Monday 24.11.03 we got a rescue ferret. On the 15th I had a visitor, Pat, a lady who really wants a ferret and was hoping to get one off me. And a week later I got an e-mail from some acquaintances, Leann and Joe, could I take their friendís ferret Spike in. They knew those people and their son had a ferret, a biting one. Spike was never let out, never handled and fed cheap cat food. So I thought ďyeah, a biter, I can deal with that, I bet he doesnít even bite and then I can give him to PatĒ so I said I would take him in and he came Monday. When Leann and Joe arrived I took him out of the carrier with my hands covered with the sleeves of my pullover and he didnít try to bite at all- so I uncovered my hands... Big mistake, he locked onto my right hand straight away so then I had to stick the little finger of my left hand into his mouth to get him to release my right hand. My hands were covered in little puncture wounds... So Leann, Joe and I went into the lounge and let Spike have a run and Leann said that she looked after Spike 3 months ago and he didnít bite at all so we thought Leann should try to handle him. So after having tea (Pete had got back home after his German lesson in the meantime), she went upstairs and as she got to the top of the stairs, Spike attacked her, he just attacked her hand and she wasnít even trying to pick him up. So when Joe, Pete and I were on our way up, we found Leann standing on the toilet. :-) Spike was still at the top of the stairs, ready to attack us, he really wanted to bite my legs. I just ran down the stairs, Pete followed me. Joe had wellies on, gloves and thick clothes so he picked Spike up (who bit his glove) and put him into his cage. Later on that night I got Spike back out of his cage and he left a few more bite marks on my hands... I then decided to handle him wearing gloves.
For the next few days I handled Spike a lot, I picked him up with one hand that was covered by a glove and then I stroked him with my other uncovered hand.
The following Friday he went to the vets to be castrated and he was so happy when he got back, I let him out straight away when we got back from the vets and for the first time he ran around and looked happy. Before he spent most of the time in his cage when it was his time out, he was so protective of his cage. Only came out when I was around and then only to terrorise me. From Friday night on I havenít handled him with gloves anymore, I mainly cover my hands with the sleeves of my pullover and handle him that way and when he settles down I stroke him and even hold him with my bare hands. I think weíre getting somewhere. Strange noises still scare him or sudden movements and then he will try and bite. I do wear thick bed socks now that I pull over the ends of my jogging suit bottoms so he doesnít bite my legs and feet. But his toilet habits are amazing! He only had 1 pee next to his toilet the evening he came and since then heís used the toilets 100%! In his cage and out of his cage! Iíve never seen this, he has no idea what a toilet is, he was never toilet trained, especially not in a house! All my rescues so far had loads of accidents on the floor and all over their cage when they first arrived but Spikeís 100% clean. He likes the raw meat as well and eats mince and chunks and heís even had lamb chunks so thatís good, too. :-)
Oh, if I hadnít taken him, he would have been killed, either hit over the head or thrown in with some terriers to make them vicious... I hate the thought that there are people who do such a thing, especially making dogs vicious for hunting by throwing live animals in with them. That is so sick. What goes on in their heads???!!! :-(
For the last few days, since the 29th/30th of November, Spike has been playing a lot. He loves ping pong balls, we have some coloured ones from the pet shop. Spike plays with them for hours and hours and the picture below shows where he plays, in the hall in the bubble wrap paper and he pushes his balls around and carries them and doesn't seem to get tired of it...
Must write a Spikey update! I canít describe how special Spike has become. And to think that a month ago I almost offered Spike to a friend (not because I didn't want Spike, a friend lost one of his ferrets and had 2 jills left, the one didn't play much, the other used to play with the ferret that had died and now didn't have a play friend and I thought Spike would be ideal for her) and Iíd already written the e-mail and told Pete and he had tears in his eyes and said ďno, you canít let Spike goĒ. So I deleted the paragraph about letting my friend have Spike. And Iím sooo glad I did! Spike just loves being with me and he goes mental at night, heís still out when I get ready for bed and he whizzes through the rooms, dooking, always coming to see me again. He is just so excited when Iím with him or somewhere upstairs that he becomes so vocal and excited and runs all over the place. I can wrestle with him with my hands and he doesnít hurt, he barely bites anyway when I wrestle with him. And he loves being cuddled and kissed and when I put him on the floor after a cuddle, he runs around all happy and excited again. :-) But you would have to see him to appreciate how wonderful and special he has become. And every day I think back of how he was, attacking me all the time and being really horrible and me being so scared of him that the word ďeuthanasiaĒ crossed my mind more than once. It has just shown me that you can change the worst biters. And that they turn into the most wonderful ferrets of all! :-)
At the beginning of 2004, I tried to put him in a group with Willow, Tara, Riley and Wesley but Wesley attacked Spike really badly so there was no way he could go into that group...
