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A Ferret And A Rabbit, Two Skinny Patients

Dr. Jerry Murray treats a pet ferret and a pet rabbit that suffered extreme weight loss for very different reasons.

By Jerry Murray, DVM
Posted: February 22, 2012, 2:23 p.m. EST

lop-eared rabbit posing
Healthy rabbits have a smooth fur coat and don't look emaciated.

One of my better ferret owners was involved with rescuing a neglected ferret. The previous owners had contacted her to “just come and get them.” Before the two ferrets could be rescued, the female ferret passed away. The male ferret was still alive but just barely. He was down to just 1 pound in body weight. He had lost most of his muscle mass, and he could barely walk. He was also having tarry diarrhea and doing some teeth grinding. These are common signs of a stomach ulcer.

After a negative fecal examination, a presumptive diagnosis of a stomach ulcer and starvation was made. His heart sounds were still normal, and his abdomen palpated normal and nonpainful. He was treated with sub-cutaneous fluids to help rehydrate him. Then he was treated for the stomach ulcer and diarrhea with Carafate to coat the stomach, an antacid to lower the stomach acid and an antibiotic. He was started on soft foods, including chicken baby food and Hill’s a/d.

One week later the ferret owner brought him in for a recheck. He had already gained some weight and was starting to eat his food. A few weeks later, he was up to 3 pounds and bouncing around like a brand new ferret.

A second case of an underweight pet was a 10-year-old rabbit. The normal life span for a bunny is 7 to 9 years, so this was a very old bunny. The owner had noticed a small skin growth on this rabbit and was concerned about it. Unfortunately the skin growth was the least of the rabbit’s problems.

The rabbit was emaciated and had an infected skin area from a botfly (Cuterebra). The owners were feeding him mostly a low-quality pelleted food with very little hay. Despite this inappropriate diet, the bunny’s teeth appeared normal and no points were seen on the cheek teeth. He was started on a critical care food supplement and timothy hay. A better-quality pelleted food was offered in a smaller amount. The botfly was removed, and the infected skin was treated with an antibiotic. The rabbit quickly improved and gained weight. He will, hopefully, turn 11 this summer.

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