A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper

A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper
Ever wonder what its like to share your world with a bunch of crazy critters? Tune in to find out!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Zoo Updates

It has been such a crazy Clooney intensive week that I thought I would do a general update on the other critters as well...

First - Clooney - he is doing great.  He is not thrilled about taking his meds but he makes it through. He is resting comfortably, eating, drinking, going potty and in general getting back to normal.  I think tomorrow I will set up the gates so he can have the kitchen area to run around in so he has more space.  The only thing that is not back to normal yet is his respiration rate.  Given that his lung is likely still bruised and he is on pain meds his breathing is shallow and quick.  It is not, however, labored at all - he seems perfectly comfortable and does not show signs of distress at all.  Overall I am pleased with his progress and am so happy to have him at home with us.  The whole ordeal was far too scary.

Theo - he has completely recovered from his blood donation and is doing just great.  Finn is happy and full of energy, Violet and Maddie are both doing fine as well!!  My little bunch of five are back together and doing great!

Kitties - Phoebe is doing well - I have been giving her a bit more than her regular dosage of the thyroid medication and it has eliminated her throwing up completely.  I think we have gone 6 days or so without any issues.  Once we catch our breath from the Clooney incident I will get her into the vet for a blood test and a readjustment on her dosage.  Aggie is doing just great - we missed posting about her birthday in the chaos of the emergency - she turned 17 last week.  Ollie is doing fantastic health wise - he is ornery as ever.  Last but not least - Miss Zoey - she is quite well as well and she is spending more time with her humans...kitty land is going strong!

Fishes - the tank is holding its own - with only minor water issues that have been easily rectified by a partial water change.  SteveIrwin is being a bit of a butt - taking a nip out of both BettyWhite's and BobBarker's tail fins.  What a little bully!  I am putting some things in their water to prevent them from getting infected and to help promote the regrowth of their fins.  Everyone seems good - strong appetites, and good activity levels.

Miss Emma - she is doing very well - enjoying the daily walking regimen.  Today we did 7 miles or so.  She is being on pretty good behavior - no complaints.

All in all - my little zoo is doing pretty darn well.  Let's hope next week is a little calmer!!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Clooney and Theo Report

Wow - what a crazy day today - when we last updated Clooney's PCV was around 28% I think.  I stopped by the hospital around 1 to see him and he looked awful - you could tell he felt horrible but - the promising thing was his breathing was still good - not labored.

Around 4:30 we got a call from the hospital letting us know that the PCV numbers had fallen to 20% and Clooney's heart rate had increased so they were going to use Theo as a blood donor and give Clooney a transfusion.  Breathing was still holding....

Around 6:30 we arrived at the hospital to check in on both boys.  Clooney looked 1000% better.  He had been getting Theo's blood for about and hour and fifteen minutes and the difference in him was remarkable.  Theo was waking up from his sedation and just wanted to be held by his dad.

Here's what the doctors are thinking:

  • The bleeding has either stopped completely or slowed significantly since its been about 18 hours since the last time they took fluid out of the chest cavity.
  • The transfusion was doing him a world of good - his PVC values were on the rise
  • He is still getting fluids in addition to the blood but if all goes well he MAY get to come home tomorrow or Sunday!!!
Clooney went from being a snoozy weasel to showing some signs of spunk - scratching at his blankets and biting at his IV trying to get it out of his arm.  He should be finishing up with the transfusion about now and then we will move to monitoring and see if his PCV values hold.

As for my Theo - I am not sure how to explain my feelings...I adored him and the other zoo critters from the day I got each of them.  But - the fact that he saved my Clooney makes me love him that much more.  He is my little hero.  He is laying draped over his dad's lap snoozing after having a bite to eat and a drink - he is still a little groggy....

As for the others - Finn is so excited that Theo is home he is laying right next to him and hasn't left his side since he walked in the door.  The girls are playing somewhere - I can hear them.  The kitties are all hanging out and the fishes have been fed and put to bed.  Miss Em is enjoying a bone and relaxing.  Things are starting to feel "right" with the zoo again....

And the humans - I think we have gone from feeling like the weight of a Mack truck has been lifted off our hearts and our guts but also feeling like that same truck has run us over.  I think we are both exhausted and so relieved that we might be moving into recovery phase instead of that terrible wait and see mode.  I am not sure I am willing to believe we are totally out of the woods yet and there still could be complications but I am feeling far more optimistic tonight than I have been since this whole ordeal started.  Stay tuned....

