Posted: January 1, 2011, 5 a.m. EST
Q: My ferret Kiki was diagnosed today with a tumor by her spleen. The veterinarian said it is large for her weight, which is 2 pounds. He said he could do surgery, but she would have a 1 percent chance of making it. I am a new ferret owner, but I have developed such a great love for her; how can I help ease her living for the time she has left? Should I feed her a softer food?
A: Without knowing what type of tumor this is, the best advice is to make sure your ferret is comfortable and as pain-free as possible. It is possible that the tumor, even if it is malignant, may grow slowly. She may have a long time before its effects are apparent.
Some of the things you can do to make her comfortable are to make sure her food and water are in places that are easy for her to reach. Make sure the bowls are near where she spends most of her time. Look at her cage area. If there are hammocks or other areas of the cage that she has to climb to reach, remodel the cage in order to lower those areas so it requires less effort to get to the things she enjoys. The litter box should be easy to get in and out of. If the box has a high edge, cut out areas for her so no climbing is needed.
Watch her appetite closely. Once the mass starts to grow, she might not feel well enough to eat. It is at that time or really even before then, that you should consider pain medication.
Finally, in general, look at the environment from her point of view. Get down into her area and see what could be a problem if you were ferret-sized and needed to get around but were feeling really bad and did wish to move very much.
When a pet’s diagnosis is terminal, I encourage people to seek a second opinion. There is no harm in this. All veterinarians understand when an owner seeks to have a confirmation, especially when the disease outcome looks bleak.
See all Ask The Doc questions and answers»