The Natural Ferret had an amazing opportunity to interview Carina from Unwanted Fuzz in regards to the recent Canine Distemper outbreak. Read more about what it was like during the outbreak.
About Unwanted Fuzz
Unwanted Fuzz is a raw feeding ferret rescue based in Victoria, Australia. They offer a wide range of services, including ferret rescue/surrenders and adoptions but also boarding, and free vasectomised hob services. They are a great source for information and advice relating to all aspects of ferret husbandry.
★ Click Here for Info on Distemper in Australia ★
According to the AVA, Distemper used to be a fairly common occurrence in Australia up until the 1960s and 1970s, however with the introduction of vaccines combined with the warm, dry climate in Australia, the occurrence has died down quite a bit. This virus doesn’t survive or thrive as well in the Aussie Environment and even though Canine Distemper is one of the more uncommon diseases in Australia for companion animals, we still do get outbreaks from time to time, especially around regional areas or urban fringe. The virus is really difficult to fully eradicate here and often foxes, dingoes and wild dogs are likely to be a source of infection and transmit the disease to companion animals such as our ferrets. The mortality rate for ferrets is supposedly very high, especially since younger and immune compromised ferrets are more susceptible. Distemper commonly occurs sub-clinically, so supposedly “healthy” ferrets could contract, carry and shed the virus without showing any overt clinical signs. Due to this risk, appropriate quarantine periods is highly important for ferret rescues. Boosting immunity will aid in both prevention and recovery of animals who contract this disease and even though there is a high mortality rate for ferrets, survival can be possible.
Machan: “Was this the first Canine Distemper Outbreak at UF Ferret Rescue?”
Carina: “Yes, we had only heard horror stories about distemper before. Never experienced it first hand.”
Machan: “Do you know or suspect how it [Canine Distemper] may have occurred?”
Carina: “Yes. I believe it was brought in by a surrender that passed away a short time after arriving. She did not appear ill at all and was housed with the others.”
Machan: “How many+which ferrets were affected? How long were they tested positive?”
Carina: “The outbreak started early Feb and we have only just been given the all clear now. We had 10 ferrets contract the distemper. Solomon, Atlas, Knox, Cole, Kobe, Zoren, Celia, Cooper and Enzo and Linc who passed away. They were sick for weeks. Some worse than others. All had to be syringe fed and have their faces wiped. They had crusty scabby eyes and noses so that made it harder for them to breathe. We had 3 tests done. First one was to confirm the disease. The second and third were to see if it had passed. We failed the second so did the third a month later.”
Machan: “Infectious diseases are truly terrifying things with the fact even seemingly healthy animals may be infected and we wouldn’t even be aware that they are shedding the virus. I’m glad you managed to get it under control. It would have surely been a disaster had it spread around the entire rescue.”
Machan: “As a rescue, you have ferrets come and go, do you have an infection control protocol of some sort? (eg Quarantine, etc)”
Carina: ”All newbies are housed indoors for a quarantine period. They don’t move outside until they have been vaccinated for 2wks minimum.”
Machan: “How did you personally feel during the entire Distemper outbreak, especially at the very beginning and then again during the re-tests? Did you ever have doubts about recovery?”
Carina: “I was a mess when I found out it was distemper. Originally the vet had thought it was a cellulitis type rash but I googled (i like to think I know a little about fuzz) and I let the vet know my concerns. He eventually he agreed. I walked around the house the first week or so bawling. I hardly slept. I kept thinking I’d wake up to EVERYONE dead the next day. It was such a hard thing to go through. I couldn’t have any contact with anyone else’s ferrets or visit Kristy in case I passed something on. When it was time for a re-test I was super excited and positive as no one had been sick for at least 4-6weeks. But that test came back still positive. The next test 4weeks later i was a bit of a mess. I relived it all and kept thinking it would be positive again. It felt like it wouldn’t end.
I suppose it hasn’t quite sunk in that I’m all clear yet. When the ferrets start heading to their new homes it will be more real. 😀 I have almost 10 with pending adoptions. Oh! I also got married in between all this! Everyone kept asking about my wedding and how it was going and why wasn’t I bridezilla yet.. all I could say was my ferrets are sick. I don’t have time to worry about the wedding! Lol”
Machan: “Congrats on your marriage and the pending adoptions! It’s really fantastic to hear how the ferrets in your care are incredibly important to you! 😊”
Machan: “When your vet confirmed CD, was the prognosis grim and euthanasia advised at all? If so, was there anything in particular that made you decide to fight with all you can for the ferrets to survive even with the possibility of a high mortality rate and ongoing recovery costs at the time?”
Carina: “My vet and I have a good relationship so he knew I’d give it my all and would not accept a euthanasia suggestion. He was willing to help me as best he could for as long as it took ☺️ I have an account at the vet so money wasn’t something I thought about too much. The Xavier Canine Distemper Fund helped pay for some of my vet costs also.”
Machan: “What did you do to help boost the immunity of those affected? What about those at risk?”
Carina: “Everyone here was vaccinated, the sick and the healthy. We also had vitamin A shots administered for an extra boost. I added colloidal silver and L-LYSINE to their water and food. When it hit I basically waited for everyone to get sick. I honestly thought it would go through the lot. I took a lot of precautions. Changed clothes, wore gloves and had minimal contact with the healthy ferrets.”
Machan: “How helpful were the donations when it came to funds towards aiding recovery or items such as F10, etc? 🙂”
Carina: “The donations were incredible. I was at the vet every week getting the sick fuzzies injections of convenia to fight the infection. The ferrets got the injections until they had absolutely no visible sign of illness. That cost a lot. There were donations of gloves, syringes, recovery food, F10 products.. I’ve probably forgotten something! The support I received was amazing.”
Machan: “It has been incredible hearing more about the outbreak from your perspective. I’m certain there will be many people who would greatly appreciate reading this. 😊”
Machan: “If you have any advice for ferret owners, breeders, fellow rescues, that may be going through a similar situation, what would it be?”
Carina: “Don’t give up! Distemper is NOT a death sentence as I have proved 😉”
Machan: “~and a completely off topic final question, how many ferrets in your care do you have that are ready, or almost ready to be adopted?”
Carina: “At the moment I have 14 ferrets fully vet worked and ready to go to their new forever homes but we are always raising money to vet work more. There are currently 51 rescues in my care.”
If you’re an Aussie interested in giving a fuzz a first or second chance at life, You can get in contact with Unwanted Fuzz via Facebook.
Unwanted Fuzz Ferrets are raw-fed, desexed, vaccinated & microchipped prior to adoption and come with an adoption fee of around $150~250. For more information on available ferrets, adoptions or simply to show some support, go and check out Unwanted Fuzz on Facebook!
Canine Distemper is a horrible disease which is no easy battle for ferrets. Of the 10 ferrets who contracted the distemper during this outbreak, 8 of them survived with the help of their carers as well as the support of the ferret community through caring thoughts and generous donations.
This page is dedicated to Enzo and Linc, who both fought with all they had to survive but unfortunately were unable to beat CDV.