Jake and Phoebe

Jake and Phoebe

So I got another 2 ferrets... Ruby was still on her own, she is petrified of adult ferrets so I thought she might accept a kit... I really wanted another albino hob but there were no albino kits advertised anywhere near so I eventually decided to phone somebody about 45 miles away near Aberystwyth and we went to see them on the 29th of June 2005. They had beautiful kits. They didn’t look very good (as in healthy), were fed cheap cat food and were thin, not like healthy ferret babies should be. I wanted to get a hob kit and really liked one and Pete fell in love with a beautiful jill- so we ended up with 2 companions for Ruby... Ruby was still scared of the babies! Then she eventually figured that they weren’t going to hurt her and left them alone and after 2 weeks she finally started to play with them! She still got a scare at first when they pounced on her but she was soon war dancing with them. :-) I was sooo happy to see that. :-)

The kits were going to be called Phoebe and Cole (from "Charmed" like Leo and Piper were) but Cole didn’t suit the boy so he ended up being called Jake which suits him really well. :-)

Jake and Phoebe soon started to look a lot better. They were thin and had poor coats when I got them but now they’re little podgy babies and their coats are thick and lush. :-) When they arrived, I had no meat for them, well, I had the portions of chicken for the other ferrets but didn’t have enough to feed an extra 2 mouths. But the dogs had minced beef and they had more than enough so I gave the babies some beef- and they ate it right up like they were starved. :-) They will eat any meat I put in front of them, chicken, beef, lamb... I gave them a chicken wing one day and they were fighting over it, they came out with noises that Leo literally fell out of bed, he was stood in the cage looking all puzzled as to what on earth this noise was! He had the funniest bewildered look on his face. :-) The babies finished the wing as well, they just left 2 long bones but ate all meat and skin off it. :-)

Phoebe and Jake eating a chicken wing
Phoebe and Jake eating a chicken wing

Phoebe trying to take the wing off Jake
Phoebe trying to take the wing off Jake

The babies' favourite food is chicken chunks now, they prefer it to the chicken mince. But they also like minced beef. And do not mind dry food. They're just excellent. :-)

The only worry I have now is that it looks like Phoebe may be deaf which may be due to her colour marking. :-( But I admit that they are absolutely beautiful and very photogenic (so this page will end up very big and full of pics). And very nice natured and sweet. :-)

Jake and Phoebe
Jake and Phoebe

Jake and Phoebe
Jake and Phoebe

Phoebe Phoebe sleeping in a distorted kind of way ;-)
Phoebe sleeping in a distorted kind of way ;-)

Sooo- the kits are real fun and make me laugh every day. They are stupid like kits are, they are so full of life and jump up at everything just for the sheer joy of jumping. I keep thinking they're like jumping beans (except that jumping beans don't really jump but certainly the erratic movement is what they have in common). :-) They play and play with such energy and are kind to Ruby which is so nice. The kits have now (17th of August) outgrown Ruby a lot. Well, Phoebe is a little bigger and Jake seems to grow into a really big boy. When I had Leo and Piper last year, they both stayed the same size for ages and now Leo is only just bigger than Piper but Jake is a lot bigger than Phoebe. They make a very handsome pair. :-)

Update August 2007

Jake and Phoebe now live with Kobi. I took Jade and Kobi in in August 2005 and because Kobi was young and playful and Jade was old and more quiet, I started letting Kobi out with Jake and Phoebe. Jade died February 2007 and then I added Kobi to Jake, Phoebe and Ruby. Kobi bullied Ruby and just didn't like her so in the end Ruby went into a group with new girl, Honey, and Spike, who was was sick and wasn't doing well in his group with Leo and Piper. Spike died June 2007 so now Ruby and Honey are a very happy group and so are Jake, Phoebe and Kobi.

Jake and Phoebe
Jake and Phoebe



Update September 2010

I haven't updated this in over 3 years... And there's nothing much to tell, Jake and Phoebe are fine, Jake is looking a bit "dodgy" but not sick. They're still active and playful and still getting on sooo well with Kobi. :-)

Update December 2011

I had Jake and Phoebe implanted with Suprelorin on 01.11.2012, they are about 6 1/2 now and had thinning coats. Now, 6 weeks after the implants, their winter coats are coming through and they look so much better. They also had dentals done while they were under for their implants and Jake had a molar taken out. Phoebe had one spell of low blood sugar some weeks or months ago (anything that happened more than a week ago is in a blur...), it happened while I was out so I didn't see but Pete said it looked like a low BG. It never happened again though. But she hasn't been eating much and been loosing weight so I've been hand feeding her recently (like for the past month or so) and she has put on weight and is looking so much better. Jake is eating like a pig and has got huge. :-)

