Jack in the ferret room

Jack is my boy, he is very close to me and very sensitive. I think he'd prefer to be an only ferret or to be in a small group. He rarely plays with the other ferrets or with toys but prefers to play or cuddle with me. If I ever tell him off for anything, he runs off and sulks so of course I feel pretty guilty then and get him out of his hidey hole and cuddle him until he forgives me and gives me a kiss. He was also the only one who mourned Angel. He was upset when I took Angel away when she became sick but the day she was put to sleep, Jack knew that she was not around anymore and he really mourned. When Baby started to bully him, he didn't even fight back and Jack is the boss of the group and *nobody* ever dared to bully him and definitely would not get away with it if he or she tried but when Angel died he just didn't care. A month or so later he was a bit better, still pretty quiet but he would not put up with any more bullying...

Jack in the ferret room

Update 15/11/99

I thought something was very wrong with Jack, I was afraid that he had the same cancer that Angel had. I'd been to the vets but they always made a mess. Emily took an x-ray over a month ago and I gave her my vet books and she said she'd get back to me. Never did so I went to the vets last week to make an appointment with her and was told she'd left the surgery... So I made an appointment with Mr Jones today but didn't get to see him, instead I had to see a big animal vet... I didn't get anywhere with him. Plus he couldn't find Jack's x-ray, if they can't find it they will x-ray Jack again free of charge... So I made another appointment for Thursday with Mr Jones and I said I want to see him because he saw Angel as well last year. I want Jack to have a scan Thursday because that may show tumours and one of the vets actually saw tumours in Angel just that I didn't want to believe him. And maybe Mr Jones can take some of Jack's fluid from his abdomen. I mean Emily saw and felt Jack but didn't feel that it was fluid and not fat in his abdomen, she didn't even see it on the x-ray. Now I know what a fat tummy feels like and Jack's does not feel like it's full of fat. Either fluid or an enlarged organ, a tumour or whatever. And the college class visited me last Friday and I asked the lecturer what she thought about Jack and she said fluid so I immediately thought of what Angel had. I don't want to loose Jack like this... I feed him ground ferret food with water as well now as I never saw him eat and he eats his mush up like he doesn't eat anything else but at least he eats and I thought maybe it'll put some weight on him, it sure did on Mason!

But I was so upset at the vets, Jack was in a bit of pain when the vet felt his abdomen around the pancreas and while he felt and listened to the heart, I held Jack's head and he gave me kisses on the mouth and he seemed frightened. He is so close to me and so special and more sensitive than the other ferrets and he takes things to heart and I don't know how I will ever be able to look into his eyes and make the decision to put him to sleep when his time comes. That will be sooo hard... :-(

Update 18/11/99

I took my Jack to the vets today so he could have a scan. Mr Jones thought his tummy was full of fluid and did a scan but could not see anything. Jack was very irritable and did not like his tummy being shaven nor scanned and he even bit my face when I tried to calm him down. Now, Jack *never* bites. So I asked Mr Jones to take some fluid from his tummy and send it off to the lab but in the end we both decided to opt for exploratory surgery. Because Mr Jones said he looked like his sister Angel did and having a look inside would at least tell us whether it is the same. I said to let him go under the anaesthetic if he is full of cancer.

I went and held Jack while Mr Jones put the gas mask on him and then waited in the waiting room. Well, Mr Jones came to see me while Jack was open and said there is *no* fluid. His tummy (mesentery) was just full of fat! He had also felt a lump inside his tummy which turned out to be a lump of fat. Organs look fine, no sign of cancer, the fat looks like normal fat. Mr Jones can't understand this, he said that Jack has no fat anywhere else on his body and it's all deposited in his tummy. [Update summer 2007- the strange fat distribution was probably due to adrenal disease, he did develop a sparse coat as well later on.]

Update 19/11/99 Jack really isn't well and I'm worried, he won't eat or drink so this morning I force fed him fluids and some mush with a syringe. I mean he had no big surgery, the girls look much better after they had a spay and I never had a girl go off her food or drink. Now Jack has just been cut open and sowed up again and he behaves like he had major surgery. I'm sooo worried! :-( [Update summer 2007- duh, he *did* have major surgery...]

