On 06/09/2001 we got yet another stray rescue ferret... A lady who runs a badger rescue had a ferret taken to her, a little stray. She apparently walked into the kitchen of some people so they took it to the badger lady. She managed to find out about me and gave me a call on Wednesday the 5th so we went Thursday the 6th to pick the kit up. I put my hand into her cage and she went right for me and bit me. Then I dangled the sleeve of my pullover in the cage and she locked onto that... We stayed with the lady and her husband for a while and then went back home. The baby had 2 huge ticks on her so first thing I did was take her to the bathroom and I wrapped the sleeve of my pullover around my hand and held her like that so she couldnít bite me and I was surprised that she held still enough that I could get the ticks off. We have this hook, you put it around the tick and unscrew it and it was the first time I did that and put the ticks into the sink and down the plughole... Then I noticed that fleas were crawling all over her so put some Frontline on her and then I had the best idea and got my flea comb and combed her! It worked really well. I guess itís easier to comb fleas out of the thin coat of a kit than the thick and longer coat of a big adult ferret. Little one soon started to trust me and didnít bite me hard anymore and she also had a bath because she was so filthy and she was okay then and by the night sheíd stopped biting me. I could handle her and pet her and she didnít bite... She also had little ticks on her ears so I put Frontline on her ears and she also had an abscess, looked like from a bite wound. I took the scab off and squeezed it a little but it seemed it was on the mend, not much puss in there. She had some more little wounds but wasnít bad but she was terribly skinny... So I fed her a lot and often until she got a better weight- which didn't take long. The morning after we got her she did go for me when I opened her cage and put my hand in but she soon remembered that Iím the nice new mummy who doesnít hurt her and feeds her so she stopped biting and hasnít bitten since. Only when sheís playing. ;-)

By now, little Willow baby is huge! I weigh my ferrets at the beginning of every month and around the 9th of September, Willow was 650g, on the 4th of October she was 925g! She is heavier than Baby and Dana... All my girls are between 900g and 1kg. I've cut Willows meals back a little so she won't become too fat... Willow is so strange, I'm sure she's too big for her age, she's obviously got the weight of an adult ferret but still has her baby features and her baby behaviour so she is such a funny thing! :-) She plays so hard when she's out and shows no sign of being tired but put her back into her cage and hammock and she'll fall asleep instantly. ;-)

I've been taking pictures of Willow which isn't easy as she won't hold still and everything I do is play for her so it's almost impossible to get some pictures... But one night she calmed down while I was holding her so we took some pictures then...

Willow playing :-)

Willow playing :-)

Update 19/02/02

Wednesday the 23rd of January, I had Willow and Tara spayed and my friend's ferret Tricky had a dental. When I fetched the girls, Tricky was already coughing. At home, Tara and Willow started and Willow sounded really bad at night, very congested. I was sure that is was fluid in the lungs so I gave all 3 ferrets some of Jack's furosemide... That helped. I phoned the vets Thursday but they didn't sound worried at all and said I should just keep an eye on them. Saturday I took Tricky and Willow in to the vets, both were rattling badly, Tricky's right side of the lungs sounded like it was full of fluid (the left side sounded clearer), and the vet didn't know what to say, she said there was definitely fluid in the chest and she gave both girls a shot of lasix and sent me home with antibiotics (Synulox). My vet has no idea how that happened. I thought Tara was okay and had got rid of her fluid in the chest but then she started coughing again so I gave her some more of Jack's furosemide and I put her on antibiotics as well. This has *never* happened before... All three girls were intubated. Tricky was very overweight and Willow was on the podgy side but Tara is very slim. There's not one thing those girls have in common except that they all had the tubes down their throat. But how does that cause fluid build-up in the lungs? Willow was poorly and stopped eating so I had to hand feed her for over a week. She had furosemide morning and night for over a week, Tara had furosemide once a day for a week. Both were on antibiotics for 8 days. The fluid has got better but they still sound congested now! If they go for a walk or have a play, they will suddenly sound congested. Then the congestion will go as suddenly as it came...