Then I happened to put my first 3 groups together (Fox & Reno; Rose, Jasmine, Hobo, Gremlin & Bobby; Willow, Tara, Riley & Wesley) and I didn't want to put Baby and Dana (who were with Fox and Reno) in with the big group because they were elderly so they went with Spike. But Baby and Dana didn't really play much with young Spike- so I decided to get some friends for him and in June 2004 I got Leo and Piper. I waited a little while until Leo and Piper grew bigger and then put Spike with them and he adored the babies from the very start and played really gently with them. :-)
Baby died in July 2004 and Dana died in April 2005 so from then on Spike was just with Leo and Piper.
Update- Spike's insulinoma (and surgery)
March 2006- Spike has become ill. 2 or 3 times he had a funny turn. He was fine one moment and the next he could barely walk and was stumbling around. The first time I saw this I got really frightened and thought it may be the heart. Went straight to the vets but his heart was fine and then it didn't happen again for a while.
July/ August- It is now obvious that something is wrong, Spike went off his dry food and only wants minced/ ground chicken and then he has put on a lot of weight. Around August time I realised he has low blood glucose and so he was started on a low dose of pred.
September- Spike has some really horrible low blood sugars. He gets food about 9.00 a.m. and gets time out with his group at around 9.30 and then he was either very quiet or would suddenly have hind end weakness. I let him out in the garden a few times to get him moving and then he was excited and ran around and then would suddenly crash. Where he could barely move. So I measured his blood glucose when he was really bad and it was 28.8 mg/dl. Another time he was feeling bad I measured it and it was 19.8 mg/dl. Yet 4 hours after food the blood glucose stabilises and is around 70-80 mg/dl. I donít know what to make of it. Jade who has insulinoma has a steady low blood glucose in the 60ís and so has Gremlin. But Spikeís BG is up and down like a yo-yo. Heís on 0.5 mg pred for the time being, morning and night. And after food he gets a dollop of high calorie sort of sugary vitamin paste. (Which is normally *not* done with insulinomic ferrets but Spike was different.) With this ďtreatmentĒ he doesnít show the symptoms of low sugars anymore and is *a lot* more active. Just donít know whatís going on with him. He had a blood test with protein electrophoresis and the creatinine was high at 1.18 mg/dl. Not sure what that means as Urea (BUN) is normal. Lymphocytes were high, too. And with the protein electrophoresis the gamma globulins were greater than 20% of the TP. But TP was normal. Iím just taking it one day at a time as he seems to be doing okay now.
October- Spike deteriorated badly middle of October. Iíd been trying to make my mind up whether to operate or not. Iíve never had insulinoma surgery done and was scared and didnít want anything to go wrong or for Spike to be in pain. But he went downhill so much, I kept upping his pred and heíd be better for a few weeks and then he would have constant low sugars again. I think beginning of October I upped the pred to 1mg morning and night. It worked for a little while as in he was able to run around a little but then his BG would plummet and soon his BG was constantly low and Iím talking about the low 20ís (20-25mg/dl). So I decided to have an operation done but was still scared and then I was in town on Wednesday the 18th and I stood there eating a baguette when Michaela spotted me and came over (she was on her lunch break) and we talked and she said that sheíd be off for 1 1/2 weeks from Friday on. So I got really scared that I put off Spikeís operation for so long and now I was at the point where I thought he wouldnít survive another 2 weeks.
So Thursday 19th I had Spike out in the morning and he was stumbling around and salivating and looked in a really bad way. So I phoned the vets and asked to speak straight to Michaela. I just asked whether she had a lot of work to do and asked if there was any way she could open up Spike. I said it wouldnít matter if there was no way she could do it and I would understand but I just had to ask. I felt quite uncomfortable asking but I had to. She said she didnít have time but since Spike was so bad it would be treated like an emergency so she said to come in at 2.00 p.m. and that she would operate. I really thought we would open him up and that his pancreas and maybe liver would be full of tumours like it happened with Mason and that we would put him to sleep. But Michaela found one obvious nodule and removed it. The rest of the pancreas looked okay. But the tumour looked like it had invaded some of the surrounding tissue so Michaela didnít just remove the nodule but also surrounding tissue. I was just sat down during the procedure, Michaela was in a hurry and did everything quickly and I thought Spike would not survive the operation. As far as I know, Michaela didnít even take the spleen out of the abdominal cavity, she just pulled out the pancreas and palpated it and removed the tumour. Spike BG was 25.2 before the operation so he was put on a 5% glucose drip and he wasn't intubated but just masked because Michaela wanted him done as quickly as possible. Not only because she didnít have time but also because Spikeís condition was so critical.
