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Open Access Pregnancy Toxemia in the European Ferret (Mustela putorius furo)

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Background and Objective: Pregnancy toxemia may lead to appreciable mortality among jills and their offspring. The objective of this report was to increase awareness of the disease, its likely cause, and practical prevention and treatment measures.

Methods: Ten cases of pregnancy toxemia were evaluated. Jills were in late gestation (mean, 38 days; range, 34 to 42 days) and had large litters (mean, 11.5 kits; range, 7 to 15 kits).

Results: The most common clinical signs of disease were lethargy, inappetence, dehydration, and excess shedding. Hematologic and clinical biochemical abnormalities included anemia (4 of 8 jills tested), hypoproteinemia (5 of 7), azotemia (7 of 7), hypocalcemia (5 of 6), hyperbilirubinemia (3 of 3), and high liver enzyme activities (6 of 6). Two jills were found dead; two jills were euthanized, six received supportive treatment, and cesarean section was performed on five. The three jills that survived tended to have less pronounced azotemia, hypoproteinemia, and liver enzyme activity increases and were not anemic. Hepatic lipidosis was observed grossly in all jills that died and was confirmed by histologic examination in four jills.

Conclusions: Pregnancy toxemia in ferrets resembles metabolic diseases in several other animal species and requires aggressive treatment, including supportive care, nutritional supplementation, and cesarean section. Maintaining adequate nutrition and avoiding stress late in gestation may prevent the disease.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Division of Comparative Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 2: Unit 98, 301 College Avenue, West, Guelph, Ontario Canada

Publication date: August 1, 1999

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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