...by Kristy D.
Meet Fiona. She is a six year old albino ferret and our little darling! Fiona joined our family about five years ago via the Spokane Ferret Rescue. She and her cage mate had been surrendered by their owner because he was attending college and couldn't keep them in the dorm room. We found their story on Craig's List and applied for adoption.
Fiona is a healthy, happy ferret who spends most of her days and nights sleeping in the "condo," a double decker Ferret Nation cage she shares with her six year old ferret sister. She looks forward to spending her play time outside the cage wrestling with Willamina, her sister, and exploring every nook and cranny she can squeeze into.
About three months ago, we noticed that she was developing a bald spot on the top of her head. She had "molted" before but always grew her hair back, so we were waiting and expecting this to happen again. It did not. In fact the spot grew to cover the size of the entire top of her head. She started losing hair on the top of her feet, her vulva enlarged, and finally began developing a bald spot on her abdomen. All of these indicated that she had adrenal gland disease which is deadly in ferrets.
Because we live in a small isolated area, we didn't have access to a exotic animals veterinarian and ours recommended that we take her to the North Idaho Animal Hospital in SandPoint, ID about 80 miles away, which we did. Even having all the classic signs of adrenal gland disease it was necessary to do complete blood workups to rule out other possibilities.
The tests confirmed our fears which left us with three choices. The first was to do nothing and plan to euthanize her when she got too sick to function. The second was to medicate her for the rest of her life knowing that the medication was not a cure, and the last was to remove her adrenal glands which would require ex-rays to determine which side the tumor was on followed by surgery. I was told that if it was on the right side the procedure was extremely risky and there would be a strong possibility that she would not survive.
All of these solutions were beyond the comfort levels of the veterinarians at the North Idaho Animal Hospital, and they referred me to Dr. Finch, the exotic animal specialist at WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Pullman, WA which is about 200 miles away. I contacted the hospital and was lucky enough to get Fiona an appointment that Thursday. Email communication with Dr. Finch made our decision simple. She would receive a Suprelorin F implant. A fairly new drug which lasts anywhere from one year to a year and a half before having to be re-implanted and effectively reduces the symptoms of adrenal gland disease in ferrets.
After giving her a physical exam, Dr. Finch explained the procedure, administered a sedative, and injected the implant between Fiona's shoulder blades. Once she was awake, Dr. Finch brought her to the waiting room, showed me the incision, and explained what to expect in the coming weeks. Now, we simply wait and watch for her symptoms to disappear. We know that this will not cure the adrenal gland disease, but it does slow the progression down and make it possible for Fiona to live out her full life comfortably. The biggest upside to this is the fact that she didn't have to go through any dangerous, expensive, invasive surgery. YAH! She doesn't even seem to know she has the implant.
I am so impressed with the staff, the facilities, and Dr. Finch! Thank you for everything you do for our little ones!