On the first of September 1998 I went to see Karen and that day changed a few things again. I only took Jack with me for company while I was driving as it was only a day trip and as I was sitting in Karen's ferret shed, her brother's mate Steve came and he had a wooden box and took a baby albino ferret out! I just stared at Karen and said "You never..." so she said it was not to replace Billy. (Billy had been her favourite boy and she had just lost him to insulinoma.) And that was when I saw that she'd made a hutch up as well for the new arrival. She wanted another albino boy as she loves albinos and Billy was one, and got him off a mate's of Steve and Steve said he was the only albino boy of the litter so Karen only had him though she wanted 2 boys. Then Steve saw Jack and said the rest of the litter looked like him. Karen couldn't believe it as she'd always wanted a sandy ferret so I said we could drive down to Steve's mate and look at the kits and then she could choose another one. So we did that and of course I went all soft and wanted a baby, my heart said yes though my head said no. But since when does the head succeed when it comes to ferrets? So by the evening I drove back to this man and chose a baby! He's called Reno. I'm back up to 10. I obeyed the ferret math formula... I did think that I would like an even number of boys and girls, I've got 4 girls but had 5 boys and I thought it would be better if I had 6 boys, then I could always take 2 for a walk rather than have one group of 3 at some time. And it was all such a coincidence that we found out about the sandy kits. Steve was supposed to come in the morning, if he'd come in the morning he wouldn't have seen me or Jack and wouldn't have told Karen that the other kits are Jack's colour. Or if I hadn't taken Jack with me we wouldn't have known and I wouldn't have Reno now. So I suppose it was fate. But it was so funny, we were at this man's place and he put a thick glove on to take the babies out so I said "They're only babies" and put my hand in and grabbed one. Funny how the big men are scared of ferrets!
Well, Reno has been using the litter box 100% from the beginning, when he was on his own first he used the litter box and when I put him with my boarders Vicky and Tricky (who I'm looking after for 6 months while their owners have gone on a business trip to South America) a day later, he also climbed into their bigger toilet. Poor little thing had problems getting in but he didn't go next to the toilet like some of my boys would have done. And first he was a bit shy of my hand and walked backwards when I approached him but soon he was okay and followed me around. And he plays so lovely and I'm getting him used to my face so he won't bite it. He nibbles my ears and mouth but doesn't bite hard. And then he licks it! I also took him to town with me one day to get him socialised and get him used to noises etc. so he won't be frightened and everybody cooed at him! A man in the bank knows me and has seen me come in with ferrets so often and he asked how my little guy was. And everybody turned round and I heard "Oh, a ferret." so often! I think Reno was quite happy to be back home though and he wasn't quite sure about harnesses and leads, yet! He has put on a lot of weight and every morning when I take him out of the cage, he seems to have grown more! He doubled his weight in the 3 weeks I've had him.
We guessed that our kids must have been 7-8 weeks old when we got them as Karen's kids Cian and Kealan lost some milk teeth shortly after we got them. I didn't notice Reno loosing any but then again I didn't expect him to loose any.
But at the beginning I did feel bad at times that I got Reno to try and get over Angel and so I don't think about her so much and then I resented Reno and wished I never got him or that I could change him for Angel. But I do love Reno really but I do get upset when I think about Angel then. Like it's so unfair that she's not around anymore.
Reno started having problems walking just after Gremlin got sick at the end of January '04. But I donít think he has what Gremlin had, maybe a coincidence that he fell ill as well. He was unwell on 3rd Feb in the evening. He was very floppy, couldnít stand on the laminate (his legs just gave way) and on the lino or carpet he could only walk a few feet before ďcollapsingĒ (lying down on his tummy or falling on his side). He feels so light and is like a rag doll, no muscle tone. Could he have an illness where his muscles waste away? He was put on baytril and prednisolone and started improving around the 10th and could stand on the laminate and walk a bit better but heís still unsteady on his feet and not very active. But looking a little better. Iím just puzzled as to what is wrong with him... For example when he runs up the stairs, he can only manage 2 or 3 steps before he has to lie down for a few seconds whereas the other ferrets just whizz up the stairs. He isn't quick anymore, just walks around, follows me around, lies down wherever I am and then I pet him and hold him and at all other times it isn't long before he finds himself a comfortable bed...