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Clooney's In the Hospital...

We had a stepping incident this morning....frankly I am surprised we haven't had this before now - the ferrets are always under foot.  They often get slid across the floor as you catch them with your foot - Theo thinks this is the best game EVER!

This was more of a step on the ferret occurrence and it caused some issues for my Clooney.  I called my vet but they couldn't see him until late in the day and suggested the emergency vet route.  I ended up taking him to Avian & Exotics who specialize in ferrets among other things.

When we got there the initial exam seemed to go well - he was alert and moving around and seemed pretty okay.  The vet gave me the option of watching him or doing an x-ray to be certain.  I opted for the x-ray and I am so thankful I did.  Ended up that Clooney was bleeding into his chest!  This would have likely been fatal had we not found it.  So - we talked about the need for a chest tube and exploratory surgery to find the source of the bleeding.  The prognosis was not great.  There was a lot of blood - they pulled out 25 ccs which is lots for a little ferret.

Thankfully the vet did another test - a packed cell volume test.  She was clever enough to test the blood they took from his vein and compare it to the blood they took from his chest.  Vein was 35% which is very low for a ferret and chest was 50% which indicated to her that perhaps the bleeding had resolved itself and that we might be a bit better off than we thought.

The current plan is wait and see.  They will continue to monitor and do the packed cell volume test as a way to sort of determine if he is still bleeding internally.  If his numbers go down, that will be bad - potentially a transfusion and maybe surgery.  If they hold steady or go up - this is good!!  I picked him up from the vet and delivered him to the overnight hospital where they can continue to monitor him.  He was scratching at the carrier to get out on the way - a little bit of spunk seems like a good thing.

The vet at the overnight hospital made me feel a bit less optimistic - we still are not out of the woods.  We talked about best and worst case scenarios - my brain always goes to worst and then thinks up even more awful stuff.  Trying hard not to do that.  One good thing - the vet tech from my vet's office happens to be working tonight so he will be with Clooney until 2 am.  Somehow I feel better that he is with someone who knows us.

I left my little man all snug in his favorite bed from home and covered up with his favorite blanket.  We will be at the ready for any middle of the night calls and will decide based on tonight whether we move him back to the vet or just leave him at the 24 hr place if he has to stay for longer.

Please get well my sweet ferret boy...

Here are some pics from the vets office taken this afternoon...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ammonia Spike

It's all coming back to me now - the trials and tribulations of having a fish tank.  Its quite a lot of pressure actually - if you screw it up too badly then you have little fish deaths on your conscience - which really stinks.

When I got home from our morning walk I fed the fishes and proceeded to test their water.  Wowser - the ammonia was high!!  This prompted a pretty healthy water change, a thorough vacuuming of the gravel, changing the filter and turning up the aeration.  That seemed to work as ll the numbers are back to normal tonight - thank goodness.

I was very conservative when I fed them tonight - no excess to drive up the numbers again.  The fish all seem to be doing great - they are active and seem to be settled in.  SteveIrwin has gotten over his need to bully the new roomies.  I am glad he is not chasing poor BettyWhite all over the place any longer.  They all seem to be getting along quite well.

Tomorrow morning I will test again to make sure everything is okay...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tiny Lavender Moths

We went for our morning walk and saw hundreds of these beautiful, tiny lavender moths.  They are tiny - maybe and inch across and 3/4 of an inch long.  They stay low to the ground and were in the weeds along the path where we were walking.

I have Googled everything I can think of and I can't find anything that really resembles them under lavender, purple, or blue moths.  I tried moths of NC even - nothing.  Not sure what they are but I have never seen them before and there were bunches of them.  They have no markings - just a pale lavender little bug flying around.

Would love for all my resident moth experts to weigh in on these mystery guys...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

New Tankmates for SteveIrwin and Cousteau

With the passing of our sweet balloon belly molly JackHanna - SteveIrwin and Cousteau needed some company.  I think SteveIrwin was kinda sad that JackHanna was gone...

So - off to the pet store I went and I came home with some new friends!  So welcome to the family:

BettyWhite - the panda platy:

BobBarker - the silver molly:

and RickyGervais - the balloon belly molly:

photobombed by Cousteau

So far BobBarker has moved right in - he is totally comfortable in his new surroundings and munching away on some fish flakes.  BettyWhite found herself a large flake and took it into one of the tank ornaments in order to eat it in peace.  And - unlike is namesake - RickyGervais is quite shy and unsure of his new home.  I am confident he will come out of his shell soon!