Tara and Willow

Willow and Bella playing

Shortly after her spay, I noticed a "sore" on Willow's back below her left shoulder. I thought it was a reaction to an antibiotic shot. A few days later I noticed yet another one of the round skin lesions. I blamed it on the second shot she had when she had another antibiotic and diuretic shot. But when I noticed a third one, I became worried. I shaved the coat around the lesions to have a better look. First I thought they were abscesses but they didn't behave like an abscess, they were very superficial and there was no puss seeping out. Plus Willow had been on antibiotics for 8 days, yet those things happily developed, not at all affected by the antibiotic (Synulox) which usually makes abscesses disappear so quickly. They start as yellow/green(ish) round circles with a red circle of thickened skin around them, then you see a red dot appear in the centre, this dot becomes bigger and turns into a bloody looking scab which soon covers the whole sore and then the scab gets smaller until it is healed. A friend said they look like a fungal skin infection, probably candida. She suggested putting Canaural ear drops on the lesions as Canaural has an ingredient that works for fungal infections, fungal ear infections but she has found it worked when her ferret had a fungal skin infection. It worked, the 2 smaller lesions never got as big or bad as the first lesion that I had discovered and healed quicker. They're still healing now but have almost gone. [Update- the lesions were probably from burns when Willow was lyimg on her back on a heating pad.]

This is what the lesions looked like (on the first and fourth of February):

Lesion 01/02/02

Lesion 04/02/02

The lesions on the 16th of February, the scab is slowly coming off:

Lesion 16/02/02

Update 30/05/03

Willow has been poorly and had an operation, this is her story:

I first took Willow to the vets on the 5th of February, she hadn't moulted and her coat didn't look good and she looked "adrenal". So I thought I bring her in for tests, she had an x-ray taken, blood test but everything was inconclusive...

On the 22nd of April, I took Willow to the vets again because she had a lump in her abdomen and was generally not looking so good. We saw Liz the big animal vet. She looked at Willow's lump and suggested it was a hernia and to keep an eye on it.

On the 29th of April I took Willow back to the vets, Michaela was back from her 2 week break. I just wanted to discuss Willow and possibly exploratory surgery. Michaela said the hair loss and smell looked like a hormonal problem, i.e. adrenal disease. But then she looked at Willow underneath and noticed that her anal glands were completely full. I thought Willow couldnít possibly have full anal glands as she poofs (empties them) on me almost every day when she cuddles and relaxes. So Michaela wanted to empty them. I said lets go out into the garage, I thought the garage doors would be open. They werenít so we did it in a closed off garage... Willow screamed, it hurt her so much. I know I canít stand the smell and held her away from me, I get so squeamish, the whole thing grosses me out. I also didnít look, Willow tried to bite, she was screaming, I felt like pulling her away from Michaela. The one gland just went "pop", luckily I didnít hear it. Then the horribly, gooey stuff was dripping down, luckily I didnít see it. I mean I glanced at the garage floor and saw a few big spots of where the glands had emptied and it had shot out. I felt so nauseated and opened the garage door and stuck my head out of the garage into the hall way. Michaela wiped Willowís bum and then I walked off, even Michaela looked pale now. So we all went back into the treatment room and Pete and Michaela kept talking about it and I couldnít hear another word I felt so sick so I raced into the waiting room- and found a woman in there, looking at me puzzled. Weíd had the very last appointment that night so I had expected an empty waiting room. So I explained to the lady what had happened, still holding Willow at armís length... So Willowís anal glands were *really* bad and she was put on strong antibiotics. But Michaela had this wild theory. That the anal glands may have been causing the body smell. And Willow has obviously been in a lot of pain and discomfort for a long time so this could have caused stress and the constant stress could have raised cortisol levels and that could have caused hair loss. So wanted to wait a week to see if the body odour goes. Willow was a completely different ferret that night, she *played*! She had been so quiet, hardly playing, always going to bed etc. But that night she wasnít interested in cuddling, all she did was play. I would be sooo happy if Michaelaís theory was right and Willow didnít have an adrenal problem...