Update January 2012

Thursday the 12th I took ferret Phoebe to the vets. She's had a really bad smell from her mouth despite clean teeth and healthy gums and lost her appetite so that it was a struggle to feed her and she had strange stools. She had about twice the amount of bowel movements than her brother Jake and her stools were lighter in colour and just strange in appearance. I think this went on for about 2 weeks. Then a few days before her vet appt I checked her mouth again for a reason for her bad breath and found a lump on the left side of her lower jaw. I thought it was a blocked or infected saliva gland so started antibiotics and booked her in at the vets to get bloods etc. done. At the end of the day she got a very bad diagnosis / prognosis. My vet aspirated the saliva gland which could theoretically have been a lymph node and found cells that confirmed that it was a gland and also cells that looked like cancer cells to her, I can't remember why but she thought it was an adenocarcinoma of the saliva gland. Next the chest looked bad on x-ray, either fluid in there or (cancerous) tissue. The stomach looked like something (maybe an enlarged adrenal gland) was pushing against it, instead of being round it was like the shape of a  rounded quarter moon. Lastly it looked like there was fluid around the kidneys. So a lot of strange things going on. Now I have a ferret, Honey, who had a really dodgy looking chest 2 or 3 years ago and is still with me, looking and acting perfectly healthy. So I'll just take it a day at a time with Phoebe. Her breath does not smell any more, her stools started to look normal and if anything she started to produce less than normal. So somehow the antibiotics took care of the stools and the breath. She was (briefly) eating a bit better, most nights she finished her portion without any problems and I've even given her 35 grams instead of 30. Before she only ate about 25 grams or less with fighting.

But about a week after finishing her antibiotics, her appetite was becoming worse again and also her stools. She is passing stools so frequently again, and again light coloured soft stools. She does not want to eat, the most she eats is 22 g and as little as 18 g. I force her a bit but not too much. I'm starting antibiotics again to see if they improve stools and appetite and book her back in. Things are looking bleak if her appetite does not improve or gets even worse. Her tummy seems swollen and I wonder whether there are growth(s) and maybe fluid... She is on painkillers though, right now I'm giving her Vetergesic, my vet also gave me Metacam to try which didn't seem to do anything for her. My ferret Bobby had problems with very similar diarrhoea and in his case it turned out to be eosinophilic enteritis. His diarrhoea got better on antibiotics, don't know why. But he always had a good appetite so I am worried that with Phoebe it is the stomach that is causing the problem, I wonder whether to try an operation to remove whatever is pushing against it... Apart from not wanting to eat she is looking quite bright. I've been letting her run in the lounge and she runs around like nothing is wrong... At the vets somebody commented that she must be quite young. I said she's 6 1/2 and very sick...

Jake and Phoebe 2nd January 2012

Update February 2012

In January, Phoebe had diarrhoea and no appetite and when she had a blood test and x-ray, she had strange results. I thought I would have her put to sleep before going to Germany (I left on the 10th of February) but the week before I went away she was doing much better. She had gone to eating only about a third of her portion but was still active. Because of her diarrhoea I started her on antibiotics again and the diarrhoea immediately went away. Then my vet gave her a steroid and vitamin B 12 injection on the 3rd of February and she started eating again, almost her whole portion. So the last week I was there, she seemed on the way to recovery. But when I left Friday the 10th, she stopped eating again. Pete said she did not eat at all once I was gone. But she was still active. Then Pete took her to the vets again Monday 13th where she got more injections but they didn't help. She wouldn't even take sweet paste anymore. So back to the vets Wednesday the 15th for a check-up and then my vet said she didn't want Phoebe to go past the weekend. In less than a week she'd lost 100 grams. So Thursday 16th Pete took her to be put to sleep. My vet did a post mortem. I felt so so bad that I wasn't there, the first animal that was put to sleep in my absence... It's so hard to think I'll get home and will never see Phoebe again. And in hindsight I am beating myself up about her death, she had moderately severe gastroenteritis, maybe if I had continued the antibiotic for longer... She did have a lot of things wrong with her though but I feel maybe she could have lived longer. I'll never know now and I know it is best not to think about it...

Here's a link to a page with Phoebe's stools, how bad they were and how they changed when she was on antibiotics.

Phoebe's histopathlogy report

Diagnosis Pancreatic Endocrine Tumour - “Insulinoma” and Probable Lymphoma
Prognosis Not Applicable

Histopathology Result

Sections from necropsy samples of multiple tissues from a 6-year-old, neutered female Ferret, were examined microscopically.

