Archive for January, 2012

Ferret Time

Friday, January 20th, 2012

It has been a while since I blogged about a spe­cific species and my good friend has recently reminded me that fer­rets could use a lit­tle more air time. So here it goes…

There are some com­mon mis­con­cep­tions regard­ing fer­rets includ­ing that they are a type of rodent. This is not the case. Fer­rets are in the weasel fam­ily, aka Mustel­idae. Fer­rets are related to otters, skunks, weasels, and pole­cats. In fact, fer­rets have odif­er­ous scent glands sim­i­lar to a skunk  that have to be removed prior to enter­ing a home but they can still carry a nat­ural musky scent. Fer­rets are true car­ni­vores with a high pro­tein and low carbohydrate/fiber need. They need good social­iza­tion espe­cially as kits (babies) to pre­vent issues of bit­ing later on. They need plenty of sleep and ide­ally at least 4 hours of play time a day. They can learn how to walk on a leash, use a lit­ter box, and get a long with cats and dogs. They are play­ful, joy­ful, affec­tion­ate creatures.

In gen­eral fer­rets have a 7–9 year lifes­pan but after the age of three,they are con­sid­ered senior pets. If you are famil­iar with fer­rets, you are prob­a­bly aware of the mul­ti­tude of dis­eases that they are pre­dis­posed to. Almost every fer­ret will even­tu­ally be diag­nosed with one or more of the fol­low­ing: Adrenal dis­ease, insuli­noma, lym­phoma, and/or heart dis­ease. Many of these dis­eases can be man­aged to help improve a fer­rets qual­ity of life, but it is not cheap and often an older fer­ret requires alot of med­ical care at home and at the vet. Because of this, many shel­ters are over run with fer­rets because peo­ple buy the adore­able juve­niles but are not pre­pared for the expense and ail­ments that come with time. Most peo­ple aren’t even aware that fer­rets should be vac­ci­nated yearly against rabies and dis­tem­per, let alone have yearly to bi-yearly blood screen­ings. Also, fer­rets love to chew soft rub­bery­ob­jects and the eat­ing of for­eign bod­ies is a com­mon enough prob­lem in the young­sters which requires sur­gi­cal inter­ven­tion.
I hope peo­ple are not dis­suaded by this post from adopt­ing (ide­ally from a shel­ter) a cute, smart, enter­tain­ing fer­ret. But I do want peo­ple to know what to expect. I highly rec­om­mend doing some research on spe­cific food and cage setup rec­om­men­da­tions as well as cre­at­ing a sav­ings account for the med­ical care. You can get pet insur­ance for fer­rets but check into what is and is not covered.

Check out these sites for great resource information:

Amer­i­can Fer­ret

As much as this infor­ma­tion comes from my vet­eri­nary knowl­edge, I am also speak­ing from expe­ri­ence. I have had so many won­der­ful expe­ri­ences of own­ing fer­rets of my own. I have also expe­ri­enced the dif­fi­cul­ties of man­ag­ing adrenal dis­ease, insuli­no­mas and lym­phoma (amongst 5 dif­fer­ent fer­rets). I hope this pro­vides some insite into the world of fer­rets. They are not like cats or dogs, but are crea­tures unto themselves.

 fer­ret exhibit­ing hair­loss asso­ci­ated with adrenal disease.

Leg Bands

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

I recently saw an adorable lit­tle budgie (I sus­pect more Eng­lish than Amer­i­can) that was not using her left leg well. It turns out the leg band some­how tighted over the lower leg, cut off cir­cu­la­tion to the foot and now we were deal­ing with an area of dead tis­sue and bone. For­tu­nately the bird is doing great with an ampu­ta­tion of the site. She is able to get around on the stump and I sus­pect with time should be able to climb and bal­ance well sans left foot. This sit­u­a­tion prompted me to blog about bird bands since there are mis­con­cep­tions about the rea­sons birds have them. Often clients think that bird bands will help them find the bird if they fly away and this will allow for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. That is not the case. Bird bands are put on baby birds to help breed­ers iden­tify their own birds as well as have proof that they were bred in the USA. Breed­ers are required to have a closed band on their birds prior to sell­ing or breed­ing show birds.  Breed­ers slip a ring like band (with no open­ings) over the baby bird’s foot and as the bird grows, the size of the foot grows and now the band can­not slip off. If a bird was brought into the coun­try as an adult or needs to be banded (for export pur­poses) an open band is applied. This band looks like a C shape and is clamped over the leg.