Anyway, after she had her anal glands expressed, I kept feeling her tummy to feel the lump (hernia) she has and then I kept feeling all over her tummy (because it feels sooo odd and way different to what the other ferrets feel like...) and found something hard in her lower abdomen. So back to the vets Tuesday the 6th of May which was the 3rd Tuesday in a row! And Michaela felt it too so I wasnít imagining it... She was pressing hard and Willow was in pain and so much so that she tried to bite Michaela. Then she had a pee on the table and Michaela sucked some up into a syringe to test the urine. I thought maybe it hurt Willow when Michaela pressed on her full bladder but then Michaela had another feel and Willow was still in pain. We scheduled her for a scan for the following Monday. Wednesday Michaela phoned to tell me the result of the urine test, something about a lot of white cells in it and she thought Willow had a urinary tract infection so Willow is now on Baytril. She was on a very strong antibiotic for a week and then 2 days after finishing it she is on another antibiotic...

So Willow had the scan Monday the 12th of May. Iíd been a nervous wreck, I donít think I can stand this for much longer. Sunday night I had nightmares that we opened her up and she was full of tumours. So Monday we first did an x-ray, I wasnít happy about it because sheíd only had an x-ray 3 months ago. But at least this time we saw something, not in her abdomen but her heart got bigger. 3 months ago it was 2 Ĺ ribs "long", now it was 3 ribs long. Also there isnít much air space around the lungs, itís just really weird. Michaela doesnít know whatís wrong, Willow has been congested a lot so there may be water around the heart underneath the skin that goes around the heart. She could either have cardiomyopathy or a tumour that is causing the fluid. For the time being she has been put on diuretics and Enacard. This is not good... Willow then had a scan and the blood vessels to the heart seem bigger than they should be, Michaela also scanned the lump that is by the bladder and it appeared to be fluid filled, so maybe a cyst? Michaela said we may still have to go in but because of the fluid in her chest she didnít want to do it Monday. So Willow is one big mystery, why her, she is not even 2 years old! And one minute she curls up on my lap and seems to be in pain, like abdominal pain, she arches her back and doesnít lie on her tummy, she shivers and closes her eyes. Then half an hour later she is up playing like nothing is wrong...

Willow is slowly deteriorating. I think Wednesday the 21st of May we saw Michaela again and we made an appointment for Willowís operation. Wednesday the 28th sheíll have an exploratory surgery. I am dreading it... I will be taking her in at 12.00 noon and then Willow will have her operation more or less straight away... I will be observing it and taking photos. Her hair loss is very noticeable now and she looks very adrenal, her ribs are prominent with no fat on them at all. She is shivering a lot and looks in pain quite a few times a day. So weíll open her up and hope that she only has a dodgy adrenal gland which can be taken out and that the other lumps are benign growths... I so hope we can fix whatever is wrong but I dread opening her up and she is full of cancer...

Willow in the morning before the operation (you can see the thin coat on her back):

Willow stretching :-)

So the dreaded day, Wednesday the 28th approached. I'd been crying my eyes out for the last few weeks, Willow is such a special ferret, I can't really put it into words. Soon after we got her she decided to bond with me- big time. She is always looking for me, always wanting to be close to me, her favourite thing is being curled up in my arms or on my lap. So many special things she does that you have to see to understand.

