Bolton Ferret Welfare

Yarm Ferret Rescue January 2012

by Sue Lloyd

Last year was one of my busiest yet and this year the phone calls started as soon as the Christmas decorations came down. It is all very sad, too many ferrets, too few homes.

The local fur and feather auction oozes ferrets which, by the time the auction fees have been deducted, often net the vendors just 25p per ferret. Is it really worth breeding for this?

Last year it became apparent that jills were still being left in season and dying because of it. Owners seem surprised when I mention "jills ills". All I hear is "The internet says...." Call me old-fashioned but for me, you cannot beat a good English ferret book. The Society used to promote 'The Complete Book of Ferrets' by Val Porter and Nicholas Brown. The last reprint contained a veterinary update by a leading ferret vet at that time, Mike Oxenham. This excellent book is once again no longer published but I'd love to see it reprinted.

On the subject of jills, two albino sisters came in last July, totally emaciated: they'd simply stopped eating. Both had been kept out of season, their teeth and other body parts were fine as was the food they were being offered. They just simply refused to eat. This had started as gradual picking and developed into eating nothing at all. Both went on steroids which had to be syringed in along with fluids and this seemed to 'kick start' them into eating again. Their weight slowly increased and gradually they were weaned off the steroids with no detrimental effect on their appetite and now they are plump and jolly, but it was a close call.

Another of my regular sayings is, 'Please use a proper bolt fastening on all of your cage doors.' Sadly I hear of many ferrets being lost when cages have blown over in the gales and the doors have opened. The swivel fastenings on most shop-bought cages will not stand up to ferrets jumping up at the wire.

Christmas Eve saw me at the vets with Angie, a polecat-coloured jill. It was time to help her on her way. Angie had had a thyroid tumour for about three years which had slowly been growing. She'd required regular courses of Baytril every six to eight weeks to keep infection at bay but this hadn't stopped her from enjoying life; she loved running around. However, by last summer she'd probably started developing secondary tumours in her kidneys and that was why she started losing condition. I miss her.

A Mite too Many

After a busy spring and summer Yarm Ferret Rescue was hoping for an easier autumn. Ha, ha!

A number of ferrets had been booked in for holiday boarding by someone I thought was a friend. Humph! By the time nine of this person's ferrets arrived (another five were dumped on someone else) I was already having an issue with them, as against my advice two hobs had been given to poachers and by then one hob had been confiscated and destroyed by a gamekeeper.

My quota of nine ferrets duly arrived. I was speechless: I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Most of these ferrets had been purchased for showing and I knew them well from the show circuit. The worst two included a dark polecat-coloured jill who had previously won several 'Best in Shows', but now she was bald except for whiskers, a mask and a bit of leg fur; her claws were dropping out and her belly was raw with skin lesions. The owner had lost interest; they'd been kept in filthy conditions.

A trip to the vet confirmed my suspicion - Sarcoptic Mange Mite. The vets let me look down the microscope at a sample: a nasty wee beast.

I was faced with a mammoth task as all the ferrets here and their cages had to be treated. Ivermectin was prescribed in the form of Xeno 200 spray and cages were washed out with Virkon.

Fortunately I was blessed with good weather so the cages dried fairly quickly. By now though I'd run out of cages so some of the ferrets had to be temporarily housed in some large pet carriers, but they were perfectly happy and content. The stables where the ferrets are exercised also had to be cleaned and pressure hosed. I am so grateful to the Stephenson family and Dave Bradley who all came to help. They scrubbed and scraped; we had a huge bonfire burning their bedding and toys.

Baytril was administered to the ferrets who had secondary infections. The dark jill needed three courses, poor thing. I also sometimes use a liquid vitamin supplement called Collovet which is added to drinking water, which also became part of their routine care.

For six long weeks we fought the mite with each ferret having to be weighed before being sprayed with the Ivermectin, but in the end we won. To see the ferrets grow back their fur is so rewarding, especially the dark jill, and to stand by their cages and hear silence - no thumping as they continuously scratch themselves: bliss! Some have now found new loving homes as, needless to say their previous owner never came back for them. (He probably realised his health would suffer if he did! Ed). Luckily one of them, Snowdrop, has gone to live with an electrician as she takes great delight in getting down behind the back of his cooker which then has to be dismantled to get her out! The rest remain here, happy, healthy and looking for a home; sadly some are probably too old to be chosen.

(First published January 2012)

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