I took Jack back to the vets at night because he was so lethargic and did not want any food or water and I thought he needed to be hydrated. Mr Jones saw Jack again and prepared fluids. He wanted to inject them into the vein in the neck/ throat but he couldn't find it so he injected it under the skin in approx. 10 places! During the whole thing Jack was just laying on the table and didn't move or anything and then he got an antibiotic and I think anti-inflammtory injection and then Mr Jones and I stood back and looked at Jack who was just laying flat on the table and Mr Jones said that if Jack doesn't make it he would like to have another look inside. That's how bad Jack looked, slow breathing like he was going to stop breathing any minute... But then the miracle happened, once I was in the waiting room, Jack popped his head up and both Mr Jones and I laughed because it was such a drastic change...

Update 20/11/99

I was back at the vets this morning, Jack had had some cat milk and looked much better than the day before but I wanted him to have the same treatment again as yesterday because he still looked a bit dehydrated. So Mr Jones injected him with fluids again and antibiotics and anti-inflammtory but this time Jack would not hold still and squirmed and it was a lot harder to get all the fluids into him! Mr Jones couldn't believe the change and how well he looked! :-)

Update 22/11/99

Jack is okay. :-) I gave him cat milk + water 3 times a day. Then I got worried that he wasn't eating and I made Hope her meat and there was a lot of water in with the meat after I cooked it so I made some mush with the meaty water and was going to feed Jack and I go to the room and Jack is stood in the big food dish munching away! :-) You probably know how happy that made me! If you had seen him Friday you would've thought he was dying, Mr Jones and I really stood looking at Jack and expecting him to take his last breath... And what a turn around now! I also put him with the others yesterday and watched to make sure that Baby wouldn't take the stitches out and she didn't and I don't think Jack would let anybody do that so he is okay and he was happy to be back with the group rather than locked in the little cage. ;-)

Update 19/05/00

My friend Jessica came over while I was doing the ferrets and I picked Jack up and Jess said "Eeewwwww, what's that on his side, has he had an abscess?" So I looked and there was this huge sore so I started cleaning the scab off but it smelled bad (of puss) and I'm pretty squeamish! So I got Pete to try and clean it and he said it's not an abscess, he squeezed it as well and said it's hard around the sore so we had no idea what it was but it was the size of a 10p coin and it wasn't there the day before, I'm sure I would've seen it... So we were off to the vets Saturday, Louise the new vet was on and she squeezed the abscess and loads of puss came out, I didn't look, just the thought makes me feel weird so I studied all the bottles of medicine on a shelf while she was busy cleaning the wound... She also gave Jack a long acting antibiotic and then I cleaned his wound twice a day with some liquid stuff called Dermasol and then put Dermasol cream on and Monday morning the scab came off and no more puss underneath, we did take Jack to the vets Monday for a check-up but he got the all clear! :-) But Jack reacted to the antibiotic injection and had a big, hard lump on his neck... And it was painful, too... Poor thing...

Update 16/10/00

Jack has been having really funny (or should that be funky) diarrhoea on and off for the last month or so. Every few days I would find some strange diarrhoea in the toilet, it usually happened between 8.00 p.m. and midnight. Because it happened in the big group of 10, I didn't know who did it for about 2 weeks. Then I saw Jack go to the toilet in the bathroom one night... So then I knew who it was... The diarrhoea is all slimy, looks like yellow/ orange/ light brown mucous. Sometimes a bit of green is in there. But no trace of food, I mean nothing dark brown... I haven't got any idea what is wrong, if anybody has, please tell me. I've taken some photos, you find them here:

Jack's diarrhoea

I've also got the feeling that Jack has insulinoma. I've seen him wobble and be unstable on his feet on Monday 09/10/00. I took him to the vets that day and the vet examined him and did an x-ray but couldn't find anything wrong. I'd thought of heart disease... Then Sunday 15/10/00 he was very wobbly and kept falling over every few steps and didn't even make it back into bed when he got back from the toilet, he got his head into bed and then just collpased in front of the bed, half way in. So I tried to do a blood glucose test with my finger prick thing and the glucose meter but when I pricked one of his pads on his feet, he threw such a tantrum, Pete scruffed him, I held onto his leg but he struggled so much and freed his leg and the bit of blood that we got out went all over the place. Then I couldn't even get the prick thing onto his pad anymore but he started drooling *real* bad and looked even weaker so I think that's enough proof for me that it is insulinoma. I'd fed him a good portion of meat (I started BARF- bones and raw foods the day before) and once he started digesting it and got energy from it, he was back to normal. I've made sure he was eating the meat and he's been okay since.