But by the 28th I'd completely shut down the emotional part of my brain where Willow was concerned. Otherwise I couldn't have coped. I took her to the vets just before noon and waited until about 1.00 p.m. Then Michaela called us into the operating theatre. Willow had had some pre med, atropine to keep her heart rate up and vetergesic for pain relief. I didn't watch it when Willow was anaesthetised or intubated, I hate to see how the ferrets fight the gas anaesthetic. I also didn't watch Michaela cut Willow open, I just heard the scissors cutting... Then Michaela said "oh yes, it was a hernia!". That was the lump she originally had back on the 22nd of April. But once she was open, I watched. Willow was cut open from top to bottom, first Michaela checked the lump by her bladder which looked very bad. Michaela thinks it was an ovarian remnant that had started to grow and had become ulcerated, or maybe an ovarian tumour developed. It looked painful! Then Michaela checked all organs and all looked beautifully healthy! :-) Then up to the kidneys and the adrenal glands. A big animal vet came in and Michaela said she was looking for the adrenal glands and the big animal vet said "oh god, I can't even find them in a cow!". But Michaela quickly found them, they were packed in fat, they looked fine through the fat and Michaela palpated them and said they felt fine so she didn't want to cut through the fat. She concluded that the adrenal glands were healthy and the problem she had was the growth near her bladder. So she removed it, quite amazing to watch. The growth had it's own blood supply, plenty of it. Michaela had to put 2 or 3 stitches in to stop bleeding. Then she sewed Willow back up which must have taken about 45 minutes! Again, quite amazing. First the muscle membrane (or what it is called) was sewn, then the skin (I think), both were done extremely tidy with loads of sutures. Then the skin was done again, not as many sutures as the other 2 layers. Willow then had a Baytril injection and Rimadyl for pain and she had fluid injected under her skin to prevent dehydration, she was a bit dehydrated. I stayed with Willow until she came round, I held her and gave her water with a syringe when she was awake. She was thirsty. Then I went home for 2 hours so Willow could rest and came back for evening surgery, Michaela wanted to see her again and Willow was amazingly bright! Of course drugged up to her eye balls with pain killer but I wouldn't have dreamt that she would be so bright in my wildest dreams! She ate that night and rested.

Willow's tummy

Willow's tummy

Thursday she was still bright and I gave her some more Rimadyl, 1/5th of a 20mg tablet. She ate well and I let her out for 5 minutes every now and again and she was also allowed to see her group, she cleaned everybody, including Riley! Before, all she did was bite Riley around the ears! Bella also cleaned Willow and Willow was so happy to see everybody.

Friday another good day, eating well but I still needed to give Rimadyl.

Saturday she was a lot brighter, eating well, very little or no pain.

Update 05/06/03

Willow recovered well and on Wednesday the 4th of June I took her stitches out, some had already come out. But some of the skin on her tummy was hanging down, like a pot bellied pig, I kept feeling her sutures but they felt okay but I thought we better get her checked out by Michaela. So we took her in on Wednesday and Michaela noticed she had another hernia... Michaela stitched her up sooo well but still some fat came through the muscle layer (I think) and Michaela could get her little finger through the hole. So Willow will have surgery to fix it on Monday the 9th...

The lab report had come though and was extremely interesting. Apparently Willow had an adrenal tumour? But the growth we removed was where her left ovary would have been, the adrenal glands weren't involved at all... This is the report:

Laboratory report


Abdominal pain. Dorsal alopecia. Regularly impacted anal sacs. Large amounts of abdominal fat. Cardiomegaly. Remove cystic looking growth from caudal L kidney.


Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma

Suggested Diagnosis Ė Guarded Prognosis

This para-renal, cystic, abdominal mass has the histological hallmarks of an adrenal cortical carcinoma. It is composed of pleomorphic cell populations comprising large, polyhedral cells with abundant, eosinophilic, finely vacuolated (microvesicular) cytoplasm; smaller, more basophilic cells; and large cells with clear, or macrovesicular, cytoplasm. These three basic cell types are present in variable proportions as mixed sheets, or as smaller nests or cords of a single cell type, surrounded and separated by a fairly generous amount of fibrous stroma. There is considerable nuclear pleomorphism, with occasional atypia, and a few mitotic figures can be found, but the mitotic index is not particularly high. A few variable-sized cysts are present within the mass, which is encapsulated, with no evidence of infiltration into the surrounding connective tissue. The histological appearance is consistent with adrenal cortical carcinoma, though the location described, at the caudal edge of the kidney, is atypical.