LIVER (with GALL BLADDER): 1 sample received; 1 section examined.
The sinusoids and vasculature generally are mildly congested - probably terminal hypostatic congestion. There is patchy, very mild, lipid hepatocytic vacuolation, considered within acceptable normal limits, and there is also a single small focus of hepatocytic nodular hyperplasia - also not unusual in a ferret of this age and of minimal pathological significance. Otherwise the section is unremarkable.

KIDNEY: 2 samples received; 2 sections examined.
Single substantial areas of interstitial fibrosis, accompanied by moderate inflammation and associated with variable tubular and glomerular atrophy, are present in both kidneys, with several smaller areas also present in each. One contains a large cyst in the cortico-medullary region, partly lined by cuboidal epithelium and probably of tubular origin.

SPLEEN: 1 sample received; 1 section examined.
The red pulp is congested and includes a fair amount of extramedullary haemopoiesis, but the latter is within normal limits for a ferret. The lymphoid component (white pulp) is prominent and is populated predominantly by medium-sized, intermediately differentiated lymphocytes; with little evidence of maturation to small lymphocytes.

LUNG: 2 samples received; 2 sections examined.
These are both markedly congested and somewhat collapsed in appearance, though both were still floating in the fixative. Primary bronchi in both sections contain a large amount of mucus, in which neutrophils and large foamy macrophages are moderately numerous. Neutrophils are also present in slightly higher than normal numbers generally throughout the pulmonary parenchyma, but there is no evidence of significant alveolar effusions. No pathogens are seen.

HEART: 1 sample received; 1 section examined.
Apart from patchy, mild myocardial fibrosis, a common incidental finding at this age, this is histologically largely unremarkable.

STOMACH: 1 sample received; 1 section examined.
The sample is from the pyloric region. The surface epithelium is well-differentiated and intact; i.e. there is no overt evidence of ulceration, but the lamina propria is expanded by a fairly heavy, more or less diffuse infiltrate of mixed inflammatory cells. No Helicobacter organisms were seen in the surface mucus or in gland necks, and no other obvious pathogens were seen.

SMALL INTESTINE: 1 sample received; 1 section examined.
There is widespread villous fusion, distorting the mucosal architecture somewhat, and numbers of proprial leucocytes appear considerably increased. The mucosal vasculature is congested. No obvious pathogens are seen.

LARGE INTESTINE: 1 sample received; 1 section examined.
There is patchy erosion of the surface epithelium and proprial leucocyte numbers are fairly high, considered slightly increased above normal. Large numbers of bacteria are present in the lumen, but these may well just be the normal faecal flora.

PANCREAS: 2 samples received (one attached to intestine); 2 sections examined.
One of the sections is histologically largely unremarkable, but the other contains a single, large (histologically speaking) nodule of islet tissue, composed of reasonable well-differentiated islet cells, arrange in nests or variably anastomosing cords, mostly 2 or 3 cells thick, separated and surrounded by congested fibrovascular stroma. There is minimal atypia, negligible mitotic activity and no evidence of infiltrative behaviour.

ADRENAL GLAND: 1 sample received; 1 section examined.
Erupting through the capsule of the gland is a fairly substantial area of cortical hyperplasia, composed of a mixture of cells resembling those of the normal zonae fasciculata and reticularis. There is no appreciable atypia and no obvious increase in mitotic activity and although the capsule has been breached, the growth pattern is not aggressively infiltrative.

LYMPH NODES: 3 samples received (attached to stomach and intestine samples); 3 sections examined.
These nodes are all considerably larger than expected, partly due to marked dilation of the sinuses, a common finding in the mesenteric nodes of ferrets with enteritis, but a definite cause of which has not been established as fas as I am aware. In addition, in all three nodes there is a loss of the usually clear distinction between cortex and medulla, cortical follicles are absent or small and distinct, and the lymphocyte population is rather monomorphous, consisting of medium-sized lymphocytes rather than normal-looking small, mature lymphocytes. Mitoses are not particularly frequent (0 - 2 per 40x objective field). Lymphocytes are infiltrating from two of these nodes into adjacent adipose tissue.

1. Pancreas - Islet cell tumour (aka insulinoma).
2. Lymph nodes and spleen - Probable lymphoma.
3. Adrenal gland - Cortical hyperplasia; moderate.
4. GI Tract - Gastroenteritis; moderately severe.
5. Kidneys - Chronic interstitial nephritis; moderate.
6. Lungs - Bronchopneumonia; mild.

