007 she almost killed herself... I let Spike and Honey out in the garden and Stripey, the dogs and skunks joined us. I was talking to my dad on the phone while keeping an eye on Spike and especially Honey. Our heating oil tank is in a corner in the garden, there’s the neighbours wall on one side and our garden shed on the other and Pete put a pallet in front of the oil tank to block it off. The pallet only has very small gaps between the pieces of wood and I thought there was *no way* anybody could possibly get their heads through. Except for Honey... I saw how she stuck her head through and immediately started struggling. I just said to my dad that I had to phone him back, rushed to Honey and held her still so she wouldn’t make things worse through struggling. I yelled for Pete who then tried to figure out what to do. Luckily he had an electric saw, one of many, got an electric extension lead and plugged everything in, luckily it was all in the garage and luckily he found everything quickly so he got the saw going and cut through one of the pieces of wood of the pallet and Honey could get her head out... I was so shaken, I mean I heard her gurgle and struggle to breath, I saw how she went limp and really thought that’s it, I’m watching her suffocate. She was okay after the incident, just continued to run around and play like nothing happened... At least this has made Pete want to finally ferret and skunk proof the garden and put mesh all along the fence and underneath the lawn so they can't dig out by the fence... And then he can open the bit by the oil tank up...
This is where Honey got her head stuck, you can see the cut on the lower left side:
Honey was spayed on the 7th of June and all went well. She is still biting me though, she's got a lot better but will sometimes really lay into me. I also can't wrestle with her with my hands because she plays very rough. Yet she was sooo gentle with Spike and mothered him, obviously knowing he was very sick. And she is also very gentle with Ruby. Yet a little horror with the skunks or dogs (got to keep them separate) and nippy towards me.
Update November 2013
I. Can. Not. Believe. I. Have. Not. Updated. This. Ever!
Honey is at least 7 1/2 now and not showing symptoms of any illness and has not been diagnosed with anything! I can't believe it, most ferrets show symptoms of one thing or another by the age of 6 at the latest. Honey was getting thin end of last year and beginning of this year and I looked at her a bit worried. I saw her eat enough but she seemed to be wasting away, like muscle wasting. I wondered if she had ADV or something. Then in June Honey's group went through a spell of diarrhoea and it hit Peanut the hardest and also Honey. I started hand feeding the girls. Once they got their appetites back, I continued a "supplemental" hand feeding morning and night. She has put on weight and is even a little podgy, she looks wonderful. :) She eats well, has a very good appetite and is active. She is even moulting now! Amazing for her age. Everything is still working. :)
Honey and Ruby
Honey has seen a lot of changes with the groups. When Spike was still alive and when his insulinoma came back, Leo and Piper started to bully him so I put Spike with Honey- who doted on him... Ruby, who was in a group with Jake and Phoebe, also went in with Spike and Honey and they all got on amazingly well. Honey and Ruby bonded very much. At the same time I put Kobi in with Jake and Phoebe and Kobi adored his new friends, he did from the moment he came here with Jade. And once Jade died, I really wanted him to be with Jake and Phoebe but Ruby was scared of Kobi and then Kobi bullied her... So Ruby went with Honey and Spike and it was the best arrangement for everybody. Then Spike had to be put to sleep and a few months later Nipper and Daisy arrived and went in with Honey and Ruby. In 2008 Snoopy arrived and was put in with Honey, Ruby, Daisy and Nipper. Honey and Snoopy hit it off immediately and would play and play, I did one photo shoot of them playing and it is HERE.
Snoopy and HoneyHoney
Honey and Snoopy
Daisy died shortly after Snoopy arrived, and when I took in Peanut, Charlie and Franklin, they went in with Honey, Snoopy and Ruby, and I kept Nipper on his own as he was sick and then also died shortly after. Then Ruby suddenly became ill in December 2008 and had to be put to sleep, it was a bad month as I unexpectedly lost 3 or 4 ferrets. Charlie died in September 2012 and then Honey, Snoopy, Peanut and Franklin were put together with Squirt, Skippy and Tigger. Squirt died April this year. I can't believe how many changes Honey has been through, how long I have had her and how many ferrets she has seen come and go...