According to many sources, adrenal cortical tumours are the second most common neoplasms in ferrets, after islet cell tumours of the pancreas. As with islet cell tumours they are more frequently recorded in spayed females and castrated males than entire animals. Adenomas are small and usually present as a discrete nodule within an otherwise unremarkable gland, while carcinomas are large, frequently completely effacing the normal architecture of the gland. Growth of proliferative tissue beyond the capsule of the gland, however, is not a reliable indicator of malignancy as it may be seen with adenoma or even just hyperplasia, as well as with carcinoma. Distant metastasis apparently occurs infrequently, so early surgical removal of the affected gland can be curative, even with carcinoma, especially when there is no overt evidence of extracapsular invasion, as here. Nevertheless, as the tumour is potentially malignant, a guarded prognosis is appropriate.


Update 16/06/03

Willow had surgery again on Monday the 9th to fix her hernia. I was really worried again, thought she came through a big operation allright and now she would die during a small surgery. But she was fine and when I fetched her from the vets, she was bright. This time she healed well, stitches came out today and she's looking good and is so playful! :-)

The clinical signs of the adrenal tumour are reversing nicely. Within the first week after her tumour removal, she lost most of her abdominal fat and her strong smell. Now last weekend (2 1/2 weeks after surgery) she started growing a new coat! :-) It's growing pretty fast. After the surgery to remove the hernia, she developed a lot of sores on her back but they are healing now, too. She is shedding a lot of skin, big flakes of skin are coming off, like you'd have after a sunburn. I'm just glad she's returning back to normal.

These are 2 replies from Dr Williams, I wrote to him and sent him pictures and the path report and he sent me the first reply. I then asked if Willow's adrenal tumour could have grown without the adrenal glands being affected, I also said all the clinical signs were reversing, and he then sent the second reply:

Dear Ulrike:

This may represent a metastatic focus of carcinoma (they will rarely metastasize), or it could be part of an ectopic focus of adrenal tissue in which a carcinoma had formed. We do see a lot of ectopic adrenal tissue in this species. It will be interesting to follow her adrenal glands over the next few years.

An ovarian remnant (a very rare condition) should not be the cause of this phenomenon, and it also should not be related to any pre-existent heart condition. Interesting case.

With kindest regards,

Bruce Williams, DVM

Dear Ulrike:

Yes, the condition is possible, but I would treat this ferret as any other adrenal ferret and maintain extra vigilance for signs of recurrent disease.

With kindest regards,

Bruce Williams, DVM

Willow, Riley & Wesley

Riley & Willow

[Update September 2007- When I lost Willow, I couldn't bring myself to update her page. Loosing her has devastated me. She was my most special little girl, always coming up to me and wanting to be held and cuddled. Just the way she would come running to me and put her front legs against my leg so I could pick her up. The expression on her face, the sparkle in her eyes. I cried for her for a good half year before it got easier. I still feel lost and empty now. The updates I put in now are taken from e-mails to friends...

I just didn't think she was dying, when she had a blood test in the middle of May, it came back as renal failure. But Rose was diagnosed with renal failure in January and was still fine so I thought both Rose and Willow were misdiagnosed and I was just in denial the whole time. Plus her symptoms were so odd and not typical renal failure symptoms and I still don't know what else went on inside her...]

Update 11 May 2006

I was at the vets to get Willow checked over yet again and book her in for a blood test and x-ray, I think she may have adrenal disease again, she had an ectopic adrenal tumour removed 3 years ago when she was 2, the tumour had caused her pain. Now she has some slight adrenal symptoms again, pot belly appearance, thin coat, no undercoat and she feels pain by her kidneys. I know that you canít usually see adrenal tumours on x-ray but I want her x-rayed, also her chest, before we do any exploratory. And a blood test to check her organs and everything. And while she is anaesthetised, Michaela can palpate her abdomen and kidneys/ adrenal glands. I hate it that Willow needs another operation, she is my favourite little girl and I could just cry thinking about her being sick again...

