Posted: June 17, 2011, 2:50 p.m. EDT
© Courtesy Marylou Zarbock
Drs. Robert Wagner, Avery Bennettt and Jerry Murray (left to right) were some of the veterinarians who spoke at the ferret symposium. Here, they are answering ferret health questions in a vet Q&A session.
It’s back! After nearly a three-year break, the ferret symposium rose again, this time in the Southwest. The sunny, dry heat of Phoenix in early June welcomed more than 100 ferret enthusiasts who gathered at the Fiesta Resort Conference Center to learn more about ferrets at the 2011 International Ferret Congress Ferret Symposium. This was the sixth ferret symposium organized by the IFC since its first one in 2002.
From June 3 through June 5, attendees of the ferret symposium took in 12 talks by nine speakers, plus two workshops. “The symposiums are information overload,” said Diana Desrochers of Massachusetts, who is owned by 13 ferrets. “You learn so much in such a short time.”
Ferret Health Updates
Dr. Robert Wagner’s talk about adrenal gland disease held particular interest for many attending ferret owners. “My ferret, Ralph, is currently undergoing treatment with a deslorelin implant, and it was reassuring to me that Ralph is getting the most current treatment — and that the results are so promising,” said Priscilla Gabrielle of Florida, who has owned ferrets since 2002.
Wagner, who works at the University of Pittsburgh, also delivered the exciting news that there might be more than treatment ahead for adrenal gland disease; in the future, there might be a vaccine to prevent it. “It was great to hear there is potential for something like this to be available in the next one or two years,” said Shannan Skitch of Ontario, owner of seven ferrets. “With so many ferrets affected by adrenal disease, to have a vaccine to prevent it has potential to really alter the landscape of ferret medicine.”
Dr. Matti Kiupel of Michigan State University, home of the Ferret Health Advancement website, gave three separate talks covering mycoplasmosis, coccidiosis and coronaviruses respectively. “The talk on mycoplasmosis was particularly eye-opening,” said Barbara Carlson of the Hide-E-Hole Ferret Rescue in Pittsburgh. “I suspect I've had one or two ferrets with this and never knew it.”
Skitch found the ongoing research at MSU fascinating, as she submitted samples to Kiupel in the past of the coronavirus ECE. “It's interesting to see this research is ongoing and that we are still finding answers as these viruses mutate and new ones emerge,” Skitch said. “To hear about the process from start to finish and to see what happens after we take the samples out and send them in was interesting.”
Dr. Natalie Antinoff of the Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists in Houston talked about cancer in ferrets. Her talk changed some people’s minds about chemotherapy. “Before this talk, I firmly believed chemo was a simple and expensive treatment without much success,” said Lisa Watson of Wind And Willows Ferret Rescue in Nevada. “But in the right hands, it is a whole protocol geared for individual patients and it, with other treatments, can save lives and still offer quality of life — not inexpensive, but for many ferret owners it can be worth the expense.”
Skitch made changes to her ferrets’ care almost immediately because of the talk about cancer treatments. “I've already messaged my vet to start a new treatment for one of my ferrets with an adrenal carcinoma and expect that when I next see a lymphoma I will begin chemo or radiation therapy for my ferret.”
Dr. Avery Bennett of the Animal Medical Center in New York City presented an information-packed discussion about common ferret surgeries. One point Carlson appreciated was his explanation behind the difficulty of the right adrenal surgery. Watson liked learning more about post-op pain management and why ferret owners should demand pain management for their ferret after surgery.
“ADV has not been eradicated, everyone should test,” that is a key point Carlson got from Dr. Jerry Murray’s talk about Aleutian disease virus. “He also had a couple treatments I hadn’t heard of,” Carlson added. “The most surprising to me was using melatonin to stimulate the bone marrow to make red blood cells.”
On the home front, Barbara Carlson spoke about nursing sick or elderly ferrets at home. In some cases, this can improve a ferret’s healing time. She also gave concrete tips about things like supplies. Did you know that the non-electrical SnuggleSafe warmer stays warm for about six hours? Watson summed up the main bit of advice she took away in one sentence, “Everyone needs to learn how and when to use SubQ fluids — it will save lives.”