When I returned to Perth from my 5 week vacation in July 2007, I noticed that our 8/9-year old BEW girl, Kaos, was looking very pear-shaped.
Her stomach was taut and large, and she seemed to have lost some weight.
I took her to the vet and they took an X-ray of her stomach. They confirmed that there was a build-up of fluid there so they sent a sample of the fluid to find out what exactly was the problem.
The results came back saying she had dilated cardiomyopathy so she was put on 0.5ml of Frusimide & 0.5ml Benazepril to get rid of the fluid in her stomach and keep her heart ticking over properly.
I remembered a site which had lists of naturopaths in Australia so took a look and found one in northern NSW which provided Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for animals called Online Pet Herbs (unfortunately this site has since closed down ).
I contacted them and asked if they ever had ferrets as patients, as the site showed horses, dogs and cats. They replied back that yes, they had treated a couple of ferrets in the past, so I decided to get some Chinese medicine for Kaos.
The formula they sent me is called: Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, and apparently is famous for treating cardiovascular disease and related ailments in China for centuries.
1. Tao Ren – Semen Persicae (To promote blood circulation, to eliminate phlegm, and to relax the bowels)
2. Hong Hua – Flos Carthami Tinctorii (It is an important herb in blood stasis therapy and often is prescribed with tao ren)
3. Chuan Xiong – Radix Ligustici Chuanxiong (Invigorate blood, promote movement of Qi)
4. Chi Shao – Radix Paeoniae Rubrae (To remove heat from blood, to eliminate blood stasis, and to relieve pain)
5. Niu Xi – Radix Niuxi (Invigorates blood, expels blood stasis)
6. Chai Hu – Radix Bupleuri (Dispelling exopathogens to clear heat, soothing the liver to alleviate mental depression and elevating Yang and Qi)
7. Sheng Di Huang – Radix Rehamanniae Glutinosae (Clears Heat; Cools Blood; Nourishes Yin; Promotes generation of Body Fluids)
8. Zhi Ke – Fructus Citri Seu Ponciri (For the stomach – move Qi, reduce distention with deficiency)
9. Dang Gui – Radix Angelicae Sinensis (To enrich blood, activate blood circulation, regulate menstruation, relieve pain, and relax bowels)
10. San Qi – Notoginseng (Notoginseng is one of the most powerful blood tonics known. It is used to make the body stronger and can aid healing)
11. Dan Shen – Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae (To remove blood stasis and relieve pain, to promote the flow of blood and stimulate menstrual discharge, and to ease the mind)
12. Jie Geng – Radix Platycodi Grandiflori (To relieve cough, to soothe sore throat, and to promote expectoration and discharge of pus)
13. Gan Cao – Radix Glycyrrhizae Uralensis (To reinforce the function of the spleen and replenish qi, to remove heat and counteract toxicity, to dispel phlegm and relieve cough, to alleviate spasmodic pain, and to moderate drug actions). I had to give her 1/8th of a 1ml spoon daily.
At the time of writing (September 3, 2007) it’s been 3 weeks since I started Kaos on her TCM and she seems to be fine. Obviously I don’t know how much of that is because of the “Western” medicine or if it’s due to the herbs she’s been getting.
Whatever the reason, I am extremely pleased with the way she’s going and I hope that we keep her going well for years, rather than months!
You can see Kaos’ “teardrop” shape in this picture taken on Aug 11, 07.
In this picture taken on Aug 22, you can see how she’s slimmed down considerably.
On September 11 I wrote about how Kaos had been given a new diuretic – instead of 0.5mls of Frusimide, she is now on 0.25mls of Flusapex.
Well that old lady has been leading me a very merry dance!
Thursday, October 11 — she went all skinny and wobbly and I was sure she was going to die on me (before I went into hospital). I was up practically every hour on the hour at night, checking to make sure she was still breathing. I made an appointment to take her to my vet as I didn’t want to risk having her fall sick over the weekend.
Friday she seemed better and was moving normally. Although skinny, she didn’t appear to be in distress or upset. I thought, “phew!” and had my fingers crossed whatever it was that caused her wobbliness had passed. I cancelled the appointment with my vet.
