© 03.02.2023 - Gisela Henke


Leucosis therapy of ferrets The following report describes my experience in an unconventional leucosis therapie of ferrets. Meanwhile, I have gained a certain routine with this particular therapy. Some other veterinarians have also used this therapy successfully. The vaccine we used in the beginning is no more available on the market. I have been testing a newly developed vaccine of this company and a feline leucosis vaccine of another pharmaceutical company - so far successfully. Last year, I became deeply involved in the subject of treating ferrets suffering from leucosis. I would like to restrict this report to the phenotype of this disease showing thickened corporal lymph nodes. Strictly speaking, the term “lymphomas” should be used in this context. In March 1998, I found myself confronted with this disease, when one of my ferrets, „Kimba“, a five year old gib (neutered) suddenly lost weight and showed less activity than usual. During his clinical examination I only found a thickened left lymph node mandibularis (bean size). To begin with, I treated him with cortisone and antibiotics, but during the follwoing 4 weeks he lost again 100 g of weight. A blood examination on April, 9th showed slightly increased liver values (GOT 54,6 u/l , GPT 61,9 u/l) and a badly increased alcaline phosphatasis of 598. The number of leucocytes (18,7 G/l) was much too high. Standard values for ferrets: GPT to 45 u/l GOT to 4o u/l ALP to 65 u/l leucocytes 4-6,5 G/l Consequently, there was every reason to believe that Kimba suffered from leucosis. The other nine ferrets of the group did not show any striking symptoms during their clinical check. Therapeutical ways of treating lymphomes of ferrets are regular cortisone and antibiotic doses or a paramunisation. Thus, some ferrets with swallen external corporal lymph nodes could be stabilized with doses of flumethasone (Acutol®) over a period of several months. Sometimes I tried to operate ferrets with solitaire lymph node growth, especially the lymph node mandibularis, when it had already affected breathing. Only two times this operation was completed successfully. The other ferrets had to be euthanasized during the operation because of an infiltrative growth. Ferrets younger than one year show a rapid progress of leucosis which goes along with high temperature. This fever cannot be controlled by antibiotics. Unfortunately, most of the internal corporal lymph nodes are affected and, additional symptoms, such as dyspnea, inappetence und diarrhoea occur. The symptomatic therapy showed no results and we had to put them at rest. Only then pathologists speak about leucosis suspects or leucotic changes. Leucosis of ferrets has often occured in connection with cats that suffered from leucosis. In most of these cases I recommended to vaccinate the healthy mates against leucosis. For financial reasons this, of course, may be impracticable with large numbers of ferrets. Usually, only individual members of a group are affected. All ferrets have tolerated the vaccinations against leucosis without any complications. The ferret owner can be saved the cat specific leucosis test, as it does not show any relevant results. I do not know the infection source of my gib „Kimba“. Before the age of 12 weeks, he must have had contact with leucosis positive cats at the breeders home, course my own cats have been tested as kittens and vaccinated at regular intervalls. I rejected to use any of these mentioned therapies for „Kimba“. Therefore, against the rules, I decided to vaccinate him against leucosis. It goes without saying that I would never have taken the risk of vaccinating a sick ferret if it had not been my own. Already 14 days after the first vaccination the lymph node started shrinking. Two weeks later „Kimba“ received his second vaccination. Meanwhile he had gained 100 g of weight and started playing again. An examination of his blood at the end of May showed an evident decline of the leucocytes to 6,7 G/l. On May, 23th 1998, when I met ferret „Tobi“, a five year old sable gib (neutered), with thickened lymph nodes in my consultation hour, I told his owner about the promising results I had achieved with „Kimba“. Thus she agreed with a blood examination. „Tobis“ leucocytes amounted to 10, 7 G/l. After that „Tobi“ had been vaccinated twice. The second bloodletting 6 weeks after the second vaccination showed a clear improvement with 5,9 G/l. But only in November 1998 the swollen lymph nodes had receded. Now „Tobi“ is enjoying life and having fun with his three mates. Till the end of 1998 I had treated seven other ferrets with thickened corporal lymph nodes. Totally, I treated nine ferrets, only three of them were females. There are three other ferrets I would like to point out: Two of them suffered from chronic skin changes, eosinophile granulomas, dry, chap, red skin spots which can only be eased by cortisone. 14 days after the first vaccination all these spots had healed. The third ferret I would like to talk about was a 7,5 year old sprite with an additional cardiac insufficience. Her lymph nodes mandibulares were of plum size, so that she did not permit us to fix her for bloodletting. That is why we decided to do without a little blood count. Because this sprite had already been treated unsuccessfully, I persuaded her owner to make a vaccination. Kimba Tobi Merlin Blacky Leukos 18.7 // 6.7 10.7 // 5.9 5.84 // 4.77 9.o6 // 6.22 G/l Ery 11.7 // 9.4 9.44 // 12.42 11.31//11.37 10.22 // 10.34 T/l Hb 19.4 // 15.9 17.9 // 19.2 19.1 // 18.8 15.9 // 15.3 g/dl Ht 61 // 48 48 // 56 50 // 53 48 // 47 % Thromb 151 // 452 43 // 320 468 // 227 329 // 134 G/l Wilma Gismo Bambam Fienchen Leukos 6.25 // 5,0 7,57 // 7.2 5.2 // 6,07 5.53 // 6,01 Ery 9.66 // 8,17 11,83//11,47 8.49 // 10,29 10,45 // 10,49 Hb 13.8 // 10,7 18,9 // 18,1 17.4 // 17,8 16,3 // 18,3 Ht 37 // 37,7 51 // 54 42 // 35 47 // 37 Thromb 287 // 163 124 // 362 57 // 370 336 // 230 [Images] In Dezember 2001 two ferrets of the first vaccination series were still alive. None of the others had to be euthanasized because of leucosis. Now this vaccination of ferrets with thickened corporal nodes has become routine treatment in my consulting hours. This vaccination has never caused a deterioration of the clinical symptoms. Therefore, the vaccination of ferrets suffering from leucosis can be considered as an effective and recommendable alternative of therapying leucosis. Copyright: by Gisela Henke This report is only to be published at www.frettchendoc.de. The Copyright is part of the text and must not be deleted.