I lost Reno on 21st of March 2005...
Beginning of March he was still okay, I saw him eat, he played, all was well. Then he probably started to loose a bit of weight but around the 7th he must have stopped eating and started to loose weight rapidly and he became very weak. I still donít know how I could have missed it. It seemed he was loosing a bit of weight but I saw him eat so didnít worry much. Then I was sure he was loosing weight because he was thin around the ribs but I looked at his tummy which was quite big so I thought he canít be loosing weight. But around Tuesday the 8th I realised his spleen was very big and his ribs were really prominent and I was shocked how much weight he had lost, to me it seemed like from one day to another. I started hand feeding him and realised he didnít want to eat, not that he couldnít but he was off his food. So I started giving him a liquid cat convalescent diet. Thursday 10th he started being very weak (he had been weak for a few days but Thursday he started being *really* weak), I wanted to take him to the vets but missed the morning surgery so wanted to see Michaela at night- and was told there is no evening surgery on Thursdays. So I waited until Friday morning, I felt like I had neglected him, he was skin and bones almost and dehydrated and sooo weak. Michaela did a blood test, an in-house blood test. We had been using one lab but they had caused problems, when Fox had a blood test, his results took 3 weeks to come back. Danaís were okay but Taraís results hadnít come back at all! So we are looking for another good lab to do the bloods so Michaela thought she could do the test in the surgery. She also did a urine test. Well, when I fetched Reno Friday night, Michaela said kidney failure. I was in shock first and then in denial. I mean he had showed *no* signs of kidney failure, no increased thirst or anything. And now he was supposed to be in end stage kidney failure? The things that we found out with the tests (and that I can still remember) was that he couldnít concentrate his urine and he was very anaemic and had a high urea. But I was hoping that he had another illness that caused the anaemia and high urea...
These were the blood test results (from Friday the 11th of March), the blood machine hasn't got normal values for ferrets so it was hard to figure out whether they were within normal range or not because the measurements they use for the blood values here in the UK are different to the measurements they use in the USA (at least for some, if not most, values) so I couldn't just get my vet books out and look up blood values because we may measure some values in mmol/l and in America it's measured in mg/dl. I checked all blood values and did some calculations and tried to figure out which ones were high or low using the vet texts and the abnormal ones I have marked in bold but I am not a vet or trained in any way so have no idea how accurate my calculations are...
HCT = 18.1 % hematocrit
HGB = 6.2 g/dl LOW (12.0-18.5 g/dl) haemoglobin
MCHC = 34.3 g/dl mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentration
WBC = 8.4 x10^9/l HIGH? (3.5-7) white blood cell count
GRANS = 3.7 x10^9/l granulocytes
%GRANS = 44 %
NEUT = 2.4 x10^9/l (1.5-2.9) neutrophils
EOS = 1.3 x10^9/l HIGH (<0.35) eosinophils
L/M = 4.7 x10^9/l HIGH (1.7-2.9) lymphocytes
%L/M = 56 %
PLT = 216 x10^9/l LOW? (297-910) platelets
ALB = 18 g/l (26-41) LOW albumin
ALKP = 47 U/l Alkaline Phosphatase
ALT = 275 U/l Alanine transaminase
AMYL = 5 U/l amylase
UREA = 20.97 mmol/l HIGH (1.9-7.49)
Ca = 1.86 mmol/l calcium
CHOL = 7.32 mmol/l cholesterol
CREA = 66 umol/l (<75.0) creatinine
GLU = 8.49 mmol/l glucose
PHOS = 2.80 mmol/l phosphate
TBIL = 10 umol/l bilirubin
TP = 58 g/l (51-74 g/l) total protein
GLOB = 40 g/l globulin
Well, Saturday he was even more weak and really didnít look well so I phoned the vets and asked if Michaela could transfuse blood. So she did, even though it wasn't the best transfusion I could have hoped for. We had Wesley give blood, I think Michaela could have taken 9 ml easily but only took 2... When she took blood from Wesley, she didnít manage to get into Renoís jugular vein so ended up injecting the blood into his abdomen. Which would still work but probably not very well. So I was a bit upset. Reno got some anabolic steroid to increase his appetite and also B12 injection.