I was thinking what am I writing, so much rubbish. But when I think of Honey, this is what comes to my mind. She has been a constant in world of change. And for so long. She has been with so many ferrets, has seen them come and go. And she is still here and might even see Snoopy and Franklin go in the near future... I sometimes wonder if she is ill and is just hiding it or managing the symptoms well, either way I am happy she is doing good.
She has never been vicious to any ferret- ever. She has always welcomed new ferrets and looked after sick ones. Really sweet natured. Yet she has always nipped us. It's almost like it's an obsessive compulsive thing, I have now been hand feeding her for about half a year and she still nips. ;)
Honey and Franklin have been coughing occasionally. While Franklin's cough was loud and sounding like he had fluid in his lungs from possibly heart disease, Honey's cough was just very quiet and didn't seem bad. So last Thursday 6th February I finally took both to the vets, they had chest x-rays and Franklin was sent home with heart tablets, Honey with antibiotics. My vet didn't have time to talk to me, she was operating, so Honey and Franklin have a follow-up appointment this Thursday 13th so my vet can tell me what's wrong.
Honey suddenly became ill last Wednesday 12th. From one day to the next she could not walk. She was down at the front and pushing herself along with her back legs, when she tried to stand and walk she would fall over. She's had xrays the previous Thursday 6th but I didn't know the results so because she was on Baytril, I googled Baytril side effects. It listed neurological problems as possible side effects. So Wednesday morning I skipped the Baytril. Took her to the vets and she got a steroid shot. By the evening she was better so I gave her the Baytril at night. Thursday morning she was even worse, just laying on her side. I almost had her put to sleep Thursday but I discussed the Baytril side effect theory with my vet and she said it was possible. So we decided to give Honey another chance. I can't remember if she was improving Thursday evening but definitely Friday, I also started oral pred on Friday, 1 mg bid. She got better and better, is running around again. She does not have the strength to run up the stairs though so I carry her up and then she runs around up there. So it looks like she had a rare reaction to the Baytril although the possibility of Aleutian Disease is always on my mind, that would respond to steroids, too. So anyway, Honey is doing better. My vet discussed her xrays with me and it looks like Honey has a mass in her chest that is lifting her heart up. I'm sure that Honey has quite a few problems, I feel like her kidneys are not in the best shape, either. But she is almost 8 and is eating and running around a little and 8 is pretty much the longest my ferrets have lived for.
Honey is still good, she's not active much at all but I can see no problems breathing and he appetite is excellent.
Peanut and Honey 11.04.14
Franklin and Honey are so stable. Honey actually wants to go out into the garden every morning now and Franklin usually does, too. They can't use the cat flap anymore because of their hind leg weakness so I have to open the door for them. At night I always put them out into the garden to make them walk to strengthen their legs.
Honey is stable and still interested in running around although she is very weak.
Honey has become *huge* from the prednisolone, the coughing is getting more frequent, she is getting out of breath more, quite weak in the hind legs. Today she brought up foamy white mucus.
Honey is so weak and can't get into the litter box any more. I will put a smaller tray in the cage for her to make it easier for her because she does not really want to go outside of the box... But soon she will probably be too weak to move much. But ... for now she is happy crawling around and does make an effort, it's not like she can't be bothered anymore.
Honey went to the vets Monday 30th June because I felt lumps on either side of her spine, like maybe 1/2 inch away from the spine, I thought lymph nodes and thought probably lymphoma because the x-ray last February showed a probably mass in her chest and that usually means lymphoma and now many of her lymph nodes are enlarged (also by her back legs). Honey has trouble urinating and defecating and my vet thought she had a urinary infection and that the lymph nodes were up because of this. I just feel it is lymphoma. Honey is on an antibiotic, she had a bad reaction to Baytril last February and my vet wasn't sure if the long acting Convenia can be given (I checked it later on and it can and we have used it in the past) so she is on Amoxicillin/clavulanic acid now which has not done anything. But it won't if it's not an infection... And while I would have been happy to use Convenia last Monday, I am shit scared about antibiotics now after what happened with Peanut... Especially after reading warnings about it, not to even use in cats.