DISCUSSION: This Ferret was suffering from a variety of pathological processes in various organs.

According to most sources, pancreatic islet cell tumours are the commonest neoplasms of ferrets. They arise mostly from the beta cells and secrete insulin, hence their popular name of “insulinoma”. Clinical signs are referable to hypoglycaemia.

The changes in the spleen and lymph nodes are typical of early lymphoma, although the possibility of advanced, atypical lymphoid hyperplasia is not ruled out completely. Malignant lymphoma (lymphosarcoma) vies with insulinoma as the commonest neoplasm of the domestic ferret and it is not particularly uncommon for the two to occur concurrently.

Proliferations of the adrenal cortex (hyperplasia, adenoma and carcinoma) are extremely common in the ferret, particularly neutered individuals.

There is also evidence of moderately severe gastroenteritis, moderate chronic interstitial nephritis and mild bronchopneumonia in this ferret, but specific causes of these were not identified in the sections examined and the appearances are not specific for any particular aetiology.

I was worried about Jake, that he would be lonely without both Kobi and Phoebe. But while I was still in Germany, Pete let him have a run in the living room. Jake and Phoebe were never allowed in the living room because they bullied the dogs, cats and skunks. But now that Jake was on his own, he more or less left the others alone so that meant he could have a run in the lounge as well as the rest of the house and garden. He really enjoyed being allowed into the living room and when I got back I found that he was doing really fine and acting happy despite being on his own now. Maybe he even appreciates being around the other animals because at least they are company while he is out of his cage.

Update March 2012

Jake had an operation Friday 30th of March. He's had a skin tumour for a while and it grew a bit larger so I thought it was best to have it removed eventually. But after I got back from Germany I also noticed he had a kink in his tail. I thought it had broken, like been trapped in a door. But Pete said it felt more like a lump than a break. Well, this lump grew quite a bit over a week so on the said Friday I phoned the vets, I was hoping Michaela was doing afternoon consultations so I could have him looked at and then operated the following week. When I phoned, they asked me to come in straight away, Michaela saw me straight away and then said that although she had a busy afternoon she would try and fit him in since she was not going to be working the next week. So I left him and his tail was amputated, well, just over half of his tail. And of course the skin tumour on his neck was removed. Jake was so very restless when he got back, kept digging in his toilet and couldn't sleep at all, then as the evening progressed I realised he hadn't urinated or had a bowel movement at all, since he'd not had Vetergesic I decided to give him some to try and make him more comfortable (he'd only had Metacam) and then I expressed his bladder which was sort of egg size! He had a little bit to eat but would still not go to the toilet so midnight I tried to express him again and this time it was near impossible and caused him a lot of pain. I was up at 6.30 the following morning in case I had to take Jake to the vets again but luckily he had peed on his bed during the night. I let him have a run and when I put him back, he did another pee on his toilet. A few hours later he passed stools and then finally fully relaxed and slept. I was so scared that there may have been some nerve damage although I don't know how amputating the tail could interfere with nerves that may be needed for "eliminating". I'm just glad he's okay and he seems so happy.

Jake after his operation

Update May 2012

Jake is doing fine. I was worried for a bit because it looked like his feet were sort of cramping at times (as can be seen in the picture above) when he stood and ate and he wasn't as active. He was also shaking and shivering a lot. I thought he had some nerve issues or pain. But as time went by, all those things stopped and he is pretty active now. He's going to be 7 in June or so, so he is remarkably well considering his age. We didn't send any tissue samples off from the tumour but most tail tumours are chordomas in ferrets and are usually only locally invasive. They usually appear at the tip of the tail but can arise anywhere along the tail or spine. So far his tail is okay and has no more lumps on it.

Jake 28.05.12

Update September 2012

On Tuesday 25th of September, Jake started coughing out of the blue. He was acting perfectly healthy before, active, running around, playing, doing so well for a 7 year old. At night he didn't want to eat and he'd had a good appetite. I hand fed him. Then on the next day I drove to Germany and said to Pete if Jake won't eat, please take him to the vets. I was really worried because he so suddenly acted out of character. So Pete went to the vets, my vet wasn't on, the replacement vet gave antibiotics and painkiller and said to come back Thursday if Jake was no better. So Thursday Jake was stable- until midday. Pete found him having breathing difficulties so straight to the vets. My vet Michaela was back on and Jake was going downhill so rapidly that they were afraid to give him anaesthetic for the x-ray which showed his chest cavity full of fluid. Diuretics did not help and Michaela called Pete to suggest putting him to sleep as she didn't think he'd survive the night. Wow, Tuesday the first symptom, Thursday put to sleep. He must have had acute heart failure. His heart was enlarged but he had not shown any symptoms of cardiomyopathy at all. And then his chest cavity fills up with fluid so quickly. The strangest thing, Jake's sister Phoebe was put to sleep while I was in Germany last February, now as soon as I am in Germany again, Jake is put to sleep. And now I have 1 group only. How bizarre how we went from three groups to one in under 2 weeks.