Bobby lying on Gremlin & Willow

[At some point, probably during May, I separated her from Wesley. She was in a group with Tara, Riley and Wesley but then Tara and Riley died and Wesley picked on her and was just too rough with her which was bad when she became ill so she was put in a group with Rose, Gremlin and Bobby. They all got on very well...]

Willow, Rose & Gremlin, my sick girls

Update 29 June 2006

Willow is really ill now. One minute I think itís one thing, then I think itís something else... When she had an x-ray in May, the heart was enlarged (but it had already been enlarged 3 years ago when she had her adrenal operation), the bronchi looked bad so Michaela said she thought Willow had chronic bronchitis and that caused the heart to enlarge? A blood test showed the kidneyís werenít working properly and of course I think thereís an adrenal issue so Iíve been really upset. She looks very bad and one minute I think itís pain from the adrenal tumour as the adrenal tumour that she had 3 years ago was painful. At the moment I think the main problem is the bronchitis. She has problems breathing and gets congested. This morning she was sooo bad and I felt so helpless. She was really congested and had problems bringing it up and was lying on the ground having problems breathing. In the end she brought up this sticky white foam and then she was better but completely drained. Iíve been wanting bronchodilators for weeks now. Last week or so the vets actually got some capsules from the pharmacy- and then they went missing. So Iím waiting and waiting and nothing seems to be done to help her.

Then I donít know what her main problem is. 3 years ago when she had the painful ectopic adrenal tumour, she was very ill, not moving much at all because of the pain, and she was congested then and her heart enlarged and Michaela thought her heart enlarged and she was congested because of the stress from the pain. Back then Willow was put on heart medication and Frusemide. After the operation she was completely fine, didnít need any medication and was not in pain. Now the congestion has come back big time, I mean sheís always had a little problem but it never bothered her or stopped her from playing. Over the last month or two she has stopped playing. There has been the odd good day but now she just hasnít got the energy or breath to do much at all. She walks a few steps and is out of breath. Iíve been wondering whether the main problem is an adrenal tumour again or whether her main problem is the lung issue? Then I wonder whether it is ADV. Reno had similar problems last year, went off his food, had bad kidney values like Willow (not horrendously bad but not normal, either) and he had mucous in his lungs/ bronchi. This is a bit of Renoís pathology report: ďIn the lung, some bronchi are obliterated by abundant mucus (bronchiectasis) and some mixed inflammation.Ē That is what Willow has got. But Iíve never seen her bring up so much white sticky foamy mucous before. I mean what do I do? She was on Furosemide and Enacard and a 1/4 mg prednisolone once or twice a day. I have stopped the Enacard as it was not doing anything. So sheís on Furosemide and pred now. And Iím waiting for the bronchodilator (Theophylline). Which of course isnít available for animals so I need to get 200 mg capsules for humans and she needs 4.25 mg per kg! I feel like sheís dying and I donít know what to do. If it is ADV, could she get over it? I know they can get episodes of sickness and then it can go into remission for a while? Even though Iím not too hopeful. She is my favourite and Iíve been crying so much over the last month because I canít imagine loosing her. It is hurting a lot.