Then Honey had a bad day last Monday 07 July so I thought I would put her to sleep Tuesday but Tuesday morning she was up (her and Peanut are free range in the kitchen at night), went to the toilet, did a pee and pooh without any problems, then she crawled to the back door to be let out and she had a little walk in the garden!!! They will never cease to surprise me. But with her quality of life it is on the verge, any worse and she will need to be put to sleep... She does have shortness of breath.
Honey is going downhill, I expect every day to be her last but then she picks up again and just goes on and on. I feel so many enlarged lymph nodes in her abdomen now and when my vet examined her, she was in so much pain she bit me. But only while being palpated. She has been put on morphine but does not tolerate it. She first had 0.7 ml, then 0.5, last night I gave her 2 drops, tonight I will give her 1 drop... She does not have any quality of life, same as Peanut, but neither are suffering. I feel like Honey is like my grandma, my grandma had health problems and slept a lot and didn't have much quality of life but she would sit in her armchair, look out into her garden and say “I don't know why I like being alive so much”. Honey seems like this, she seems content. At this rate I will have Honey and Peanut put to sleep together one day in the near future...
This afternoon I am taking Honey and Peanut to the vets to possibly have both put to sleep... I am going crazy and can't stand looking at them anymore. :( And I figure if I feel so distraught at seeing them then surely they can't be feeling great.
Honey has been getting too weak to pee and poop so I have at times been helping her by gently squeezing her bladder to help her start peeing. She has lumps, maybe enlarged lymph nodes, that are causing her pain and maybe also causing her problems peeing and pooping. I think I have kept her going to put her to sleep when Peanut is ready because Peanut took Franklin's passing really badly.
I have never done this, 2 ferrets put to sleep on the same day. But I am reaching the point where I think what is the point. Yes, they could go on for a few more days and weeks like ferrets do but in the end they will die and they don't have quality of life and maybe hopefully I can spare them some suffering.
Later at night...
Both Honey and Peanut were put to sleep. I got to the vets and Peanut was her usual self, no interest in anything whatsoever. She just curled up and slept, no energy. And Honey was having her usual breathing problems and because of the heat they were worse. When I put her on the examination table, she just laid there flat and did not move. The vet took one look and knew that Peanut was feeling like crap and Honey was not good at all, either. Both girls went so quickly once they got the euthanasia solution (by intraperitoneal injection- which they didn't notice while licking their sweet paste).
The vets did not have time to do a post mortem so we did one, I did all the cutting and even got over my squeamishness and cut the chests open... As usual I can only hope I found what was wrong.
I found a lot of hard lymph nodes (I presume) in Honey, by the intestine and the stomach. Her spleen had a hard nodule but that may just be something else, I think the thymus in her chest was cancerous. Her heart seemed hard like she had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. There was one kidney, I think, and when I cut it, brown liquid leaked out.
Peanut and Honey 23.07.14
Honey's histopathlogy report
Post-Mortem Tissues from a Ferret: 12 samples received; 12 sections evaluated on 4 slides.
Heart (slide 1). This sagittal wedge section of the myocardium and great vessels shows no lesions.
Lung (slide 3). There is extensive atelectasis. Alveolar capillaries often appear congested. Many venules in the parenchyma are cuffed by up to 15 cell layers of uniform small to medium-sized lymphocytes, with 1 to 3 mitotic figures per individual high-power (400x) field. There are no other remarkable findings.
Adipose Tissue (slide 3). There is patchy congestion. Multifocally, adipocytes and stromal venules show smudged cellular detail (artefact of barbiturate euthanasia, or if not applicable, then early autolysis). There are no other remarkable findings.
Spleen (slide 1). There is moderate generalized congestion. The red pulp contains scattered clusters of mixed haematopoietic precursor cells. Lymphoid sheaths and follicles are regularly distributed with normal cellularity but are small. There are no other remarkable findings.
Lymph Nodes or Thymus (6 sections, slides 4 and 5). Some of these sections show hints of recognizable nodal architecture (outlines of medullary cords and sinuses), and no recognizable thymic architecture can be seen. Otherwise, all architectural detail is replaced and effaced by a sheet of monomorphic small to medium-sized lymphocytes. The lymphocytes also colonize stroma and extend beyond a thin collagenous capsule into adjacent adipose tissue. There are on average 6 mitotic figures per individual high-power field. There are no other remarkable findings.
