Dental problems and ferrets ….
Well I hang my head in shame
For the past 17 years I haven’t had any problems with my ferrets’ teeth. In fact, my vet has always complimented me on the great condition of all my guys’ teeth so when Seamus stopped eating his kibble, it never occurred to me that he might have problems with his tooth, or teeth even!
I wrote about Seamus’ glaucoma a couple of months ago and for those of you who didn’t read the article, you can see his blind right eye again in this photo …
Stay with me here – there’s reason to my madness talking about glaucoma when the title is about dental problems
About 6 weeks ago it occurred to me that I didn’t see him munching on his kibble much and so mentioned it to Philip. He said he’d seen him eating it so I didn’t worry until a few weeks later when it seemed like he was looking a bit thin.
I give them all a daily smoothy and their evening “treat” is a plate of turkey mince which they have at night. I noticed that Seamus was gobbling (pun intended ) down his turkey and seemed to enjoy his smoothy and I had a passing thought then that maybe he might have a problem with a tooth which was preventing him from eating the kibble.
I lifted his lips to see if I could see any bad teeth but I couldn’t see anything which raised any alarms. Then, when I put him down and saw him playing in that blue bucket playground we have for the ferrets and opening the tops of the empty plastic bottles we put in there for them, the bad tooth thought flittered out of my mind as quickly as it came in.
Seamus seemed to have a couple of good days then he’d have a quiet day, and that seemed like a routine so I went on the computer and went to see if I could find out what might be the cause of his odd behaviour. Naturally the search term included “glaucoma” and what I found freaked me out …
A common type of cancer in ferrets, which affects the orbit (rather than the eye itself), is retrobulbar lymphoma. In this disease, the tumor grows behind the eyeballs and pushes them out of their sockets.
“It resembles glaucoma initially because the eyes look bigger and bulgier, but it’s not the eyeball that’s getting bigger. It’s something behind it that’s pushing it out,” Burgess said.
According to Burgess, the only way to confirm the diagnosis is to do ultrasound on the area behind the eyes to see if there is a lump there, do a needle biopsy to see if it is cancerous, and measure the pressure inside the eyeballs to see if there’s an increase in pressure.
“If the pressure is elevated, you know that’s probably glaucoma and usually the eye looks cloudy too,” Burgess said. “But in lymphoma the pressure isn’t necessarily going to go up in the eyeball, but there will be more pressure behind the eye.”
Retrobulbar lymphoma and glaucoma are easily confused, according to Burgess.
That was it!
I was convinced that my poor old man had retrobulbar lymphoma and not glaucoma! AND … as I didn’t want him to go through another ultrasound and biopsy like he had last year, I decided I would just increase his supplements to try and fight it.
This went on for 3 weeks and over the course of those weeks, it was getting harder and harder for me to get him to eat. It was also during this time that I noticed that his breath smelled but … of course, being convinced he had a cancerous tumour behind his eye, I automatically thought the bad breath was due to the cancer invading his kidneys! Oy vey … how great is my ability to imagine the worst possible thing!
I bought A/D formula and mixed it with chicken stock to make it slushy and added Pedialyte infant multivits and had to syringe it into him just so that he got food into him.
Two weekends ago he totally refused to open his mouth for me, he looked so anorexic and dehydrated and I noticed he had a white film in his mouth which smelled dreadful so I rang my vet in a panic and raced him down, absolutely convinced that this was his final trip.
My vet, Fiona, managed to stick a needle into his back to pump saline solution subcutaneously to rehydrate him while she looked in his mouth. She found that he had an abscess in his gum, as well as a cracked tooth right at the back which I hadn’t been able to see when I lifted his lips.
She pumped him full of painkillers and antibiotics and said that once he was better, she had to remove that cracked tooth so ordered me to get him better asap. I brought him back for a follow-up check-up 2 days later and Fiona was pleased to see that he’d gained 100g. She told me to keep doing what I was doing so that he’d be fit for the procedure which was planned for today.
I doubled the supplements in his smoothy and kept on syringing the A/D broth into his mouth every hour on the hour for the past week. Took him to the vet this morning hoping that he’d get through the procedure without any dramas.
Got the phone call this afternoon to say everything went well and I could come and collect him. Phew – talk about a sigh of relief!
He had THREE teeth taken out – even my vet was surprised that his teeth were in such bad condition – and we thought that maybe Seamus’ party trick of getting hold of any kind of bottle and taking the tops off could have been the cause of all his problems.
This is his party trick ….
So … if you notice ANY change in your ferret’s eating habits, please don’t be a dill like me and assume that it’s some dreadful cancer which is causing the problem.
Think bad tooth first and foremost and take your little friend down to the vet for a check up and save weeks of discomfort for your little guy and a whole lot of stress for you Gah!
© 2011, Nona. All rights reserved.
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