I left him at the vets and fetched him in the evening. He was still on a drip and looked out of it but he did have a lot of painkiller. And then I was scared that heíd develop pancreatitis or peritonitis. I was aware that the ferret pancreas is a lot tougher than in other animals but there is still a chance that complications can occur. Then Michaela said he would need a low fat diet and gave me Hillís i/d I think. I tried to feed him that Friday morning but Spike just gagged. I wasnít sure whether he was feeling ill or whether he didnít like the food (or both). He was supposed to have his drip (which continued to work fine during the night) removed Friday midday so I took him to the vets and I saw Brenda the anaesthetist, she was supposed to take the drip out but I asked her to do a BG test first. I thought theoretically the drip should stay in while Spike wasnít eating, on the other hand the BG could go very high and then he wouldnít need a glucose drip. So Mel, a big animal vet, came in to take blood. Spike was so good and held so still and Mel had no problem taking blood. The BG was 448.2mg/dl (high!). So the drip came out (and Spike again was sooo good and held so still) and Brenda gave me a bag with a saline solution to inject him with if needed.
At home I pureed some skinless chicken breast for Spike because he is used to eating raw chicken and I thought that is also low fat and something Spike knows and I offered him some after midday, sort of 24 hours after his operation- and he ate. I fed him 3 little meals ever day for about 5 days, at day 4 I also started to slowly mixed his chicken breast with his usual ground chicken/ beef mix and by day 6 he was back to 2 meals a day which he prefers. He is used to getting a tummy full of food morning and night (and of course he can eat some dry food if he wants to) and didnít like getting 3 small portions.
But at least his recovery was excellent. I had pain relief for him, Vetergesic (buprenorphine) and injectable generic Rimadyl. I gave Vetergesic Thursday night, Friday morning and Friday night and the Rimadyl Friday midday and Saturday midday, I think Sunday, too, but not sure. But from Friday on, Spike never showed any pain so I was happy. My worst fear was that he could end up in pain and suffer but he was just doing so good. I think I kept him in his little recovery cage for 4 days, then I let him out for short supervised periods and from day 7 I let him out with Leo and Piper. I was scared that Leo and Piper may not recognize Spike and start bullying him but luckily they had a quick sniff and decided he was still Spike and that they knew and liked him. ;-) I had had this problem before where one ferret had an anaesthetic for a dental or something and when I put him back with his group, he was bullied. They probably couldnít smell his scent because he smelled of gas...
Oh, by day 5 I also realized that Spike was glued. ;-) I hadnít noticed that he didnít have stitches. ;-)
One weird thing that happened though was that Spike was incontinent for about 2-3 days after the operation. This has also happened a few times before. Ferret has a (long) anaesthetic for a dental or something (longer than what you need for a simple blood test or x-ray) and then is incontinent for the next 24-48 hours. With Spike I had to change his bedding all through the day and night because he just emptied his bladder in his sleep. No idea why... The urine was just leaking out.
So anyway, Spike is *a lot* better than before. He is off his pred and a lot more active. His BG would plummet after his meals usually and then go up by midday but in the end it just stayed low. Well I took him back to the vets on Wednesday 1st of November and Michaela was very happy with him and tested his BG because I asked and it was 64.8mg/dl. Not horrendously high but much, much better. Plus his BG is stable and of course this is without pred. Before the op his BG would have been more like 24.8 at the time we measured. As I said, Spike is a lot more active and plays and dances with Leo and Piper so this is really great. What is not so great is the pathology:
Pancreatic Islet Cell Carcinoma
DESCRIPTION: Pancreatic tissue -1 sample received; 1 section examined.
This section contains a highly cellular neoplasm approximately 1cm in diameter. This is composed of cuboidal or polyhedral cells with a moderate amount of pale, slightly vacuolated cytoplasm. The cells are arranged chiefly as nests and cords, separated by a fine network of fibrovascular tissue. There is moderate nuclear atypia and mitoses are moderately frequent (up to 5 per high power field). The growth pattern at the periphery of the tumour is moderately infiltrative and occasional small clusters of neoplastic cells are apparently within the lumina of lymphatic vessels. Excision of this individual tumour appears complete, but this is probably of little consequence given that there is evidence of lymphatic invasion.
DIAGNOSIS: Pancreatic islet cell carcinoma.