Cousteau is unaffected by these new additions.  SteveIrwin is busy trying to show everyone who is boss...

RIP sweet JackHanna!!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Magic Sponge

I ordered the best aquarium thing EVER!  The other day I was telling my husband that cycling a fish tank was such a pain that we should start a business where people could buy fish ready water for their tanks.  Well - low and behold I was looking online at the different readings from my tank and I ran across a link to a place called Angels Plus.  This place sells beautiful angel fish (which I did not order - be proud) but they also sell the magic sponge.

I ordered on of these sponge filters - they had it in their already established, cycled, happy tanks and the good bacteria that you need in a fish tank is already living on the filter.  They overnight it to you and you put it in your tank attached to a bubbler and voila - almost instant happy tank water.  I really mean it - it took less than 24 hours for the reading in my tank to go to optimum.

Like I said - best fish tank item EVER!

Now that the water is healthy - of course - JackHanna seems to have something going on with his fins - so I am off to research that.  The trials and tribulations of aquariums....

Friday, June 20, 2014

Violet's Not So Excellent Adventure

You may have seen my post on Facebook earlier today.  For the first time in 6 years of having ferrets one of them got out.  Violet made it outside this morning without me knowing and it was only because of Oliver looking out the storm door with such intensity that I found her.

Once I got her back inside I decided it was important to confine her to the traveling pen for a bit to make sure she was okay.  She was quite warm when I picked her up so the first thing we did was get a drink.  She loves to drink out of my cup which today was a good thing because it gave me an opportunity to monitor how much she was taking in.  I offered her some food in the pen which she made quick work of.  Finally she settled down to take a nap.  I kept her in the pen for about 5 hours - I figured that was adequate since ferret metabolisms are so fast if she ingested anything bad when she was outside she should show symptoms within that amount of time.

I woke her from her nap around 3 this afternoon and she got another drink - I am pretty sure she is not dehydrated - gums are nice and pink and her skin retracts quickly when I scruff her.  She went potty and that all seemed normal so I released her from her prison and she quickly went upstairs to find Madison and take a nap.  I think she must have been pretty tuckered out because I haven't seen her since.  I am hoping she will come out for a visit here shortly.  Finn just got up for his evening romp and she is usually not far behind.

It goes without saying that I am so fortunate that she stayed close by and that she is okay.  Thinking about what could have happened ties my stomach in knots.  I think her adventure scared her as well because she has been much more tolerant of being held and loved on today than she normally is.  So glad all my little weasels are safe and sound this evening....

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Aggie the People Food Junkie

My Aggie girl is quite the connoisseur of people food which is interesting because it was only a few  years ago she was completely against people food of any kind.

Now she is a complete junkie.  She will beg, meow, use her paw to remind you and if that doesn't work she will plow right on in to your plate...  She pretty much likes anything you offer - I guess she figures that if its good enough for people mouths its good enough for her.

So - even though she is a junkie - let's be clear...she doesn't get much because, well, people food isn't great for kitties.  I try to be very careful in what I actually let her have and how much.

It's funny - she has taken over Isabel's role as the people food eater - miss that crazy Isabel cat...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pet Product Review - Cat's Meow Toy

So - I was in Walgreens yesterday and I saw this toy in the As Seen on TV section.  I had never seen it on TV but it looked intriguing and I thought that maybe Ollie and Finn would like it so I picked it up.

Its the Cat's Meow toy:

It has a somewhat heavy base and an arm with a red piece of plastic attached.  You stick the arm into a hole on the base and then put the yellow "poncho" over the top.  The arm spins around at random going both directions and moves the fabric.  The arm rubbing on the nylon also makes a noise they seem to like.

I brought this contraption home and filled it up with 3 C batteries.  Oh boy - I was right - Oliver LOVES this!!  He played with it none stop for literally hours.  I mean it folks - he liked it so much that I have already had to change the batteries!!  The other kitties are on the fence - curious but nothing like Oliver.

As for the ferrets - Finn and Violet love it and are quite cute playing with the toy.  Clooney and Maddie are interested but cautious.  Theo stuck his head under the fabric, caught the wand in his mouth and proceeded to head for the stairs.  He was going to hoard the new toy...

I would give this toy high marks - the fact that Oliver is obsessed and that it entertains attention deficit ferrets and keeps them engaged gets it two thumbs up!

