Bolton Ferret Welfare

Toffee & Off to the Vets We Go

by Kingswinford Codger


Little Minnie, very sadly, has passed over 'The Rainbow Bridge'. The night before she died she ate a good supper consisting of minced beef and kitten food and her little belly was lovely and round! That night she strangely did something that had never happened before; usually after her nightly meal she would climb back into her sheepskin shoe and that would be that until the next morning, but on this night she just stood on the pen floor and stared at me with her beautiful black eyes for what seemed like forever. Anyway, after sweeping the shed floor for the umpteenth time that day, she was still there so I gently put her in the shoe and even then she poked her little head out until lights out. On entering the shed early the next morning the first thing that met my eyes was the sight of her outstretched body on the lower pen floor, somehow she had gone down the pipe and as she was quite a frail old girl I wondered if perhaps she hadn't the strength to get back to her shoe and being a very cold night she'd perished. I sincerely hope that this was not the case but we will never know. So once again her mate, Jilly, is on her own.

After a week or so and a call to Michelle at the rescue, it was off to see the only ferret she had (makes a change!) and look at a little chap called Toffee. He wasn't really up for re-homing as he had Adrenal Disease, but seeing that it was me she would let him go if a friendship with Jilly was on the cards as she knew he would have a good home - too good I sometimes think, talk about spoiled!!

Well the two ferrets were introduced on the floor of the ferret house. All went fairly well although Jilly insisted on running off and hiding behind a pen, but eventually she emerged and they more or less ig-nored one another. When they did meet they were very aware of each other but no nasties so after a while we took them outdoors to a playpen - a much more confined area. They had a 'putt' or two but nothing serious so again after near freezing to death, it was back inside to an even more confined space, the pet carrier! We set off back home. There was a squeal or two on the return journey but you couldn't really expect anything else. All in all it went very well.

Once home they were put in a pen in the ferret house with nice clean bedding, food, water, two beds and left after a while to their own devices. A visit a couple of hours later found one in one bed and one in the other; a tiff perhaps? I left it at that for the night not wishing to disturb them again.

On entering the ferret house the next morning nothing had changed, both still in separate beds, not a good matrimonial start! Me being very hard hearted (not), removed one of the beds. Toffee took it in his stride and after a good feed - half a bowl (Chelle said he liked his food!) he took himself off for a nap. Jilly on the other hand just stood and glared at the box not willing to go in, but after a while tiredness and the need for a nap got the better of her and in she went, after an hour or so I took a peek and all was well, lets hope it stays that way.

A few weeks down the line:-

All is still hunkydorie with the honeymooners and they are now the best of mates, Toffee still loves his food although he refuses any sort of meat other than kitten food in gravy and this he adores. Jilly is in great health (hope I haven't spoke too soon) and if her mate is missing gets quite concerned until she finds him: bless.

A week later ----
Toffee and Jilly are soul mates and no-one is more pleased than me: great.

Several weeks later ----
Two more have now been introduced to the group, two silver boys and all is well.

Off To the Vets We Go

After many visits to the vets with ferrets for castration and spaying from Michelle's rescue and being on first name terms with everyone at the practice, I asked Jane, a veterinary nurse and long term friend (plus ferret keeper) if she thought it would be possible for me to see a castration operation. "I will certainly ask Dave (Mr Cockburn) for you but I'm sure he wouldn't mind; I'll phone you later."

A day or two passed and I was beginning to think that the answer was a big no, but true to her word she did ring me and to my great delight said that he had no problem with my request and the next little chap that was to be done, I could observe the process in full and not only that, he would come in early and do the deed before surgery. What a great chap.

As soon as I'd put the phone down I telephoned Michelle and asked "Any boys need doing?" I didn't even bother to say 'Hello'! As it happened she had two due for the following week so an appointment was made for the following Thursday: I couldn't wait!

