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Ferret Anatomy

Anatomy Project For School

Kenneth Owens

on 27 August 2013

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Transcript of Ferret Anatomy

Fun Ferret Facts
Ferrets, Minks and Weasels belong to the same family
Ferrets are not rodents
Ferrets sleep an average of 18-20 hours a day
Ferrets are the third most popular pet in the U.S.
The name ferret comes from the Latin "furonem" which means thief
A ferret develops their full personality in about 8 to 10 weeks
Baby ferrets open their eyes around 34 day of age
All kits are born pink and gain their color at 3 weeks of age
A jill can have 1 to 15 kits in a litter
Caesar used ferrets for hunting and Aristotle wrote about them
Stealing and hiding objects is part of their natural nesting instincts
Ferrets are often referred to as nature's clowns
A ferrets breeding season is from December to August
Addison's Disease
Symptoms, treatment, & prevention
Addison's disease occurs
when a ferret has a severe deficiency or total
lack of the hormones
made in the
adrenal cortex
There are no visual signs of Addison's
disease that you will be able to see until your ferret is in an Addisonian crisis.
only blood work
run by your veterinarian will indicate if your ferret has Addison's disease
Sodium levels will be down and potassium levels will be up
If the disease is not treated, your ferret will be in an Addisonian crisis, and you may see the following signs:
Lack of appetite
Difficulty walking or total inability to walk
Diagnosis & Treatment

- Can be in a pill or liquid form.

- Is an injection that will need to be administered by a veterinarian approximately once a month.

- Is a pill that you give your ferret once a day.
Note: These drugs will need to be administered for the rest of your ferret's life
to replace the hormones that the adrenal glands can no longer produce.

If your ferret goes into an Addisonian crisis, treatment must be immediate. Your ferret only has a very short period of time before she succumbs to the disease.

Treatment includes subcutaneous fluids in mild cases and intravenous fluids in moderate or severe cases.
Adrenal Disease
Causes, signs, treatment & prevention
In the ferret, adrenal disease - or hyperadrenocorticism - most commonly
occurs when
a tumor or lesion on the adrenal glands causes an
overproduction of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands.
Adrenal disease is most common in ferrets over the age of three years, but it can affect ferrets as young as a year old.
Adrenal disease is one of the most prevalent ferret diseases, and there is no definitive test for it.
While we don't know for sure what exactly causes adrenal disease in ferrets, most theories point to
two possible causes:
Spaying and Neutering at a young age
Many large ferret breeders spay or neuter ferrets at the age of 5 or 6 weeks, which may cause the ferret's body to overcompensate for the lack of normal sex hormones.
Extended photoperiods
Most ferrets have been forced to adapt to their owner's lifestyle and are exposed to at least four or five hours of artificial light in the evening in addition to the natural light during the day. This limits the time they spend in darkness, which decreases melatonin production.
Too little melatonin results in overstimulation of the adrenal glands.

Ferrets should have no less than 12 hours of complete darkness throughout a 24 hour period.
Unlike other diseases,
there is not a standard set of signs
that a ferret with adrenal disease will always display. The range of signs that your ferret shows will
depend on where the tumor is on his adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands produce many hormones, so
the location of the tumor will aaffect which hormones are overproduced.
The types of hormones that are overproduced determines which signs you will see.
Here are the various signs of adrenal disease:
Hair loss, either in a symmetrical pattern or patchy with no apparent pattern
Thinning hair
Loss of appetite
Papery thin or translucent looking skin, sometimes with sores from scratching
Excessive scratching and itchiness
Increase in musky body odor
Excessive grooming of self or other ferrets, including ear sucking

Diagnosing Adrenal Disease
If your veterinarian has a lot of experience with ferrets or if your ferret has the traditional hair loss, he or she may be able to diagnose your ferret through clinical signs (symptoms).
Adrenal Panel run by the University of Tennessee -
Often referred to as the "Tennessee Panel," in cases where adrenal disease is suspected. This is a blood test that evaluates the levels of hormones and steroid production. The test is not always 100% correct, and has been known to result in false positives and false negatives, but it is the only blood test available to test for adrenal disease.
Radiographs (X-Rays) and ultrasounds -
Help determine whether or not adrenal disease is present, but can be misleading. Diseased adrenal glands can be normal in size and shape and, therefore, an x-ray or ultrasound may not raise any concerns. However, ultrasounds can be helpful in showing prostate enlargement (a complication or adrenal disease in male ferrets).
Your veterinarian may opt to use any of the following
options to treat our ferret's adrenal disease:
This is the most common treatment for adrenal disease, and is the only way to completely remove the tumor. It is also the
most recommended treatment
by most veterinarians.
If the tumor is on the
right adrenal gland, your veterinarian may choose not to remove it.
The right adrenal gland is
directly adjacent to the vena cave,
the largest vein in the body, and there could be serious complications.
Your veterinarian may suggest medical treatment options in cases where surgery cannot be performed
, either due to the health of the ferret or other issues.
These options include:
Lupron Depot Injections
Lupron Depot
may be prescribed at
1 month, 3 month, or 4 month intervals.
:Depot: refers to the fact that the entire dosage is released over the given time period. This means that your ferret will need to get this shot at the appropriate time for the
rest of his life.
Lupron may shrink the tumor, but in most cases, it only affects the symptoms.
Melatonin Implants
Melatonin is a natural hormone that serves many functions in your ferret's body, one of which is to
inhibit the release of GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone)
. Less GnRH means that the
pituitary gland releases fewer hormones
, which means that the
adrenal glands are stimulated less.


