Healthcare

by Tonia Evans

Not only are ferrets cute because of their pint size and their adorable little faces, but as I learned when I met the crew at the South Shore Ferret Care (a shelter for ferrets in Holbrook, Massachusetts) a few months ago, ferrets can be exuberantly playful. You can't help but laugh when you're with them. I would go as far as saying that ferrets are good for the soul.

That's why my heart broke when I saw my first naked ferret. "Why is she bald?" I asked with a distressed sigh. Diane began to tell me that senior ferrets can have adrenal disease, and can lose their fur. Of course, with my animal care background, I was hooked and needed to know more details.

Luckily, my friend  Diane Wall, the Director of South Shore Ferret Care is a wealth of information when it comes to the ferrets she loves and that's no doubt the reason her organization is one of only ten shelters in the US that were chosen to participate in a study that will help ferrets suffering from Adrenocortical Disease (ACD).

In the US, ferrets are spayed/neutered before 6 weeks of age. In most animals, like dogs and cats for example, spaying/neutering reduces or eliminates the secretion of gonadal hormones which can causes diseases later in life. Unfortunately in ferrets, it appears that their bodies tend to retain the ability to secrete gonadal hormones even when they've been altered. And when they reach their senior years, around age six or seven, some begin to have problems.

"We've seen a lot of ferrets with extreme hair loss." said Diane, 'In the females it's like they have PMS that doesn't shut off, and in males they can have prostate problems."  According to an article titled Adrenal Cortical Disease in Ferrets by Dr. Cathy Johnson-Delaney, DVM [originally appearing in VetRap, a publication of the Seattle-King County Vet Medical Association April 1997],  ACD can cause more than just beauty issues -males and females could experience muscle loss, reduced energy, scratching, increased drinking and urination, anemia, weight loss, and even have difficulties using their hind legs in extreme cases.  Currently, ferrets with the disease have only surgery as an option or be treated with Lupron injections every three weeks.

However, there is a drug called Superlorin by Peptech Animal Health, a company based in Australia, which would replace Lupron injections. Suprelorin has been approved as a non-surgical contraceptive for male dogs in Australia, New Zealand and Europe, and the company is working on getting it approved in the US. They're expanding their study to see if the drug will successfully treat ferrets with ACD. The drug is given as an implant under the skin, similar in size to a pet id micro-chip, offering a slow-release of the medication, and if effective will last for a few months, which would be better than giving injections every three weeks. The cost to buy the drugs for the study are $820. "We believe this drug will ease the symptoms for the ferrets with ACD. " said Diane. 'We hope to expand the quality of life for our shelter ferrets."

If you'd like to be a part of helping the ferrets at South Shore Ferret Care please consider donating to their Study Fund.  Anyone who would like to make a donation can do so online at thes website.


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TONIA EVANS: “Feline Aficionada”
Professional Cat Sitter & Humorist Speaker on Cat Care and The Feline Lifestyle

She’s an established cat care specialist in Massachusetts, with over 15 years experience specializing in senior, disabled and special needs cats and is a freelance pet writer, blogger, and animal advocate.  Read more of her work online at http://felineaficionada.com/

Donate to this organization through Drs. Foster and Smith