Well, his appetite improved so I was hopeful so Tuesday I was back at the vets and said that I wanted Reno to have another blood test and have it sent off to the lab that does our pathology. I donít know if she completely didnít understand me or what or if she couldnít be bothered but she didn't react at all so I was sent hom with Reno without a blood sample being taken. By now I was so upset I wished there was another vet I could go to... I really did not want Reno to have this renal failure.
It was a constant up and down with Reno. I did give him 20 ml of sub-q fluids on the 13th and it worked really well but a few hours later he had fluid in his lungs... So I didnít dare give him any more fluids. So I thought I know, I give him cat milk. So I gave him 40 ml of that and that made him cough, too. Michaela thinks it may have been mucus that made him cough but it so sounded like fluid. So I stopped the cat milk and the sub-q fluid. I even had to give him a few doses of frusemide because he was just coughing and coughing and I think Sunday night (13th) I almost had him put to sleep because he had problems breathing and looked so miserable, I gave him furosemide and an hour later he was okay again and even ate a good portion! So it was like this all the time. I think Thursday 17th he had another bad episode, he had to go to the toilet every few minutes for a poo except there was only mucus coming out. His tummy was in spasm and again he looked so ill so I gave him activated charcoal. I didnít know what else to do (besides having him put to sleep). Heíd had the same thing Saturday the 12th and it went so I wanted to give him another chance. And the pooping did stop and he did eat. But you get the picture, really weird things going on.
Sunday 20th I let him have a run in the lounge and he looked quite content. He was walking like an old man, very shaky, but he had fun walking around and checking everything out and he even rolled in one of the cat litter trays... He didnít want to eat Sunday morning and looked bad again but he looked okay in the afternoon. This was horrible, when he went from one extreme to the other, one minute you thought he needed to be put to sleep, the next he was okay again (considering he was sick).
But Monday 21st, Reno had finally had enough. He didnít want to eat and didnít want to do his round through the house (while he was ill, he still wanted to check the whole house out every morning) so I phoned Michaela to ask when it would be convenient to have him put to sleep and an autopsy performed. She said after morning surgery. I think I would have gone mental if Michaela had been stressed or the slightest bit off with me but she was surprisingly nice and back to normal, the way that I feel comfortable talking to her. She was on her own that day and had a lot of operations and really too much work to cope with but she was still fine when I went to see her. I had done printouts of all the pictures I took during autopsies and operations for her and she had seen them and thought they were brilliant. So when we did the autopsy on Reno, she first showed me everything that she thought was abnormal and talked me through everything and I did pictures and she told me what to photograph and even from what angle. ;-) And then she cut out bits from every organ. Started with heart and lung, then she took both adrenal glands and samples of both kidneys and she took some lymph nodes, some intestine, pancreas, liver and spleen. Very thorough.
And then pathology came back on Reno... He died of Aleutian disease... This is the report:
Now - lethargy, inappetance, diarrhoea, splenomegaly and coughing.
Prognosis Not Applicable
Several tissue from a polecat ferret are examined (slides 1-6).
There are multiple infiltrates of lymphocytes and plasma cells in the periductal space in the pancreas, the renal intestitium, the portal areas of the liver, and the parenchyma of the adrenal gland, in this order from mild to severe. The most severe infiltrates, those in the adrenal, include several Mott cells.
Other lesions in the kidney include fibrosis, usually associated with the foci of lymphoplasmacytic infiltration, multifocal to diffuse thickening of the basement membrane of Bowman's capsule and the glomerular tuft, occasional glomerular sclerosis, dilation of renal tubules and a single cyst.