Saturday it happened again. She could hardly walk and looked dazed and confused. Again, I had visions of her dying on me so was up, checking on her throughout the night. I was so worried that I emailed Kamila, my TCM practitioner, and asked her if I could increase the dose of Kaos’ TCM. Kamila thought it was best not to but thought about giving her some other formula in addition to the one she’s already taking.
Sunday and Monday she was fine. It was as if I had imagined it all, so I emailed Kamila and told her. We thought it best to leave things as is.
Then it happened again when I was in hospital. Philip was terribly concerned and I felt absolutely helpless, stuck there unable to do anything.
I almost ran out of the hospital when the doctor said I could go home and was pretty worried to see how really skinny Kaos had got. She seemed to not know where she was, so I brought the food and water into our bedroom and put it right by the chest of drawers so that she didn’t have to go anywhere to eat.
All through the night I heard her eating – chomp chomp chomp … gobble gobble gobble – it was like she had been starved for a week! It was quite incredible.
By the next day she actually looked like she had put on weight and since then she’s gone from strength to strength again. She’s eating like a horse and has filled out beautifully. She has a spring in her step when she’s wandering around the house and a sparkle in her eye — and there’s no sign of confusion!
I told Kamila all this and she came back with the suggestion that perhaps Kaos had caught a virus, and that’s what caused the strange dips in her condition. I guess that could be the reason as the whole thing was quite bizarre.
Anyway, whatever the reason – I am just really glad that she’s her old self again!
As all ferret owners who’ve had sick ferrets know, it’s bad enough to look after a sick ferret when you know what’s wrong with it. But when these odd things happen and you have no idea why your ferret has gone downhill all of a sudden, it really makes you feel completely helpless and useless, plus being absolutely stressful.
I am pleased to report that Kaos is looking like a spring chicken these days! If you didn’t know she had a heart condition, you wouldn’t believe she was ill!
She’s filled out so that she looks nice and healthy, and her fur is looking so good too. There was a time when it was a bit spiky and sticky-up … something which happens to sick ferrets … but these days it’s great.
She wanders around the house quite purposefully and if she gets jumped on by the boys, she lets loose with a barrage of screams which proves her lungs are as strong as ever.
November 23 — and her condition has gone downhill somewhat again. Her stomach is filling up again and so I took her back to the vet and also contacted my TCM lady to see if she can fix Kaos up with something else to help.
I weighed the old girl today and she’s just over 1kg, so has put on 200g since my entry of September 12.
I then started to fret about her potassium being leached out her system so was wondering how to get her to eat a banana!
On December 3 I received my second TCM formula for Kaos.
It’s called You Gui Wan and this formula is to tonify Kaos’ kidney Yang qi.
According to Kamila, of Online Pet Herbs …
This deficiency results in chronic fluid retention and is often seen in elderly patients. It is often used with heart problems as if the kidney qi is deficient, there is not enough qi or energy to circulate around the body, which is why you get edemas and swelling of fluid.
This formula works well with Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang to circulate qi and remove blood stasis, as well as tonifying the vital qi of the body.
The ingredients consist of:
Shu Di Huang– Radix Rehamanniae Glutinosae Conquitae (It’s used as a blood tonic — 1. Medium dosages strengthen the function of the heart. Large doses are toxic for the heart. 2. Increases blood pressure. 3. Small doses constrict the blood vessels and large doses dilate the blood vessel. 4. It possesses the characteristics of diuretics. 5. It decreases the blood sugar and inhibits carbohydrates being converted into blood sugar.) It helps the heart, kidneys and liver.
Shan Yao – Radix Dioscoreae Oppositae (Promotes urination.)
Shan Zhu Yu – Fructus Corni Officinalis (Promotes urination, lowers blood pressure and is an antibiotic.) It helps the kidneys & liver by stabilizing the kidney and tonifying the liver and kidney.
Gou Qi Zi – Fructus Lycii (It nourishes and tonifies the liver and kidney; protects liver function, prevents fatty liver, lowers blood lipids, improves and regulates the immune system.) It’s a blood, liver, and kidney tonic.
Du Zhong – Cortex Eucommiae Ulmoidis (It’s a tonic for the liver and kidneys.)
Rou Gui – Cortex Cinnamomi Cassiae (Promotes urination – encourages generation of Qi & blood – alleviates pain due to blood/Qi stagnation and fortifies kidney yang.)