DISCUSSION: The appearance is consistent with a pancreatic islet cell tumour and the degrees of nuclear atypia and mitotic activity together with the infiltrative behaviour and evidence of lymphatic invasion classify it as a carcinoma. 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 referrable to hypoglycaemia. Adenomas are generally small, well circumscribed and may be cured by excision, but carcinomas tend to be infiltrative, sometimes multiple and eventually metastasize to the draining lymph nodes, liver and sometimes other abdominal viscera. The prognosis, therefore, is very guarded. Peak prevalence of these tumours is between 4 and 7 years old and there is no sex predilection, although there is a suggestion that neutered animals are more frequently affected than intact ones.
So now I donít know what to expect... But at least we have bought him some more time and I hope itís a long time...
November- End of November Spike is doing really well. He is not showing symptoms of low BG, I have not measured it recently but he seems okay.
On 11 April 2007, Spike had a BG crash. I had been worried about him for a while, there were some hardly noticeable signs that his insulinoma may be coming back. Just split seconds where heíd stand there funny or have a slight wobble. But heís been okay, just a few days ago he played so much, took a toy off Poppy and took it indoors and then Poppy fetched it back out and Spike took it again to put it indoors and that went on for ages and he was absolutely fine. But the last few nights I saw him paw at his mouth a few times and tonight he was a bit wobbly and pawed at his mouth and then he suddenly got so weak that he just fell over on his side. He was shaky and just ran indoors and laid down on a bed. Completely crashed. A bit later he managed to get up the stairs, climbed up one of the cat frames and climbed into a bed with his last strength. So Iím quite shocked how he suddenly crashed like this and I donít know what to do... The pathology said that it was a carcinoma with evidence of lymphatic invasion and they said prognosis was very guarded. That was last October I think so 6 months ago.
April- Sometime in April I had to take Spike out of his group because Leo was being so aggressive. His aggressiveness was towards the ferrets from the other groups so when other ferrets were out, Leo got restless and paced along the cage front and wanted to get out to get the other ferrets. And because he couldn't get out, he would have a go at Piper and Spike if they were up and by his side. And when Leo had a go at Spike, Spike's BG would crash. I had taken in Honey on the 25th of March and Spike already had time out with her and Honey was so sweet with him and protective of him so I put Spike with Honey.
07 May- Spike had a horrible low sugar today, he was just lying on his back and when I picked him up he was as limp as a rag doll and drooling. For a minute I thought he may have an abscess in his mouth because of all the stuff around his mouth but it was just saliva. I gave him paste and then fed him his meat. It's just so odd, this tumour (like the last one) seems to release a lot of insulin every now and again so he can be stable one minute and crash badly the next- out of the blue. Oh, and he is on 1/2 mg of pred bid.
26 May- I've increased Spike's pred to 1mg twice a day. It doesn't seem to make a difference. He is fine most of the time but morning and night he crashes. Night worse than morning. Last night he was bad again and a few nights ago he was so out of it that I had him by my bed all night and kept checking on him, I was scared he'd die. I did give him glucose but he barely swallowed. At this rate he'll need surgery within 2 weeks. Oh, I may try diazoxide.
01 June 2007- I lost Spike today. I had a vet appointment and thought of asking about diazoxide. But then he was so flat and had a bad low BG that Michaela suggested letting him go. This completely threw me so I asked her to open him up first in case it is something we can fix, like just one tumour like last time. So she opened him up in the afternoon and it looked like there was metastasis all throughout the pancreas so we let him go. I took pictures but haven't looked at them yet. There were red spots everywhere, they looked like new blood vessels forming, maybe for the insulinomas? I don't know. I don't know if it was the edge of the pancreas or the intestine but Michaela said there was a lot of congestion, both blood and lymphatic congestion.
I was crying all day long. I started crying in the waiting room in the morning before I saw Michaela for the consultation. Then I was crying when I saw Michaela, I was crying my eyes out on the way home, then on the way home after I let Spike go, then at home. I have found this loss very hard, he was a special ferret like Willow. Then I beat myself up, I wish I had said that I wanted to try diazoxide first and if that doesn't work or stops working, then exploratory and possible euthanasia. I feel like he could still be here, maybe the diazoxide would have helped.
I think the hardest thing was that I never got to hold him a last time or say good-bye. I left him at the vets in the morning and when I returned, he was already anaesthetised on the table...
I didn't have any tissues sent to the lab because it was obvious what he died of- pancreatic islet cell carcinoma.
Spike was the most loving and amazing ferret. Not a day passed when I didn't think of how vicious he was at first and how sweet and cuddly he'd become. Willow and Spike were my faviourite ferrets in the last few years. I've been feeling very low with both of them gone...
Before Willow died, Pete took pictures of Willow and me and Spike and me for an article in some magazine. I never got to see the magazine with the article but when the woman who wrote it sent me the article, I was really upset because the way she wrote about me just wasn't me. But at the end of the day I had some pictures of my favourite ferrets and me that I wouldn't have had otherwise.