On the appointed day I was up early to get the shed sorted out and then off to the vets. All scrubbed up, pre-op done and it was into the theatre. The little chap on the table was firmly held by the veterinary nurse, his head was inserted into a cone-shaped mask and the gas turned on; he meekly struggled for a few seconds but soon gave in and after a few paw squeezes with no reaction out came the sterilized tool kit. The little man (soon to be littler!) was laid on his back and the belly area shaved free of fur. Next, a hand-held vacuum was used to suck up all the unwanted fluff. I thought this was a great idea as every last trace of fur is accounted for thus avoiding any chance of infection later on. A circular hole was then cut in a sterile cover and after the incision area was treated with a triple sterilized wash, placed over the 'op' site. Out came the scalpel and a small half-inch cut was made about the same distance from the scrotum which was then gently squeezed to allow the testicles to come back to the incision point.

The two tubes, for want of a better word - one carries the blood supply, the other, sperm - were duly tightly tied off and the testicles cut off (I didn't cross my legs honest!). The site was tidied up and the incision stitched up with three very neat stitches. The gas was turned off and pure oxygen given. After a minute or two he started to stir and after a few more seconds, was fully conscious.

A great experience for me (if not for him) but it was for his own good.

During our chat whilst the operation was going on it came to light that there can be problems and that it isn't always that straightforward. It seems if there is only one testicle in the scrotum a search for the other can be a little complex as the tubes have to be traced into the stomach to find the other testicle and this can be quite time consuming. As a bonus for being such a good observer I was invited to see a spay when we had one to do. This is a more in-depth and interesting operation so I shall have to pester Michelle - nothing new there - for a jill she wants doing.

Meanwhile, a few weeks later a group of five arrived. Upon inspection by Michelle, it was discovered that all was far from well with one of the hobs....or was it? Was this a chap or chapess? It was a hermaphrodite (neither male nor female) interesting to say at the least! Coco, as he/she had been named, had no penis in the usual place but instead it was part of the vulva. Imagine a vulva with a penis in the centre - a bit like a jill in season.

A visit to the vets confirmed that Coco was indeed in a class of his/her own. During the examination the testes were located, one in each groin area and a castration was recommended. "Would you like to watch?" Dave asked.

"Very much" I hastily replied, so the date was set for 7th April, 2011 at 0800 hours. Meanwhile, Michelle had said that she would like to see the operation as well so I tentatively asked if this would be possible. After a few seconds thought, Dave agreed.

On the day in question, Michelle arrived at my place bright and early and we set off to the vets. To be honest I wasn't too keen on Michelle coming. Why? Well in her own words, "I don't do blood!" I need not have worried though, as she stood up to the test very well; there's not a lot of the red stuff anyway, the most being when the testicle is severed from its blood supply. Anyway, back to the operation.

The little chap - let's go for a 'he' - was put into the land of nod and the testes removed from both groin areas but it did take longer than a normal castration as there were two cuts and two lots of stitching, but the vet didn't charge Michelle any extra which was great. Once completed he was transferred from gas to oxygen and once awake and breathing normally, taken to the Recovery Room, where he spent the rest of the day tucked up in a nice warm fleece.

He's made a full recovery and is back to his normal self. He still thinks of himself as a boy as he goes into fighting mode when introduced with other males, which is a shame as I was hoping to introduce him into one of my mixed groups. Nevertheless I will keep trying, who knows.....

A few weeks later and I was invited to observe a spay which is a much more complex and interesting operation. This was performed on a little sandy jill who, guess what, is now living here with Val and I! We are now up to twenty-two wonderful ferrets, most of which come from you-know-where!

I am very, very grateful to our vet Dave and to Jane his veterinary nurse who initially asked for me. Thank you both very much. I told Dave that I am more than prepared to stand in and do the above operations any time they are short staffed; to date (January 2012) I've not heard anything. Hmmmmmm!!!

Not another?! You couldn't make it up if you tried, but a few weeks after all the ops had been done, Michelle had a couple in that were to be spayed so as usual the appointment was made and the two little girls taken to our vets for their ops. Nothing new! All was well until one of the vets at the practice rang to say that one little girl, an albino, had no reproductive organs. This was very strange as she had been in season when she arrived at Michelle's and had been put with a vasectomised hob to bring her out of season a few weeks earlier. Upon further investigation the vet discovered some testicles, which were duly removed; whether she/he will come into season again remains to be seen. This means of course that in a matter of months Michelle's rescue have had two hermaphrodite ferrets. Incredible! We may never see another one.

(First published May 2012)

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