All bands have some let­ters and num­bers on them. Some­times the infor­ma­tion can at least tell you what state the bird was hatched in and per­haps the year. For exam­ple, you may see 09 FL along with other num­bers and let­ters. This could sug­gest the bird hatched in 2009 from a breeder in Florida. Here is a link for fur­ther infor­ma­tion in decod­ing the leg band infor­ma­tion:

Now some birds live their whole lives with­out prob­lems with the band. But some­times the band gets caught on a toy and tight­ens over the leg. Or the band migrates to an area on the leg that is thicker and cir­cu­la­tion is cut off. Once the band starts to become too tight, it acts likea  tourniquet–blood flow to the leg below the band is com­pro­mised and tis­sue starts to die. Ini­tially the bird will prob­a­bly not be using the leg but over time the bird may feel sick as dead tis­sue releases tox­ins into the blood stream as well as a poten­tial area of infec­tion. Once the tis­sue dies, there is no going back; the only option is amputaion of the dead tis­sue. Or euthana­sia. Small birds can do extremely well with only one foot…larger birds–this is a case by case sit­u­a­tion to dis­cuss with your vet.

Options of pre­ven­tion include band removal prior to any prob­lems. This may require seda­tion in larger birds or may just require restraint. It needs to be per­formed by a vet with appro­pri­ate equipement as there are risks with this pro­ce­dure. Or you can mon­i­tor the band site closely. Just be very aware of how your bird is doing with its band. It should be able to slide up and down the leg a lit­tle and eas­ily rotate as well. If at any­time it seems to be tighter than this, go to the vet imme­di­ately. If the band is taken off quickly, the leg may be saved.

 Open band 

   closed band

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Wow, it has been over a month since I have posted.…where does the time go. Hav­ing trav­eled for a cou­ple of weeks in Decem­ber and then with the hol­i­days, and then bronchitis–well I have found many rea­sons to not get online. I hope the New Year is treat­ing every­one and their pets well. I actu­ally had my own sick pet sit­u­a­tion. Here’s what happened…

While away for a  cou­ple of weeks vis­it­ing my fam­ily, we left the cats behind with a sit­ter to come in and check on them, feed them and clean the lit­ter boxes. We got back to the house on Sun­day the 25th and the house was still in good shape aside from a few dust bun­nies (dust kit­ties?) and two areas on the hard wood floors where some­one had a hair­ball. Once again–nothing out of the ordi­nary. Every­one got set­tled for the night and things seemed to be retur­ing to nor­mal after our vaca­tion. Then in the mid­dle of the night, I heard a cat meow­ing over and over until it esca­lated to a yowl­ing. Like any other good pet par­ent, I can tell by the voice, which cat it was. I yelled at “Isaac” to be quiet and he stopped for a bit. Then he did it again. By morn­ing, my hus­band and I were both pretty annoyed. This hap­pened again for a cou­ple of nights, and also peri­od­i­cally through the day. I talked with him, pal­pated his abdomen, looked at his teeth and could not see any­thing obvi­ous. I was get­ting ready to take the cat to the doc­tor for fur­ther diag­nos­tics but then I found some­thing that I thought could be the rea­son. I started to find mice poop in the kitchen. Ack!!! I love mice–Micky. My patients that live in cages. BUT. NOT. IN.MY.HOUSE. So We bought traps, I cleaned every­thing out, emp­tied all cab­i­nets and draw­ers, resealed around the pipes,  and we waited. Now the last time we had a mouse, the first one to know was Isaac. He meowed dur­ing the night so I finally thought I had his yowl­ing fig­ured out.  After a few days of Oper­a­tion Mouse Trap we still had no mouse and Isaac was still meow­ing. There was no more evi­dence of the mouse so think I sealed him out dur­ing the ini­tial oper­a­tion. But Isaac was still unhappy. So this meant a trip to the vet. For­tu­nately this just meant he got to ride to work with me.  He did pretty well for blood­work, quick check with Dr. Cur­rie Kay–my cat’s vet (I refuse to make believe I can actu­ally be my own cat vet since not only have I not worked up a cat since vet school but these are my babies and I am not objec­tive), and the cys­to­cen­te­sis for urine sam­pling. A cys­to­cen­te­sis is when a nee­dle is poked into the blad­der to draw out urine. The ultra­sound showed a lit­tle shadow so we took a radi­ograph to make sure there was no blad­der stone that could be caus­ing dis­com­fort. Instead there was a cat intes­tine full of poop. My poor cat was con­sti­pated. To put the pieces together, we are think­ing that Isaac may not have drank as well while I was away and this dehy­drated him a bit and now he is con­sti­pated and per­haps strain­ing to poop. So with a course of sub­cu­ta­neous flu­ids for a few days and lax­tone, he has improved tremen­dously and no longer cries in the night. If you were won­der­ing how I I could miss that he wasn’t pooping—anyone with more than one cat knows that it is dif­fi­cult to know who is doing what in the lit­ter box. I am very relieved to know that there is noth­ing else going on. Blood­work and urine were nor­mal, thy­roid was nor­mal. Soon he will be sched­uled for a den­tal clean­ing but at least my old guy is back to him­self. Thank you staff and doc­tors at Car­ing Hands Ani­mal Hos­pi­tal in Ash­burn for tak­ing such good care of Isaac and not mak­ing fun of me for being a neu­rotic pet owner.