The fish and the dog - uninterested...

I will try to capture some photos/videos of them playing.  Meanwhile - here is a YouTube of the commercial:


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Stories of the Day

Tuesday - how is it only Tuesday?  Its been a hectic day/week....

Today started off with Emma having her 5 mile walk. She loves it and I like her being active as she gets older.  Once home - chores - cat boxes, fish feeding and water testing, kitty ear meds and general cleanup.

Dr. Finn, Medicine Ferret has been at it again - along with the nose inspections, the teeth inspections and the occasional ear inspections Finn has decided he is interested in my ailing foot.  It hurts me when I walk in the mornings and I have been trying out different things.  Today I had on an ankle brace made out of Ace Bandage material and a sock.  Dr. Finn wasn't having it at all....evidently he did not prescribe either the sock or the brace.  He spent about 10 minutes and actually got the sock off my foot.  He didn't have as much luck with my brace - but not for lack of trying.

Water - the ferrets love to drink water machine water out of a Solo cup.  Just for the record - if the cup is fairly full it fits three ferrets heads - but - as they drink and the water level goes down there is less room and the attempts at drowning one's sibling ensue...

The kitties got a new toy - and the ferrets like it to - check out the blog tomorrow to hear all about it.

Water change had to occur in the tank today - Nitrites were too high.  Cycling is such a pain.  I found a place online that will overnight you a filter with the established bacteria on it in some happy bacteria filled water.  Needless to say I jumped at the opportunity and I should have a filter arriving here day after tomorrow - stay tuned for exciting fish tank cycling updates....

I think that might be the stories for this Tuesday....

Oh - one more story - technically from Monday night - we went to dinner and low and behold - a lady was out walking her micro pig - OMG...I will not get a pig, I will not get a pig, I will not get a pig....

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Pet Product Review: EHEIM Quick Vac Pro Automatic Gravel Cleaner and Sludge Extractor

Let me start by saying - my new most favorite pet product!!!!  :)

I used to have many aquariums many years ago and one of the worst parts of the maintenance was to drag out the bucket and use the suction vacuum thingy to clean the bottom of the tank - ugh - it was part of the reason I gave up the tanks.

I found this little gem on Amazon:

Its a vacuum, battery powered.  You just stick it in the tank and turn it on and voila - all the ick gets sucked up into that middle section which is the filter and the gravel stays put.  It's like magic!!  Once you are done you just pull out the filter, take off the bottom and give it a rinse.  Super easy to clean up!!  Did I mention - magic???  Even better - SteveIrwin and JackHanna didn't seem too stressed out to have me in there doing my thing.  Cousteau did not love it but he just moved to the other side of the tank once I got close.

Check out this link where you can order it - or at the very least watch the video...

In addition there is a really cool app that you can download:


You pop in all your values from when you test your water and it tells you exactly what to do to correct any issues - totally cool!!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Saturday Morning

It's Saturday morning and we are hanging out.  As I type this Oliver and Zoey are sharing the hubs lap and Aggie and Phoebe are laying with me.  Clooney just finished playing with velcro - he does love some velcro and now he has climbed up on the bed for some pets and a nap.

The rest of the ferrets are snoozing after an active morning of playing and wrestling.  Emma is sleeping after her 5 mile walk.  The fishies are doing whatever fishies do all day - they have had a breakfast of pellets, flakes and worms and seem content.  I got some aquarium test strips in the mail yesterday and was able to test their water.  While the tank hasn't completed a cycle yet - that usually takes 6 - 8 weeks, I was happy to find that their water is actually pretty good and not at any dangerous levels.  I will continue to test daily and do 10 - 20% water changes as needed.

It's a pretty laid back morning - after the last couple of crazy work weeks we can use some down time...  :)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Miss Em is a Bit Under the Weather

My poor Miss Emma has an upset tummy today.  I believe this to be anxiety induced as it has been quite thundery the last couple of days and my girl does not have any love for the thunder.  We have had some accidents today so I know she is really not feeling good.

This evening I was able to entice her to eat a milk bone which then sparked her appetite a bit and I fed her some rice and chicken broth.  I am hoping the rice will settle her system and that she will get to feeling better. I really hate it when my "children" are feeling cruddy.  I wish there was more I could do.  For now I will be keeping a close eye on her and will take her in should she not improve in a day or two.