I'm just really scared right now, why is he doing this strange diarrhoea? I'm so scared I'm going to loose him, he's my special boy, the only one who listens to his name and comes when I call him. There's just a special bond between us because I've had him since he was born... I'm really upset that Igor is sick and don't want him to die but when I think of Jack dying I just feel despair...

Update 20/11/00

Jack has been doing real good on the meat as well. No more low sugars since I started feeding him raw meat and bones and he hasn't done any more funny poops! He's been on the meat for 5 weeks and has put weight on and has just been really fine. But he demands that I feed him! I stopped feeding him for 1 week and he actually lost 200g because he hardly ate and then I fed him again and he put on 350g in the next week! His coat is becoming really nice and I can just see how the meat is doing him good and how much better his health is. :-)

Jack in the ferret room

Update 05/02/01

Jack is doing real good but he was sick. He became ill Friday 26/01/01, the area under his nose was really badly swollen so it was impossible for him to close his mouth as the upper part was sticking out so much. He also had some nasal discharge and breathed through his mouth. Of course I rushed him to the vets, he had a high temperature, 41 degrees C/ 106 degrees F... So he got an antibiotic injection and an injection to bring the temperature down. Saturday we took him back to the vets where he got those injections again, his temperature was 40 C/ 104.4 F then. By Sunday his nose was almost back to normal and Thursday he had his energy back and was wardancing again! :-) It was bad how quickly he got sick and the mouth breathing scared me a lot but it was also amazing just how quickly he got better! But of course we have no idea why he got this infection and we don't really know what it was...

Update 23/02/01

Jack had problems with his nose again. Friday night 09/02/01 I had a look at him and saw that the area under his nose was swelling up again- and in the process of opening up. I gave him antibiotics immediately and we saw the vets Saturday. The vet Catherine had a look at him and was wondering why he'd repeatedly get this infection. She had a look in his mouth and Jack had quite a bit of tartar on his teeth so Catherine suggested that he should have a dental, then they could see if the infection was coming from the mouth at all. She was pleased that I'd given him antibiotics straight away and gave me more and told me to continue with them.

So Jack had a dental Tuesday 13/02/01. But his teeth and gums were fine so no source of infection there. So I have to keep my fingers crossed that he won't get any more infections there...

Right now I'm also scared that he may have adrenal disease... His coat is fine on his head and neck but on the rest of the body it's dry and coarse and thin. He didn't change his coat this winter. The hairs keep falling out on his back and are easily pulled out but no sign of new hair... The hairs are also thin on his tail and the base of his tail in bald now. I don't think I could put him through another exploratory or adrenal surgery, he almost died when he had his first exploratory surgery so I won't risk loosing him. If he continues with his adrenal signs, maybe the vets can put him on medication... He is also very thin around his back and ribs, no covering of fat at all. But his tummy is still huge, all the fat collects there... I hope it won't be adrenal disease, I will take him to the vets again and ask if it could be anything else, maybe do a blood test...

Update 09/05/01

I had to put the ferrets back on kibble temporarily because the mince caused tartar and gum problems in all ferrets! I cleaned their teeth and put them all on antibiotics and then I put them on kibble so the kibble could clean the rest of their teeth, like I couldn't clean the back teeth so the kibble can do that. But Jack hasn't been doing well at all. He just didn't eat enough kibble and on the 20th of April I found him in a bad state. He's got insulinoma like his mum Jilly but he's been perfectly fine while he was on the mince, didn't have any low blood sugars. But he had a bad low sugar on the 20th and it's horrible to see him like that because he is a big ferret and to see him fall over and not being able to use his back legs... He was wobbling around like he was drunk and he was twitching away, something I'd never seen before... So I'll definitely have to feed him meat morning and night and then he can eat kibble in-between. But he hasn't done well on the kibble at all, 1 week on kibble and he's lost quite a bit of weight... Baby has lost weight as well so I'll have to continue feeding those 2...