Update 7 July 2007

Iíve had a bad week with the ferrets, Willow looked so ill and then Rose deteriorated and was actually worse than Willow (Rose was put to sleep today). Weíve had very hot, humid weather with thunderstorms late afternoon. So Willow, Rose and Gremlin (who has cardiomyopathy) have not been feeling their best. I took Willow off all her medications and for a few days she only had a bit of Furosemide and then we added Theophylline. It didnít do all that much for her and then she became very congested again. Eventually she was in so much trouble, she brought up a lot of white, sticky mucous. It was like she was vomiting but Iím sure it came off her chest. So I quickly put her back on the pred. With chronic bronchitis and asthma, the pred is given as an anti-inflammatory, the bronchi become inflamed and then produce a lot of mucous so the pred reduces the inflammation and mucous production. So she was on pred, Theophylline and a tiny bit of Furosemide and the congestion was much better but then she started sounding fluidy so I increased the Furosemide again and the last few days sheís been okay. It is really difficult, I reduced the Furosemide because itíll dry out the mucous and makes it hard for Willow to bring it up. It was very sticky when she brought some up. But when I went very low with the Furosemide, she got fluid on her lungs. It sounds different to the mucous. So itís very hard. All the medications somewhat control the mucous and fluid but even when sheís not completely congested, she is not that much better. Her breathing sounds sort of loud, even when it is not fast or laboured. But you can hear the breathing. And she gets out of breath so quickly. Sheíll run a few steps and then lie down. Like sheís out of breath. I put her back on heart medication but even that doesnít really make a difference.

Update 9 July 2006

After Rose was put to sleep on Friday 7th, Willow deteriorated on the Saturday and Sunday, she was sick on Saturday and passed blood with her stools.

Willow is looking so bad right now and Iím wondering whether I should call the vet out (it is Sunday). One minute she looks like she is suffering and in pain and then she perks up and looks sort of bright and interested in things. So itís so hard not knowing what to do... But I donít think she has a simple bronchitis, I donít know whether a chronic bronchitis is worse than a normal one. I donít even know if it is chronic bronchitis. Maybe itís ADV. Maybe cancer. I just donít know. But she looks really bad and I donít think itís as simple as a chronic bronchitis. She seems much worse.

Later that day...

I had Willow put to sleep tonight. Around 7.00 pm or so she started trying to vomit again and she had no strength, she just lay there heaving. So I called the vets, I couldnít leave her like this. I had a hard time speaking to the emergency receptionist, trying not to cry. I think the last time I was like this was when I phoned up to have Angel put to sleep. I was okay at the vets, Sarah, the Canadian vet, was on call. She is a big animal vet and was scared of ferrets (until she met mine and sheís sort of okay now) and put Willow to sleep and didnít mind doing the autopsy this time. Last time I called her out at night was to have Jasmine put to sleep. Well, Sarah didnít have the experience to do the autopsy as good as Michaela or the other small animal vets but it was okay. The kidneys were in a very bad state. The lab report came back as ďend stage kidney failureĒ. Unfortunately she didnít find the adrenal glands and didnít look for them and when it came to sampling the lungs, she only put one small tissue sample in, I would have preferred samples from both lung lobes. Do the lungs collapse when the animal is put to sleep and the chest is opened? Willowís lungs were dark red and light red and Sarah said one of the colours was a collapsed lung and the other colour was a healthy, normal looking lung. She sent the kidneys off and some liver and when she cut in the liver, a lot of sort of thick dark fluid came out of it. I had never seen this sort of thing before... I think more fluid came out of the spleen. Then suddenly some milky looking fluid appeared and I wish Sarah had made more of an effort to find out where that came from. We had a nice chat and Sarah made the whole thing pleasant. But at home it hit me really hard. When I went to bed I was crying for hours. Every time I put my head down on the pillow, I started crying again. And Iíve not been much better all week. I keep thinking of Willow, how she used to come running to me, put her feet up against my leg to be picked up. Her whole behaviour and everything about her was so special. My little girl... And now sheís gone. I have been so brave throughout all the losses but loosing Willow has really devastated me...

I never thought she was in renal failure this bad or I would have had her put to sleep sooner. I thought her lungs were giving her the most problems. She even played a little bit still and still looked bright every now and again. Even when we arrived at the vets and I took Willow out of the cage, she looked bright and looking at her you would never have guessed that she was in such a bad way...