Tu Su [Si] Zi – Semen Cuscutae Chinensis (For tonifying kidneys & strengthening yin. It also secures essence, reserves urine as well as strengthens spleen & stops diarrhea.)
Gan Cao – Radix Glycyrrhizae Uralensis (This is to tonify spleen & stomach Qi – digestive disorders – tonify heart Qi & regulates pulse.)
Because there are diuretic properties in the formula, Kamila suggested that I keep Kaos on her higher dose of Flusapex for the week while I’m introducing it to her and then slowly cut back so that I don’t cause any kidney problems.
Her stomach is still pretty taut with fluid, even though she’s on the higher dose, and she’s put on another 200g since I mentioned she’d put on 200g on November 23, so she now weighs 1.2kg.[wp_ad_camp_2]
Kaos weighed in at 680g on Friday, September 7, and on Wednesday, September 12, she was up to 800g.
That means she has put on roughly 520g of fluid in 12 weeks. That’s almost half her weight!!!
The poor thing – dragging all that extra weight around. I can’t imagine how awful it would be if it were me, having to walk around at double my weight!
I was worried about Kaos.
During the first week of January I was really getting worried because Kaos looked like she had swallowed a bowling ball. Her stomach was huge and taut, so we headed off to see our vet again.
She examined Kaos, who was still 1.2kg at this stage, and I showed her an article I had got off the Web written by Ron Hines, DVM, about adding Spiralactone to her usual medication. Apparently it helps to reduce the size of the stomach, and my vet was happy to oblige.
We got the Spiralactone and I started giving it to her … Ron Hines had said it takes between 2-4 days for it to kick in and make a difference but it didn’t seem to be doing anything to Kaos.
I checked with Kamila if the TCM formulas were still okay to give to Kaos, with this additional medicine, and she said that she didn’t know the drug but that it should be fine to keep giving both as the You Gui Wan didn’t contain a very strong diuretic in it.
I then came across a website about medication for pets with heart disease – not ferret specific – which said that if your pet was on Benazepril or Enalapril or Lisinopril and was taking Spiralactone, then the blood potassium should be monitored closely because those drugs are angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.
That threw me, as Ron Hines had said that the monitoring should only be done if your ferret was on Digoxin and had Spiralactone.
I emailed my vet to ask if this applied to Kaos and she said that there was nothing done in Perth regarding that sort of thing but she’d speak to the laboratory and get back to me with more information.
I then had to go into hospital to repair a piece of bone which broke off my hip and while I was away, Philip took charge and was giving Kaos her medication. He did a magnificent job and it really lifted my spirits when he’d tell me how well she was doing.
Apparently the Spiralactone had kicked in because although she didn’t look particularly thinner, she’d lost 200g – she’s now weighs 1kg (as at January 16) – and when she walks, her back legs didn’t kick out to the side as they’ve been doing for the past few weeks.
So far so good!
And the other good thing about her condition is that the fluid hasn’t gone into her lungs. I really reckon the TCM formulas have done wonders for Kaos and have kept her going for as long as this.
I know my vet was very impressed at how bright Kaos was despite her illness every time I took her to see her and she honestly didn’t expect Kaos to last as long as she has.
Hopefully we’ll be able to keep her going with a good quality of life for many more months yet!
On January 25, I was a little concerned that Kaos wasn’t eating properly as I hadn’t seen her eating the food out of the dish by the chest of drawers. However during the night I heard her moving around so followed her into the laundry and found she was eating the food in there. That made me feel very glad and optimistic that she was doing well.
Just two days later, on Sunday the 27th, she seemed to be her usual self and lapped up all her medication which I gave her in the late afternoon. Then about 8pm I walked into our bedroom and saw her under the chair, looking most peculiar.
Her head was drooping and she seemed confused and unsure about where she was.
My heart sank, especially as the following day was a holiday. I spent the night roaming around the Internet to see what the trouble was and it seemed like she was suffering from hypokalemia (low potassium levels).
First thing that morning I found a ferret knowledgeable vet close by and Philip went up there and got a slow acting potassium tablet for Kaos.
We gave it to her and I was hoping desperately that it would get her better but as the day wore on it was obvious she wasn’t going to make it.
She died peacefully around 4:30 that afternoon and is now playing with Mash and the rest of the gang at the Rainbow Bridge.
She was such a funny, zany little thing — I shall miss her so much!