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The Prairie Dog And The Young Ferret

Unfortunately, not all ailments can be treated, as shown by two recent cases involving a prairie dog and a ferret.

By Jerry Murray, DVM
Posted: November 17, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT

prairie dog
© Courtesy Jerry Murray, DVM
In the wild, prairie dogs eat a high-fiber diet and usually live for about three or four years.

I had two sad cases last week. The first was a geriatric prairie dog. She was roughly 10 years old. Normally prairie dogs only live for three to four years in the wild, but in captivity they can live for seven to 10 years.

In captivity prairie dogs are prone to liver disease. This may be related to an inappropriate diet. In the wild prairie dogs eat mostly grass and a small amount of sedges, forbs, roots and seeds. They even have been known to eat the occasional insect. On the other hand, pet prairie dogs are often fed a high-carbohydrate diet along with treats like cookies and candy instead of a high-fiber diet that would more closely resemble the diet of prairie dogs in the wild.

This geriatric prairie dog was losing weight and no longer eating well. There was also a firm mass palpated in the cranial abdomen. The owner was concerned about the prairie dog’s quality of life, so she decided it was time for euthanasia. A necropsy (an animal autopsy) was performed to try to determine what the abdominal mass was. It was the liver, which was much larger than normal and much firmer than normal. The gallbladder was also very dilated. Liver samples were sent out to a pathologist to determine what type of cancer caused the liver problem.

prairie dog, internal view
© Courtesy Jerry Murray, DVM
A necropsy of the 10-year-old prairie dog showed how abnormally large both the liver and gallbladder had become.

The second case was a 1-year-old ferret. He had been lethargic and not eating well for a few days. Normally young ferrets are hyperactive, but this one was just looking for a spot to lie down. His temperature was normal, and his blood glucose was normal, too.

Some masses were palpable in his abdomen. A radiograph (X-ray) was taken of his abdomen, and the masses were seen. An abdominal ultrasound was also performed, which showed several enlarged lymph nodes in the abdomen. Unfortunately, this young ferret had juvenile lymphoma, so the owner decided it was time to end his suffering.

Not all cases have a happy ending, and sometimes euthanasia is the best choice for the suffering pet. For the next column, I promise a rabbit case with a good ending.

In the meantime, the leaves are turning colors down here in the South, cooler temperatures have arrived, and I hope everyone has a very Happy Thanksgiving!

See all of Dr. Murray's columns>>

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Reader Comments
gross that pic almost made me want to vomit guess i cant be a small animal surgon lol
juli, love
Posted: 11/18/2010 5:07:30 PM
YA sometimes euthanasia is the best choice for the suffering pet...
Hedy, Los Angeles, CA
Posted: 11/18/2010 2:30:48 PM
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