Blood test values from 15.05.06


T protein 63 g/L (43-60)
Albumin 28 g/L (34-48)
Globulin 35 g/L (2-24)
A:G ratio 0.8
Urea 28.2 mmol/l (0.2-16.1) High
Creatinine 101 umol/L (8.8-106)
ALT 82 U/L (48-292)
ALP 17 U/L (14-144)
Bilirubin 4.5 umol/l (0-17)

Sample appearance : Plasma appears lipaemic.


RBCs 6.38 x 10^12/L (4.75-13.1)
Haemoglobin (Hgb) 11.8 g/dL (6.8-20.2)
Hct 29.6 % (36-53) Low
MCV 46.4 fL (42.3-65.7)
MCH 18.6 pg (14.2-20.0)
MCHC 400 g/dL (280-400)
WBCs 6.5 x 10^9/L (2-10)
Neutrophils 4.5 x 10^9/L (0.74-6.7)
Band Neutrophils 0.0 x 10^9/L (0.026-1.97)
Lymphocytes 1.8 x 10^9/L (0.25-7.75)
Monocytes 0.1 x 10^9/L (0.022-1.17)
Eosinophils 0.1 x 10^9/L (0.022-1.77)
Platelet count 493 x 10^9/L (113-500)

Smear Report

No prepared smears submitted. Platelet numbers appear plentiful with occasional aggregates in the tail of the smear. Erythrocytes show mild anisocytosis and crenation (probably due to postal aging). Leukocytes show some degenerative changes with moderately frequent smudged and basket cells; the differential count should therefore be interpreted with caution.

The significance of hyperglobulinaemia depends upon which fraction of the globulins is increased and this can only be determined by serum protein electrophoresis. Lymphoma is among the possible causes, but acute inflammation, chronic antigenic stimulation and chronic liver disease can all induce a hyperglobulinaemia. The elevated blood urea suggests possible renal disease.

Willow's pathology report:

Sections of liver, kidney, spleen, heart and lung from a 5-year-old, neutered female ferret were examined microscopically.

End-stage kidney and Pulmonary Congestion

Not Applicable

Histopathology Report

Sections of liver, kidney, spleen, heart and lung from a 5-year-old, neutered female ferret were examined microscopically.

LIVER: Microscopy reveals very mild, patchy hepatocytic lipidosis, considered to be within normal limits, otherwise the section is histologically largely unremarkable.

KIDNEY: The section reveals severe pathological changes: there is widespread interstitial fibrosis associated with interstitial lymphocytic infiltration; variable tubular atrophy, dilatation and mineralization; thickening of Bowman's capsules, with adhesions to glomerular tufts; glomerular sclerosis and atrophy; and a single large focus of osseous metaplasia.

SPLEEN: The red pulp is moderately congested and contains a substantial amount of haemopoietic tissue (extramedullary haemopoiesis, or EMH). The white pulp is unremarkable.

HEART: The ventricles appear moderately dilated, but the relative thicknesses of the left and right ventricular walls appear within normal limits and there are no histopathological changes in the myocardium to suggest a true dilated cardiomyopathy. The valve leaflets included in the section, and the wall of the aorta, appear unremarkable.

LUNG: The section reveals moderate congestion and patchy alveolar effusion. A fair amount of mucoid material is present in the lumina of mainstem bronchi, but there is little in the way of associated inflammation.

DIAGNOSIS: End-stage kidney.

DISCUSSION: The changes in the section of kidney examined are those of a virtually end-stage kidney, probably a consequence of long-standing, progressive, chronic interstitial nephritis. Typically, the changes at this stage are such that the original cause could not be deduced. There is also evidence of incipient pulmonary failure, with alveolar and bronchial effusions, but no significant accompanying inflammation, while the dilatation of the cardiac chambers suggests early, secondary cardiomyopathy (there are no changes to indicate primary dilated cardiomyopathy), possibly a consequence of anaemia.

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.

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