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Dr. Bob
Dr. Bob, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 7938
Experience:  35 years in practice
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Evening.Unfortunately, tonight I killed my ferret! He was

Customer Question

Unfortunately, tonight I killed my ferret! He was around 3/4 and when I came home today he was very unhappy. He was large for a ferret, around 2.0kg, but 3.2kg at his peak. His brother - larger - who was put down almost a year ago was larger, and lost power and control on his legs, lost weight and was on drugs and convalescence for as long as I saw fit.
Anyway, my mum text me early evening saying he wasn't eating and was having difficulty walking. His back legs have always been playing up since I rehome him from a reputable breeder. She mentioned he sometimes hops and skips, but tonight was dragging them. The laboured breathing was my main concern. Blockage, insulinoma?
Took him in and tried feeding convalescence and water with leftover preds. Took it, but then tried to scurry away. Didn't throw up once. Later flat, legs tucked under the every few minutes suddenly trying to scurry away. Head held up in the air every now and then.
I tried to open jaw to examine, held tongue up tight then bit me! Poor thing.
Left him for 10 mins or so, no better, no worse. Tried more watery convalescence with syringe. Gently squeezed and he took it. But then hell broke loose. He scurried off, then threw his head back. I brought him to me and rubbed his throat and patted back and gently tapped stomach to try and clear his throat. His legs and back scrunched up tight. I knew he was going. I have humanely dispatched ducks and chickens before and loathe nothing more than people who cause suffering to animals, in fact I would happily see them in tremendous pain. But I really felt like ending his suffering some how. But I kept trying to keep him going, hopefully get him breathing.
It was probably 30 seconds to a minute the whole ordeal. Within half the time he looked gone, but still slowly breathing. I touched his eye and there was no reaction/blink. He was dying.
I feel like shit. I know I was trying to help and don't need anyone to tell me otherwise, but more than likely killed him. However, I like to think that those few seconds of agony was better than hours of suffering before I could get him to a vet???!!!
ANYWAY! just wanted a medical opinion on what it could be to out my mind at rest? Seems like a stroke? From birth the legs were problematic but he could still get about. Neurological disorder? Spinal column defect?
Was it a stroke or heart attack? Brought on by me?
I tried seeing in his mouth when I knew he was definitely dead, couldn't see any blockage that was visible.
Thoughts on the cause of death would be appreciated?
Many thanks.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Shantal-Mod replied 3 years ago.
Hello James,

I'm Shantal and I'm a moderator for this topic.

I am sorry to hear of your loss and have been working hard to find a Professional to assist you with your question, but sometimes finding the right Professional can take a little longer than expected.

I was checking to see if you had already found your answer or if you still need assistance from one of the Professionals.

Please let me know if you wish to continue waiting or if you would like for us to close your question?

Thank you,

Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 3 years ago.
Hello James, I'm Dr. Bob. I apologize that this reply has taken so long to get back to you. Very few experts have much ferret experience, so I imagine they've been hesitant to offer an opinion as to what happened to Badger.
I appreciate your willingness to accept the responsibility for Badger's death, but as far as I can tell, you were doing exactly the right things for him. I think what killed him was a syndrome called "aspiration pneumonia". This is a reaction in the lungs resulting from the inhalation of a foreign substance. The lungs rapidly fill with fluid in reaction to the inhaled irritant, and rapid death from asphyxiation can result. Animals can sometimes survive the initial onslaught of this condition, only to succumb to pneumonia later. Some can survive, but they are often damaged permanently by the scarring of their lungs. James, you were doing the best you could for Badger. I've seen this tragic occurrence happen in animals being fed by highly trained veterinary technicians and even by veterinarians. It can happen to anyone, it just a matter of when the animal breathes when being fed. There really isn't even any way to prevent this from happening, other than feeding very tiny amounts at a time, and even this is not fool-proof.
As you mentioned, Badger didn't suffer long, and the condition affecting him was, judging from your description, serious and quite possibly life-threatening in itself. It's tough to lose a pet, and it both common and natural to blame ourselves, but you were not responsible for Badger's death in my opinion.
If you have further questions, please let me know.
Best regards, Dr. Bob