Update 22/06/01

Jack went bad over the last weekend. He went really lethargic, he could only walk a few steps and then had to lie down, he does the splits in the potty with his big spleen and then his tummy gets wet with pee and he coughed funny and I couldnít squeeze his ribs inwards so thought he has a mass in his chest. His breathing was so fast and it seemed he had difficulty breathing. He also went off his food. Last Tuesday the 19th I took him to see Louise and didnít think I would take him home... He had a chest x-ray and Louise thinks he may have a mass there but wasnít sure so sheís sent the x-ray off to her friend. So Louise put Jack on prednisolone to treat for lymphoma, more of his lymph nodes were up as well, the ones on his neck were up a month ago, or even as early as last February... Now the ones behind his knees were up... His spleen is even bigger. So Louise is treating him for lymphoma with the pred, I didnít want a biopsy done, Louise said they could take a lymph node out but if anything ever gets taken out, itíll be the spleen. I really thought my Jack was dying. Wednesday he wasnít all that well and I was crying all day long, I just couldnít cope with loosing him, yet... Wednesday night his respiratory rate was 100 when it should be 33-36 or around there.

Well, he seemed better Thursday. I gave him the first pred tablet Tuesday night and Wednesday night he was eating his normal amount of food again even though he seemed hesitant like he didnít want to eat but felt like he had to. Thursday morning he ate lovely as well and his respiratory rate was around 60. He sounds like heís got a stuffy chest though, like he has mucous on his chest because heís had a few coughing episodes and you can hear that there is something on his chest and he seems to cough it up and then heís okay... Heís on antibiotics because Louise said with getting a high dose of pred (heís only on 1mg a day, same as Jilly so I canít see how this is supposed to be high?) he needs to be on antibiotics because of a suppressed immune system... I didnít give him the antibiotics Tuesday because I thought that his dose of pred was low and it doesnít suppress the immune system but when he sounded stuffy, I started him Wednesday night straight away! So right now all I can do is wait... He was okay yesterday, he was awake when I got up and came running to the door to see me, heís more alert and doesnít look poorly like heís suffering and he eats well, breathes better and I havenít heard him cough, yet. Thursday morning I had both Jack and Tom out for a run and Jack was running around so I was so happy to see that because before heíd walk a few steps and then lie down with exhaustion...

Update 26/08/01

Jack went back to the vets on the 15th of August because he'd been coughing again for the last 3-4 weeks and really had trouble breathing and Louise was concerned about his breathing so we did another x-ray and Jack had fluid on his lungs. I donít know what exactly Louise said but his lungs were more compressed than last time. I donít know if the fluid or tumour are compressing the lungs though. The windpipe is still elevated so itís very probable that a tumour is pushing it up but it hasnít become any worse since the last x-ray in June. Itís just the fluid now. So Jack was put on diuretics and theyíve helped! Heís completely different now and sooo much better! :-) Before he was breathing so heavily and now the breathing is relaxed and heís more alert when I let him out and he enjoys it more and plays and runs. :-)

Update 22/03/02

Jack's had a lot of ups and downs in the last 6-7 months. A few times I thought it was time to let him go, he looked depressed at home but looked so much brighter when we got to the vets that Louise didn't suggest putting him to sleep. At the end of last year he had a lot of fluid in his lungs and kept coughing, I gave him 15mg of Frusemide morning and night and sometimes I had to give him a dose in the afternoon as well and at times it was hard to control the fluid in his chest/ lungs. I was also worried about overdosing him with the Frusemide, he weighed 2kg so his max. dose should have been 8mg 2-3 times a day and yet I gave him 15mg in a single dose but people on the Ferret Health List helped me with this problem and told me that Frusemide or Lasix is a "dose to effect" drug, you give as much as is needed as long as the ferret is alright on the dose. Jack did fine on the dose I gave him.

At the beginning of December he was so unwell that I didn't think he'd make it to Christmas but he did and he also saw the New Year. He had bad problems with fluid in his lungs in December and at the beginning of January but by the middle of January he was fine, no more fluid in his chest, no more coughing. He got better when we rescued Tara, I kept joking that Tara had healing powers because Jack stopped getting fluid on his chest when Tara started sleeping with him. Tara is in a group with Bella and Willow but the 3 girls get on with Jack so when Jack's group went into a cage when the 3 girls came out, I could leave Jack out with them and Tara kept sleeping with Jack and looked after him.

Jack often had problems breathing, you could see that it was very laboured but he also had good episodes when his breathing calmed down a bit and he also looked bright every day, he got up to see me when I came into the ferret room in the mornings and in February/ March he kept asking to be let out of the room so I let him out on quite a few mornings. But every day I kept wondering when he'll leave me...