Kidney (2 sections, slide 2). One of these wedge sections is largely occupied by an expansile, unilocular cyst, approximately 12 mm in diameter, that extends from the subcapsular cortex through to the deep cortex. The cyst replaces and displaces renal elements. The cyst is lined by a single layer of cuboidal to markedly attenuated cells, supported by a delicate rim of collagen. The lumen of the cyst is partly filled by eosinophilic (proteinaceous) fluid. The renal stroma and parenchyma immediately adjacent to the cyst sometimes appear normal and sometimes show extensive patchy areas of sclerosis of all elements associated with a moderately dense infiltrate of small to medium-sized lymphocytes with fewer plasma cells and macrophages. In a few foci, the lymphocytes seem to form a monomorphic sheet and these lymphocytes occasionally contain mitotic figures. The other wedge section shows a very slightly irregular renal capsular contour, associated with occasional wedges of stromal fibrosis accompanied by a light infiltrate of lymphocytes and plasma cells. Glomeruli sometimes show dilated capillary loops with luminal fibrinous thrombi. Occasional glomeruli are sclerotic. Rarely, renal tubules and medullary ducts contain small mineral concretions. There are no other remarkable findings.
1. Lymph Nodes (possibly also Thymus, per history): Lymphoma, small cell but high-grade
2. Lung: Lymphoma, perivascular, small cell
3. Kidney: Lymphoma, small cell, unilateral, focal
4. Kidney: Renal Cyst
5. Kidney: Interstitial Nephritis and Glomerulonephritis -- multifocal, chronic, mild
As you had correctly suspected, this ferret had malignant lymphoma. One mass, presumably the mediastinal mass mentioned on the history form, appears to be a lymph node that has been overrun by lymphoma, but it remains possible that both a lymph node and thymus tissue are present -- the tumour has nearly effaced all identifying features of the tissue. Lymphoma is the most common malignancy of the domestic ferret. It most frequently arises spontaneously, although there is increasing circumstantial evidence of a transmissible form. This particular lymphoma does not fit neatly into any of the three categories most commonly seen in ferrets (low-grade small cell in mature ferrets, high-grade immunoblastic without nodal involvement in young ferrets, or immunoblastic-polymorphous form), but of course, a wide variety of lymphoma types can occur in any species. Lymphoma in ferrets often involves the viscera, and in this case there is infiltration by the tumour into the lung and probably into one kidney. In one recent study, mean survival time for all ferrets with lymphoma was only 5.6 months (Reference: Ammersbach M, Delay J, Caswell JL, Smith DA, Taylor WM, Bienzle D. Laboratory findings, histopathology, and immunophenotype of lymphoma in domestic ferrets. Vet Pathol. 2008 Sep; 45(5): 663 - 73.). This malignancy would account for the bulk of this ferret's clinical signs.
As an incidental finding, one of this ferret's kidneys shows a non-neoplastic renal cyst. Renal cysts are common in the ferret, and some authors state that they are found incidentally in about one third of animals at post-mortem examination. Their origin is uncertain, though in the absence of severe chronic renal disease which might have caused acquired cysts, they are probably developmental lesions. They are generally of little clinical significance and have no effect on renal function. Some such cysts may attain a large size, but owing to the tough nature of the renal capsule, they almost never rupture. In rare cases in ferrets, there is true polycystic renal disease, which may cause renal failure -- polycystic kidneys are composed of variable numbers of cysts with little intervening fibrous connective tissue. As only a single cyst is seen here and as no other cysts are reported on the submission form, polycystic disease appears unlikely in this case.
Finally, the kidneys also show mild chronic interstitial nephritis and glomerulonephritis, neither seeming severe enough to have caused the renal cyst. These are common lesions in mature carnivores. Although there would have been potential for progression, ultimately resulting in compromised renal function, these renal lesions do not appear severe enough to have had much clinical importance at this stage.
Honey and Peanut 10.05.14