Jake 21.07.12

Jake's histopathology report

Diagnosis Cardiomyopathy and Various Lesions
Prognosis Not Applicable

Histopathology Result

1. Heart; a full cross-section at the level of the ventricles is examined (slide 1).
On a sub gross level, dilation of both chambers is evident. Myocytes underlying the endocardium are degenerate and often vacuolated in appearance. There are small numbers of perivascular lymphocytes and plasma cells present throughout the myocardium.

2. Lung; one section is examined (slide 2).
There are moderate numbers of macrophages present within alveolar spaces. Many of these cells contain fine, golden brown pigment granules within their cytoplasm (presumed haemosiderin). Present throughout the lung parenchyma there are small to moderate numbers of perivascular lymphocytes and plasma cells. Occasional clusters of lymphocytes and plasma cells are also associated with some bronchi.

3. Right adrenal gland; one section through the gland and some adjacent adipose tissue is examined (slide 2).
Within the adrenal medulla there are multiple, variably-sized but often large cystic structures containing fairly homogenous, eosinophilic material with small areas of haemorrhage and occasional small foci of mineralisation. The cysts appear to be lined by simple low cuboidal to flattened epithelial cells. Adjacent adrenal tissues are often compressed and there are occasional small foci of lymphocytes and plasma cells within the adjacent tissues.

4. Left kidney; two sections through cortex, medulla, renal pelvis and small amounts of peri-renal adipose tissues are examined (slide 3).
The surface of the kidnes has an undulating appearance, with multiple slightly depressed areas. One such area is associated with moderate numbers of lymphocytes and plasma cells within the underlying interstitium, together with degenerate glomeruli with thickened basement membranes and increased amounts of eosinophilic material within the glomerular tufts (collagen, glomerulosclerosis). There are multiple small to moderate-sized clusters of lymphocytes and plasma cells within the interstitium, and small foci of mineralisation within the cortex. Small numbers of scattered individual glomeruli throughout the renal parenchyma also show degenerative changes. Small amounts of red-brown pigment are present within some tubules.

1. Heart; dilated cardiomyopathy, with degenerate myocytes
2. Lung; alveolar macrophages, with cytoplasmic haemosiderin (congestive left-sided heart failure)
3. Kidney; chronic nephritis, predominantly interstitial
4. Adrenal gland; cyst, presumed biliary origin (see comments)

The most likely cause of this ferret's death, and of the preceding respiratory signs, is the dilated cardiomyopathy which is evident on a sub gross level, and was suspected on x-ray and ultrasound examination. On histological examination there is also evidence of vacuolated and degenerate myocytes within parts of the myocardium, which supports this diagnosis. Possible causes of cardiomyopathy in ferrets include genetic/hereditary and idiopathic, and dilated, hypertrophic and restricted forms are seen in this species. The numbers of haemosiderin-laden alveolar macrophages present within the section from the lung are suggestive of congestive left-sided heart failure (so-called "heart-failure cells"), presumably related to the cardiomyopathy.

The histological appearance of the kidney is consistent with a chronic and moderately severe nephropathy, which is predominantly interstitial although there is some involvement of small numbers of glomeruli throughout the renal parenchyma (glomerulonephritis). This degree of nephritis is likely to have been clinically significant. Chronic interstitial nephritis is a common finding in ferrets, especially in older animals and progression of the disease is similar to that seen in older cats. In this case, the chronicity of the lesion means that the precise aetiology cannot be determined.

Adrenal gland cysts are uncommon, but by no means rare, in ferret adrenal glands, but there is little, if anything, written about them in the literature. Mostly they are seen as an incidental finding in hyperplastic or adenomatous adrenal glands, but occasionally they reach large dimensions. The epithelium lining these cysts, when investigated by immunostaining, has been shown to be CK7 positive, suggesting they are of biliary origin. The right adrenal is where they are usually found and that often shares a common capsule with the liver (rarely the cysts are also associated with small rests of hepatocytes within the adrenal gland). The significance of such cysts with regard to any clinical signs exhibited by the ferret is uncertain.

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