In the simplest terms - Harlow had a virus when she was a baby - unclear if she ever showed symptoms of the virus or if it has been dormant in her body - and that virus sometimes mutates in some ferrets causing this auto immune condition. Its not likely to occur in Kai or Tabitha (her litter mates) and it cannot be passed around to the other ferrets. That said - there is no official confirmation of the disease and there is one other possibility - its not a better diagnosis just a different one that could have potential contagious ramifications - so for that reason I am keeping her sequestered for a bit longer.
Her prognosis - it could be a very quick progression - 1 - 3 months or we could get more time. In very rare cases there is a bit of longevity - 3 - 5 years - but those are incredibly rare exceptions. So - now we move into our new reality of making each of her days as special and comfortable as possible. We treat any symptoms that come up and we enjoy every minute we have with her. Right now she is quite stable - gaining weight, good energy levels, happy and overall I think feeling pretty good. I will continue to hand feed her in an effort to get some additional weight on her. She will get her Prednisone mornings and evenings for the foreseeable future. We will make a determination next week as to whether we put her back into the general population - I would really like to but I don't want to risk the others getting sick if there is even the remotest possibility. Lastly - next week the vet will try to get his hands on an experimental drug that's out there - we will throw everything at it and see what makes her feel better.
This is a heart breaking diagnosis - she is only 10 months old - seems very unfair. We will of course keep everyone updated as to how things progress. For now - go kiss your furry kids - we never have them for long enough....
Here are a few snaps from the vets office: