Bolton Ferret Welfare

January Notes from Yarm Ferret Rescue

by Sue Lloyd

The last rescue of 2014 was an albino jill now names Cinders. Children found her after she'd been dropped through a grate leading to a blocked up cellar at an old farmhouse. The ferret would never have got out on its self out and was lucky to be found. My foster family collected her up upon finishing work en route home. Another lesson learnt - always keep a ferret box in the car, it saves driving home with a ferret climbing up your trouser leg after escaping from a cardboard box. The farm had a gated drive and the gates had to be opened/shut while holding new ferret lest it jump out of the car whilst door is open to see to the gates. It was pitch black night and the ferret found it all great fun.

Upon reaching home the jill was examined, she had burns, thankfully healing cleanly but must have been very painful when it happened, apart from flesh burns a lot of her coat was singed. Given the amount of healing I suspect that the jill had nested in a bonfire lit for 5th November.

Not such a happy ending for two ferrets booked in to stay with me over the festive season. They'd been booked in well in advance but at the last minute the owner contacted me to say that the ferrets were ill and shouldn't come. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, plenty of room here for isolation so the grateful but worried owner brought her ferrets, a castrated hob and a spayed jill, brother and sister, three years old. They weren't so much ill as more like dying. I had no doubt that both had Aleutian Disease Virus and put both on prednicare and the hob on Baytril, the jill was so ill I thought better of it than ramming the bitter taste of Baytril into her. Both were a bit brighter a few hours later but neither were eating or drinking, At the jill could find her was to the nest box and warm up. The hob hadn't a clue where he was and staggered round and round the cage crashing into the sides and slithering into a corner where he lay exhausted. I tried putting him into the nest box but disturbing him sent him off crashing round the cage again.

The next morning I was surprised that the jill and was still alive, both ferrets received Baytril and prednicare and I syringed some cat milk into them. It was clearly a lost cause and I contacted the owner who agreed that we were only prolonging the inevitable.

We had given them a chance but first thing the next morning both were put to sleep at the vets. They were examined first by our senior vet who was quite sure that both had ADV, a blood test would probably have confirmed but so close to Christmas there was no chance of mailing a sample to reach the laboratory whilst still fresh.

Bad enough having one ferret put to sleep but two at the same time was heart breaking, even the vet appeared stunned.

Both had suffered weight loss, their owner thought that it was the food so changed the brand but to no avail. The ferrets were not rescues; they had been purchased from a breeder as kits and kept solely as house pets. Had the virus been passed on to them? At a year old the jill had been very ill, their vet wanted to put her to sleep but her owner persevered, syringing antibiotics and fluids in to her, the jill recovered, but was this the onset of ADV? We'll never know. It is unfortunate that ferret blood testing is so expensive.

Comings and Goings

In the beginning of October my 8 year old jill, Tansy, presented with what we thought was an impacted anal gland. It was horribly infected and she was drinking a lot. She was booked in for an operation to remove it after seven days on Baytril. After two days on Baytril her water intake reduced to normal. The anal gland was obviously bothering her and I looked forward to the day of her operation.

Senior vet Tom Miller was to perform the operation as he'd done this procedure before on ferrets. Half an hour later after leaving Tansy at the vets my mobile rang and I guessed it was bad news. Tom informed me that there was an inoperable tumour in the anal gland and the only option was to put Tansy to sleep on the operating table. I'd had Tansy for six years and was very fond of her. She was the only ferret here to live next to Biscuit who succumbed to Aleutian Disease earlier in the year so Tom took a blood sample which went of to the lab to be tested for ADV. The result came back negative.

Not long after an in town veterinary practice phoned to say that they'd had a stray handed in, the ferret, a jill had been collected up from a busy road. Despite being friendly no one seemed to be out searching for her. She had probably been left in season and had one of the worst discharges I've seen in a jill, plus she was red raw inside her vulva lips.

Seven days on Baytril helped helped but did not totally clear the infection. A short course of Amoxicillin (Noroclav) and a spay operation sorted her out. The rawness in the vulva area had responded well to a quarter of a 1mg prednicare daily for eight days. The jill had been quite active prior to the operation but after a good post operation sleep she has been on the bounce ever since which suggests that ferrets are indeed very good at masking pain.

Lately I have been inundated with people wanting rid of ferrets but we just can't take them all. This included a family who bred off their pet jill so that she wouldn't die. I was informed when I started to suggest a jill jab etc was told that their son knew all about ferrets and he didn't need advice!

Another phone call was about a pet hob who had been obtained as a pet for a young child. Surprise, surprise the child had lost interest and it was time to move on to the next toy. This hob we did take in. The first job was to cut very overgrown nails. At least the child's parents had no intention of passing the hob on to just anyone.

Recently two ferrets were dumped alongside a very busy main road, it was pouring down and not a safe environment in which to park up and search; however, a local ferreter did go to the scene. He found one, soaked, hungry and very frightened ferret but sadly no sign of the other.

Why do people dump them? Possibly this type of person wouldn't even bother to phone a rescue, but if they did there is every chance of it being full.

A well know pet super store in my area contacted me as one of its customers wanted rid of two jills. This store has ferret promoters visit - every home should have a ferret type person. This store's contact expressed surprise that all the northern based rescues were full as she'd rung round them.

Promote impulse buying and you fill the rescues - common sense really.

Playtime

My ferrets get to exercise in an empty stable. They have toys and tubes to play with and bales to climb. New rescues often don't have the muscle strength to climb up onto a bale of straw but within a few days they're climbing well. I nearly always feed horses hay off the ground but this summer I'd dried a heap of cut grass left over from a silage crop. Once dry I put it in a couple of hay nets and left them hung up against the stable wall.

At the time I had a much loved pet ferret boarding with me and I'd popper her into the stable for a run. When I went to collect her there was no sign of her.

I checked the straw for a nest and rechecked. Ever felt that you are being watched? I was about to hit panic mode when I realised that Frida the jill had nested in the hay net and had poked her head out to see what was going on, she had made herself a very cosy nest.

Now most of the ferrets like to nest in the nets which are kept tied lower from them to reach.

Hay nets cost £6 or less so maybe if you have ferrets in a court it would make a nice present. Even a group nesting don't seem to sweat in the hay net unlike when hay is used for bedding.

First Published Spring 2015

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