The liver has a diffuse hepatocellular vacuolar change (most likely the result of the prednisolone treatment).
There is distortion of the adrenal gland architecture with several small foci of nodular hyperplasia and formation of an eptithelium-lined cyst.
In the spleen there are large areas of hemorrhage, some necrosis (hematomas). The remaining parenchyma contains extramedullary hematopoietic tissue.
In the lung, some bronchi are obliterated by abundant mucus (bronchiectasis) and some mixed inflammation.
The lymph nodes are greatly expanded by the abundant lymphocytes and lesser plasma cells. Germinal centers are sometimes prominent. Lymphocytes extend into the adjacent adipose tissue.
No significant lesions are present in the section of small intestine examined.
The clinical history and histologic findings in this polecat ferret are consistent with a parvoviral infection and thus very supportive of the diagnosis of Aleutian disease. Other lesions included a mucous bronchitis, vacuolar hepatopathy (due to prednisolone) and Splenic hematomas.
Those news absolutely devastated me. I thought now I canít take in any more ferrets and have to sit back and watch all the ferrets die until theyíre all gone. The thought of this just about killed me. So far I have been able to cope with the losses because I have so many ferrets to help me over them. But just loosing ferrets until there arenít no more? What a horrendous thought... Chris Lloyd from Wessex ferret club sent me Avecon quick saliva test kits that test for antibodies in the saliva and I tested all ferrets and all tested negative. Iím somewhat relived but still donít believe Iím free of ADV. Chris said that 1 in 20 ferrets gets a false negative test and he doesnít believe that my only positive ferret had this happen. But he also said that if a ferret was positive for a long time, the virus might become dormant and not shed anymore and you wouldnít be able to test for it.
I keep wondering who brought it in, I think either Hobo and Gremlin or Bobby because those 3 have had bouts of illness. Now that I read up on ADV, Reno had all the symptoms and was just a classic case. It also explains why he had looked "dodgy" for so long and had some "muscle wasting". And with ADV, ferrets can become ill and show symptoms and then they recover again and appear well again. Well, 2 years ago, Hobo and Gremlin both had bouts of hind end weakness with high fever and last year Reno and Gremlin had it. I wonder if that was the ADV. Bobby has had diarrhoea on and off and doesnít look 100% healthy. He acts okay but you just get the feeling that heís not 100%, his coat isnít so good. So for the time being Iím cautious and will try not to take any more ferrets in. Iíll do the test again in half a year or so.
From what I have read about ADV, it is an awful disease. Iíve been feeling so low and depressed because I thought of the worst case scenario and pictured all ferrets dying of it in the next 2 years. But a friend sent me some more articles on ADV and they were not nearly as bleak as what I had read. So Iím trying to be positive! This is part of what she sent me:
And from Dr Williams:
There are certainly a number of ferrets that will test positive for the disease (running the CIEP test, which measures antibodies to ADV in a ferret's blood.) The presence of antibodies shows only that the animal has been exposed to the disease and is mounting a response.
The problem with AD is that the disease itself is largely a result of the OVERPRODUCTION of antibodies against the virus. These antibody-antigen complexes precipitate out in the blood vessels around the body, causing disease and ultimately death.
There is a percentage of animals that will be in contact with the virus, mount an antibody response, and in doing so, clear themselves of disease. But especially early on, it is impossible to tell whose response will be appropriate and stop, and whose will go into overdrive and result in clinical AD. This is why we always retest antibody-positive animals 6 months later (and often again after that.)
I also wonder if Bella, Baby and Fox had ADV. I read that in most cases, the kidneys are the worst affected and since those 3 had renal failure, I wonder if that was caused by ADV. I read their pathology reports again and the changes in Renoís organs that resulted in the diagnosis of ADV, well, Baby and Fox both had the same changes in their kidneys. I will ask some people to look at Babyís and Foxís pathology reports and let me know what they think and I may write to the pathology lab and ask them, too. I just need to know. So many questions and my head is just spinning...
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