Feel better my sweet pup!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


The critters make me ask myself why a lot of the time - like this example for instance...

I order the cat food from Amazon and have it delivered monthly - it's significantly cheaper that way.  The food comes in packages of three small three pound bags.

Why is it that the kitties insist on making a hole in the side of one of the unopened bags - even though the feeder is filled up to the tippy tippy top with the exact same food?  And why is it that the ferrets insist in eating from the hole in the bag instead of the feeder?

Crazy little critters - I don't know why they do what they do.  Love them though - even though they are quirky!  :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


I have a house full of lovely assistants...

Emma - she likes to help you with whatever you are doing - usually by standing right in the way of whatever you are doing.  Sigh - move is a well used word around here...

The kitties - they help with lots of things...if you are writing something they will help you hold your pen or sit right in the middle of the paper you are trying to write on.  They help type - nothing like a cat butt in your face while you are working on your laptop.

The ferrets - they are super helpers - not!  They help you walk by standing on your feet.  They are right in the middle of any project.  They help unload the groceries and other bags by stealing things out of them.  They help put your shoes away (aka - hide them).

The fish - okay - they don't actually help with anything but I felt bad leaving them out...

Some days its frustrating trying to get things done with my little crew of helpers but I wouldn't have it any other way...

Monday, June 09, 2014

The Stories of the Day

It was another crazy jam packed Monday - why do they have to be so crazy?  Couldn't we just ease back into the week?

Fish Tales -

SteveIrwin, JackHanna and Cousteau all seem to be doing well.  They are all quite active and have great appetites.  JackHanna is a tiny bit less neurotic about seeing his reflection and is getting used to me doing things in and around his tank.  He is even coming up to the surface to say hi along with SteveIrwin.  Cousteau is the most elusive of the three but he seems to be enjoying his cleanup duties. We have the filter all set up and the biological boosters in there so now all we have to do is get the tank to cycle - ugh - I forgot about this part....

Cat Tales -

It was a pretty uneventful kitty day with the exception of the spiteful pee cat Zoey - she was nice enough to leave a puddle on the bed.  Sigh.  Needless to say there was a lot of laundry today.  But - the good news is that I started putting a waterproof mattress liner on our bed after the first incident of spiteful peeing so it didn't hurt the mattress and the liners wash up like nothing ever happened.  Whew!

Dog Tales -

Miss Emma joined us for a 4 mile walk this morning.  She then proceeded to snooze - chase Theo the ferret who stole her bone - and scratch on the carpet.  I noticed yesterday for the first time that my old girl was a little slow to get up yesterday.  I gave her a nice long rub down and today she seems as good as new!

Ferret Tales -

The ferrets all seem great.  Clooney was up and around today and quite spry.  Violet was very social for a good bit of the morning.  Maddie was her regular affectionate self and wanted cuddles and kisses and the little boys Finn and Theo were full of ornery as usual.  Happy to see them doing so well....

The humans are tired tonight - might be turning in early....hoping for a calmer Tuesday.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

SteveIrwin gets an Upgrade and New Roomies

A few years ago I was an avid aquarium keeper having several tanks in several sizes.  I decided that since I would likely never put the top on the small tank I had SteveIrwin in (it would not allow my daily interaction with him) that I would move him to a larger tank.  I dug around the garage and laid my hands on an old 10 gallon aquarium from many moons ago.  After much scrubbing it was squeaky clean and ready for SteveIrwin and his stuff.

I am able to fit all of his ornaments and several real and silk plants for him to play and snooze in.  So - in he goes.  He seems to like it - but its so big and just one fish in there seems so lonely so - off to the pet store to find him some roomies for him.

Meet JackHanna the balloon bellied molly.  He is a teensy bit neurotic (don't tell him I said so) and he is very excited by his own reflection.  He has mellowed in the last couple of days thankfully and I think he is settling in.  SteveIrwin does not seem particularly interested in JackHanna and they coexist quite peacefully.

Meet Cousteau the cory catfish.  He is a cute little devil that cleans up after the others, keeping the floor of the aquarium and the tank ornaments squeaky clean.  So far he is doing a bang up job. SteveIrwin is much more interested in Cousteau and he follows him around.  He is not aggressive towards him - just interested.

So far life in the new tank seems good and SteveIrwin seems happy!  As for his little tank - I am thinking some African Dwarf Frogs in there and starting up the plants...stay tuned for more fishy updates....