Jack suddenly took a turn for the worse and we had him put to sleep Wednesday 20th of March. He got a mouth abscess over night, heíd had this pocket in his mouth and his lower right canine fit into that pocket. But the pocket must have got infected and the right side of his face by his mouth was swollen and his nose was swollen. He was in a lot of pain and looked very poorly. He still ate tough... But we took him to the vets and I had a good idea that this time we would have to let him go. This time he didnít suddenly look bright at the vets. He laid there with his eyes half closed. Jilly went downhill and had to be put to sleep because of an abscess developing which weakened her body too much to get better and now Jack had the same thing, an abscess that gave him the rest. Catherine was doing surgery and listened to his chest and said that she could hardly hear the lungs fill with air, it sounded like they were barely working, like they were compressed badly. So we had him put to sleep. Catherine wanted to inject into the kidneys but Iíd asked to give him gas and do the heart, I said kidneys donít work that well and that with Jilly there was so much fat around the kidney that Louise didnít manage to inject into the kidney. But Catherine thought the heart was hard to get at because it was so misplaced in his chest so Jack had gas and she tried to inject into the kidneys but that didnít work so Catherine tried to get his heart and was successful after a few attempts. There was nobody in the waiting room so she did the autopsy straight away. Jack was such a mess inside, there was fat everywhere. No huge tumours, just fat. And a few little tumours (one was probably an insulinoma) hidden in the fat. The whole chest cavity was filled with fat, there was no room for his lungs, they were so small... The organs looked okay. Just masses of fat everywhere...

Iíve been quite successful at suppressing any feelings I may have, I was crying at the vets but not bad. I feel Iím getting pretty depressed again even though Iím trying not to think about it. Last night I had a dream about Jack, he started breathing when Catherine finished the autopsy and sowed him back up and he was okay and back with me again. The weird thing is that a few months ago I dreamt he had an autopsy done and then came back to life afterwards. Those dreams knock me down though. Itís okay me suppressing thoughts and feelings during the day but not being able to control what I dream about and then waking up upset...

I've been mourning Jack since last June, I was dreading loosing him. Now I'm trying not to think about it and not to be upset. With him leaving I have lost my first 3 ferrets, Jilly, Angel and Jack. My first 3 special ferrets. It's pretty hard, it's like an era has gone, a special part of my life. I wish I could go back in time and be with them again, back in a time when they were healthy and I never dreamt that they'd all get so sick and suffer. Having such a bad memory I can barely remember what they were like when they were healthy, I just have a few faint memories and that hurts as well. It's like they've been taken from me and I don't even have them in my head now.

It is weird though, not having any sick animals. Since the beginning of '99, I've constantly had sick ferrets, first Jilly with her insulinoma, then I also had to nurse others as they got sick and died. Now that Jack is gone, I just have healthy ferrets. Okay, Mason is on heart tablets and Bella looks dodgy but none act sick or need hand feeding or anything. All play a lot when they're out and all can climb and run and jump. It is a bit of a relief, seeing sick and suffering ferrets gets me down and when they're put to sleep and their suffering ends, it is a relief. On the other hand I miss them terribly so I'm torn between those feelings so I guess that's why I rather put it out of my mind completely.

Update 28/03/02

This is Jack's histopathology report:

History Difficulty breathing, very enlarged abdomen (6-10 months). Sudden deterioration over last 24 hours. Euthanased. PM - Fat, large amounts in abdomen & chest especially around kidneys, also mesentery, bladder/uterus.

Diagnosis Pancreatic Endocrine Tumour - ďInsulinomaĒ and Interstitial Pneumonia

Prognosis Prognosis Not Given


Spleen: There is marked splenic congestion and some haemorrhage. No evidence of neoplasia.
Pancreas: There is a large well vascularised mass comprising cords and packets of pleomophic polygonal cells with marked nuclear atypia and variable fine cytoplasmic vacuolation.
Adipose tissue adjacent to pancreas and within mesentery: This contains small accessory spleens and several small to large nodules (up to 1.5cm) of neoplasia as described in the pancreas.
Heart: Normal.
Lungs: Congested and collapsed with accumulation of mixed inflammatory cells within the interstitium.
Kidneys: Largely within normal and expected to have been functioning antemortem.

The changes are consistent with a malignant tumour arising from islet cells (insulinoma) with metastatic spread and an intersitial pneumonia. The cause of the latter is not apparent from the histological features.

Jack in the ferret room

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