So often, at the Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics, we hear owners say that their pets could never have parasites because they don’t go outside. Not true. Many pets – mammals, birds, and reptiles – are never outside their families’ homes, yet they carry parasites in their intestinal tracts and can shed these microscopic parasites in their stool. Once the stool dries up in their cages, small bits of dry stool can blow around the environment to be inhaled by other pets or people or get on the hands of caretakers who clean the cage. Many of these parasites are harmful to people, as well as pets. Furthermore, many of these microscopic parasites resist common disinfectants used to clean cages, so they persist in the animals’ environments and continuously re-infect these pets as they eat in their cages; the infected pets continue to shed these infectious parasites in their stool, and the vicious cycle of re-infection is established. Thus, even if your pet shows none of the common signs of gastrointestinal parasite infection, such as diarrhea, weight loss, or an unkempt appearance, he or she may be infected anyway and could spread these parasites to you and your family. This is particularly an issue if young children who forget to wash their hands are handling these animals. Thus, it is essential that all pets are checked for parasites once you first bring them into your home and at least annually after that. Unfortunately, if an animal has intestinal parasites, they are not always continuously shed into its stool. So, a check of a single stool sample may not actually be a true representation of what’s going on in that pet’s intestines. This is particularly true for reptiles that are so often infected with gastrointestinal parasites that we routinely deworm them with general deworming medications even before we get back the results of their fecal analyses. So, even if your mammal, bird, or reptile is seemingly healthy, it is critical that he or she is checked annually for gastrointestinal parasites, both for their health and your health. Even if they are not obviously affected now with these organisms, if these parasites are left untreated, your pet may eventually lose weight and become ill, and worse yet, so could your family. Deworming is safe, easy, and inexpensive. Why wait for a serious problem to happen if you can prevent it now?
Archives for Ferrets
New Discoveries on How to Treat Ferrets with Adrenal Gland Disease
Adrenal disease affects thousands of ferrets annually in the U.S. and may be the most common condition diagnosed in ferrets by veterinarians. This disease is caused by the development of cancer in one or both adrenal glands which results in the body’s overproduction of sex hormones, leading to itchy skin, hair loss, and more seriously, bone marrow suppression. Eventually, all affected ferrets develop anemia and poor immune system function, plus male ferrets develop enlargement of the prostate gland with secondary life-threatening urinary tract obstruction. Until a few years ago, the only treatment available for this ultimately fatal condition was surgery to remove the cancerous gland(s) – a procedure that carries a great deal of risk and that doesn’t prevent the development of the disease in the remaining gland (which, even if affected, cannot be removed completely, as some adrenal tissue is required for ferrets to live). Then a few years ago, along came a miracle drug – Lupron – which, when injected monthly, suppresses the overproduction of hormones from the disease gland(s), thereby lessening the terrible signs caused by the cancer without actually taking away the cancer. Lupron is safe and effective but must be given monthly for life in order for it to continue to work.
Ferrets New Treatment | Deslorelin
Now, there is a new treatment option – Deslorelin – a small implant (similar to a microchip) that is placed under the ferret’s skin in a simple, quick, safe procedure that slowly releases a substance similar to Lupron to block the excessive hormone release caused by the diseased adrenal gland(s), thereby alleviating clinical signs. No one is sure exactly how long this slow-release implant works in ferrets, but in the ferrets we have treated, it seems to last approximately one year. When the implant no longer seems effective, a new one may be placed again under the ferret’s skin. No more need for monthly trips to the vet for Lupron, plus Deslorelin is cost-effective when compared with monthly Lupron injections. So, if your ferret has been receiving Lupron to treat adrenal disease, or if you suspect your ferret may have adrenal disease, have your ferret checked by our Veterinary Center for Birds and Exotics, and inquire about Deslorelin implantation as an alternative treatment.
What conditions are we referring to? Distemper and rabies viruses! Both of these diseases are ultimately fatal in ferrets, causing horrible neurological signs, and fortunately, they are completely preventable with simple vaccinations. You haven’t given these vaccinations to your ferret for risk of reaction, you say? Or, your ferret got these vaccines years ago, so he or she doesn’t need them again, you say? These are responses veterinarians hear from many ferret owners, so let’s set the record straight. First, while certainly anyone (ferret, person, or other animal) can have a reaction to a vaccine, the incidence of vaccine reactions has dramatically decreased since newer brands of vaccine against both rabies and distemper virus have been developed for ferrets and since we started administering a Benadryl injection just prior to giving the shots. Asking ferret owners to stay in the hospital waiting room for 15 minutes after the vaccine is administered so that the ferret can be monitored for reaction and treated accordingly if it occurs has also made vaccination safer. Plus, we never give both distemper and rabies vaccinations in the same day to lessen the risk of reaction. Second, our response to the claim that ferrets who have received these vaccines in the past do not need them again is that studies have shown that any immune system protection (antibodies) that ferrets develop after initially getting these vaccines actually wanes over time, so that they are no longer protected. These vaccines need to be boostered annually to provide adequate protection. Given the incidence of rabies in wildlife (which your ferret could be exposed to if he/she gets out) and the occurrence of distemper virus in dogs (which you can carry into your house on your shoes), it is essential that your ferret be protected. In addition, Westchester County, NY, and several other counties in the U.S. require rabies vaccination by law, not only to protect your pet from contracting the disease if he or she is exposed to it, but also to prevent your pet from being confiscated by health officials if your pet nips someone else. Don’t take any chances; the consequences are too high. Call your veterinarian today to schedule your ferret’s vaccination appointment.