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Morning Walks

We have been walking 5 miles each morning for the last month or so.  Since we live in a small-ish town we have lots of open spaces and parks and as a result - lots of critters that we see on our jaunts.

This year for some reason the bunnies have lived up to their reproductive sterotype and they are prolific.  Everyday we see at least 3 and usually more of these cuties as we walk.

Deer - we don't get to see the often but occasionally we get lucky and see them in the wooded areas of our walk.

Birds - we see LOTS of birds on our walks.  A few to call out - our 6 Canadian geese that have taken up residence at the pond in the park - they are there every morning.  We also have tons of turkey vultures in the area and see them perched on the water tower or picking at a meal made of some poor critter that got squished on the road.

Turtles - in the two ponds we pass we see an abundance of turtles.  We also hear but have not seen frogs that sound just like a geiger counter - feels like you are walking through a radio active zone...

When you are plugging along at 6:30 a.m. in gazillion percent humidity - critter distractions are a good thing!!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Second Location of the Bird Smorgasbord has Opened for Business

I had set up a feeding station for the birds in the front yard and have been thoroughly enjoying watching them enjoy the food each day.  The only problem is that the bird area is not in an easy place to watch the birds so I decided to open a second location.

I ordered this:

So far - only a few little chickadees have found this new location - but it won't take them long.  It will be nice to watch them from the deck or the kitchen window...

I fear I am turning into the crazy bird lady....

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Zoo Phrases

If I had a nickel for every time I say...  I guess that just like human children my furry children get told the same things over and over.  Here are some of the most common phrases:

When speaking to Emma:
"Quit scratching" for her incessant need to nest on the carpet...
"No barking" - especially when the UPS man comes...
"Don't chase the kitty" - specifically referring to Aggie - not sure why she insists on chasing her but she does and Aggie is the only one...
"Quit licking" - ugh - the most annoying sound in the universe...

When speaking to the kitties:
"Oliver Grant" - used frequently because he always tries to find trouble
"Be nice" - usually said when a ferret comes around
"No fighting" - when Phoebe and Aggie or Aggie and Oliver have squabbles
"Quit licking" - ugh - second most annoying sound in the universe
"Put down the ferret" - said often to Oliver who scruffs the ferrets when they make him mad

When speaking to the ferrets:
"Gentle" - said mostly to Theo and sometimes to Finn when they get overly excited when playing and forget they are not allowed to bite
"Theo!!!" - said to Theo - who is tall and into everything
"Baby Ferrets" - when calling them - I use this as the generic term - then I use their names

When speaking to SteveIrwin:
"What a handsome fish" - he knows it and flaunts it

Monday, June 02, 2014

Manic Monday

Wowie - today was a painful busy day!!  We did a full clean out of SteveIrwin's tank and put in his third tank ornament that is a bright orange tower with lots of holes to swim through.  He seems to like it and has been in and out of there over the course of the day.

This afternoon we had an installer come and put in new storm doors.  Critters had to be on lockdown which they completely hate.  Since they have been turned loose they are finding the new back storm door and they are fascinated.

Emma got her 5 miles walk this morning and has been pretty well behaved.  Phoebe has been a bit pukey for the last couple of days - she may need to head to the vet for a check to see if she needs a thyroid med adjustment or if she has something else going on like a kidney issue.  I will be keeping a close eye on her for sure.  Everyone else is cruising along.

I have had a few glimpses of my baby birds and their parents today - everyone seems good.  Haven't seen the parents back at the nest - guessing they are busy with four now flying babies.

Tonight I have cat box scooping in my future - oh joy!!!  :)

Hopefully Tuesday is less of a whirlwind...

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Heatstroke in Ferrets

As the temps start to rise its important to remember that our little ferret friends don't tolerate the heat very well.  I found this great article about ferret heatstroke that has lots of good information.

What Should You Know About Heatstroke? Plenty!
© Erika Matulich, Ph.D.
Because ferrets don't tolerate heat well, ferret owners must take extra care during summer to prevent heat stress and heatstroke. The main reason ferrets have heat problems is that they can't sweat. Humans perspire to cool down, but ferrets can't do this. (Wild ferret relatives live in cold climates.) Dogs pant to move air over moisture in their mouths to cool themselves. Ferrets don't normally pant; if you see your ferrets panting, he is suffering from heat stress and is in danger of heatstroke. I once took Sweet Pea to the park for a walk, and although I was comfortable in the pleasant weather, she started to pant. I immediately gave her water and took her inside.

Temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit are uncomfortable for ferrets, temperatures above 85 can cause medical problems within hours, and temperatures above 90 can be fatal. Although ferrets can live through high temperatures, heat-related stress weakens their immune system and shortens their life. If the outdoor climate has temperatures above 80 degrees, ferrets should be kept indoors in a temperature-controlled environment.

These temperature guidelines assume low humidity levels (less than 40 percent). If you live in a humid climate, look at the heat index (a combination of temperature and relative humidity) rather than the actual temperature. If the thermometer reads 82 degrees F and the relative humidity is 80 percent, the heat index is 90, meaning that it feels to us like 90 degrees F. This is because higher humidity levels don't allow for moisture evaporation and heat dissipation from the skin. Although ferrets can't sweat, they still need to lose heat from their footpads, nose, ears, and mouth; high humidity doesn't allow for this. Because my ferrets and I live in South Florida, I pay special attention to humidity so that my fuzzies don't have problems.

To avoid heat stress, keep your ferret in an air-conditioned room, away from direct sunlight. Provide adequate water, and use ice or evaporative cooling to cool the surrounding air. Despite taking these precautions, you may have a ferret suffer from heat stress, which can quickly lead to heatstroke. Heatstroke can be fatal within minutes—one of the reasons you should never leave your ferret (or any pet or animal) in a parked car.

Your ferret may show initial signs of heat stress by being lethargic and lying flat on the floor. The ferret may have her mouth open, and her nose and gums might turn a darker pink (or white, if she is going into shock). If she is panting, salivating, or limp, or if she has red footpads, she is going into heatstroke. Further symptoms are a large quantity of mucus coming from the nose and mouth; collapse; seizures; and finally, coma.

A ferret's normal rectal body temperature is between 99 and 104 degrees F (the average is 101.9). Respiration should be 33 to 36 breaths per minute. Average heart rate should be 225 beats per minute. Higher temperatures, rapid pulse, and shallow breathing indicate heatstroke. To take a rectal temperature, shake down the thermometer, coat it with petroleum jelly, and insert it into the rectum a half inch. Wait one minute, remove, and read. You may need to have someone distract or restrain the ferret during this procedure.

I have also used ear thermometers; although they are much faster, I have noticed that temperatures register lower in the ear, so adjust accordingly. You may need to adjust downward by about 3 degrees. My ferrets' ears read between 96 and 100 degrees, with most at 98. When I get a new thermometer, I take a baseline temperature for each of my ferrets when they are not having any problems. That way, when they do have a health problem, I know whether they have a higher or lower temperature than normal.

First aid
In cases of heat stress and heatstroke, the goal is to lower the ferret's body temperature steadily, not suddenly. I know how hard it is to work slowly on a suffering ferret. I once found Sasha gasping for air, with bright-red ears, gums, and feet. In my panic to save her, I was tempted to dunk her in ice water, but this can be very dangerous. Keep your own head cool, remove your ferret from the heat, and start cooling slowly. If you cool your ferret too quickly, his temperature can drop to a dangerously low level.

Try offering water or Pedialyte (an infant formula that replenishes electrolytes) in a syringe. Drip it in the side of the mouth or under the tongue, making sure the ferret laps and swallows. Never force liquids into an unconscious animal. Wipe the ferret with a cool (not cold) towel, or wrap the ferret in a cool, damp washcloth. Concentrate on the feet, legs, hindquarters, groin, and tail area. Freshen the towel with cool water every few minutes. You can also dip the ferret in slightly cool water. Rubbing alcohol can be applied to the footpads (but nowhere else). Repeat until the rectal temperature reaches 103 degrees F. This may take a long time; I worked with Sasha for three hours before she stabilized.

Get to the vet
When your ferret has stabilized, go to the veterinarian immediately, even if the ferret seems fine. Your ferret may need treatment for dehydration or shock. Don't skip the veterinarian; ferrets can go into shock hours after the heatstroke symptoms have stopped. Sasha needed subcutaneous fluids and electrolytes. I'm glad to say that these methods saved Sasha, and they've gotten many other ferrets over heat stress and out of danger of heatstroke.

Wild ferrets

Ferrets are naturally cool-climate animals. Domestic ferrets are descended from European polecats (not the American Black-Footed ferret). Today, European polecats live in England and north central Europe, where it is cool. Wild ferrets live in underground burrows, where they are protected from heat.