Implants last about 3 - 4 months, and provide a steady level of melatonin over that time period.

Note: Melatonin implants alone cannot be used to treat adrenal disease for the long term
, and the best results are seen if Melatonin implants are used in conjunction with Lupron Depot.
Preventing Adrenal Disease
there are no proven ways to prevent adrenal disease.
It is currently
thought that
the early neutering/spaying that is done by
large scale breeders directly contributes to adrenal disease
, and in most cases, the ferrets that you get will already have had this surgery. If they are intact, it is recommended that you wait until they are at least
6 months of age before getting them spayed or neutered.
Adrenal disease is still seen in ferrets who are spayed or neutered after reaching sexual maturity, but it is not as prevalent .

Recent studies have shown that
light cycles also contribute to the development of adrenal disease.
Melatonin, as mentioned above, regulates the release of GnRH. GnRH affects how much the adrenal glands are stimulated. Melatonin is produced when the ferret is in total darkness.

A ferret's optimal light cycle is about eight hours of light and sixteen hours of total darkness each day.
It is thought that this will allow your ferret to produce the most melatonin possible.
Aleutians Virus

Causes, symptoms, diagnosis & prevention

Aleutian Disease Virus (ADV) is a parvovirus, but not the same strains as those that affect dogs, cats or humans.
One ferret-specific strain of ADV has been isolated and the disease has also been
reported in mink, skunks, and raccoons.
Aleution Disease Virus does not seem to affect any animals outside the Mustelidac family. Currently in the ferret population overall, the incidence of Aleutian Disease is low.
So named for first being isolated from the Aleutian strain of mink and initially reported in the 1940's, ADV was not reported in ferrets untl the late 1960's.
A hardy virus, it can survive in unfavorable conditions for months.
Manifesting as a chronic wasting disease, ADV can have limited effects or can be quite pervasive, involving nearly all organ systems. Any combination of the following may be seen:

Note: An infected ferret can also be totally asymptomatic.
How is ADV transmitted?
ADV is highly contagious, although infected animals may act as carriers without displaying outward symptoms of the disease. The virus can become airborne, although, it is more commonly spread via casual contact with the saliva, blood, feces, or urine of infected animals.
How is ADV diagnosed?
diagnosis is based on clinical signs and symptoms, history, and serum antibody tests
, such as counterelectrophoresis, ELISA, or a new antibody test developed in 2001.
Antibodies to ADV are present in the blood 14 days after initial infection.
Post mortem histological (looking at tissue under the microscope) findings are the most definitive method of diagnosis.
How is ADV treated? Is there a cure?
Because so many organ systems may be involved, the treatment for ADV is non-specific supportive, and depends on how debilitated the ferret has become. This may include:

Note: I
f the ferret is eating on his own, a good nutritional diet recommended for ferrets is very important. (This is, of course, important at all times but especially in the case of illness).
There is currently no "cure" for ADV

There is currently not a vaccine for AD
, and in fact, an effective vaccine may be difficult to develop
How can ADV be prevented?
Prevention is best accomplished by
controlling the spread of ADV.
This is particularly important in a
breeding facility or shelter
where other ferrets may be housed. Any suspect ferret, or those having been identified as serum positive, should be
isolated from other ferrets.
All items that may have come into contact with the infected ferret should be
scrupulously cleaned with a 10% bleach solution.

Ferret Basics

The ferret
(Mustela putorius furo)
is a domesticated mammal belonging to the family Mustelidae. They typically have brown, black, white, or mixed fur. They have an
average length of 20 inches including a 5 inch tail, wigh about 1.5-4 pounds
, and have a
natural lifespan of 7 to 10 years.
Ferrets are sexually dimorphic predators with males being substatially larger than females.
Male ferrets are called hobs
Female ferrets are jills
A spayed female is a sprite
A neutered male is a gib
A vasectomised male is known as a hoblet
Ferrets under one year old are known as kits
A group of ferrets is known as a "business"
There are four basic colors
The Sable (including chocolate and dark)
Dark Eyed White (DEW)
And the silver
Note: Female ferrets who come into heat and stay in heat can die - an important health message for all ferret keepers.
Basics, Common Diseases, & Facts
About The
Anatomy Project
By Kenneth Owens
Sexual aggression and mating behavior in neutered males - with other ferrets, inanimate objects, etc.
Swollen vulva in spayed females
Difficulty urinating for males
- this is a sign of an enlarged prostate, a condition usually associated with adrenal disease
Weakness in back legs
- usually seen in advanced or extreme cases
Increased thirst, increased urination
Weight loss
due to a decrease in muscle mass, but with a pot bellied appearance
Chronic weight loss
Hindlimb paralyses or weakness
Head tremors
Enlarged kidney, liver and/or spleen
Blood abnormalities (dyscrasias)
Administering fluid therapy
Tube or syringe feeding
Administering anti-inflammatory drugs
Click to watch





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Full transcript