Yarm Ferret Rescue - June 2003

by Sue Lloyd

Ever had that sinking feeling, you pick up your ferret, see a problem and you just know that it is bad news.

This was the case last August for Hoppy, a heavy boned albino hob, 6 years old. I noticed a callus forming on the underside of his right hind foot to the rear of the pads.

Hoppy’s previous owner had had to have this leg operated on when Hoppy was about 8 weeks old because as a very young kit the leg had broken but mended itself incorrectly and Hoppy could not use the leg, he could only hop around, hence his Hoppy - 5Kb name. And now Hoppy was in trouble again. The callus got larger and larger and a trip to the vet prophesied doom and gloom. It was only a matter of time before the callus broke open and bled every time Hoppy walked on it. An X-ray revealed the foot and lower leg in a very poor state. It was a case of put to sleep or remove the leg; reluctantly I chose the latter, at least Hoppy would have a chance. He returned the evening of his operation, a little sleepy, but reasonably comfortable after pain killers had been administered and he ate a small meal that night although in some discomfort he slept and although not hungry the next day he was reasonably comfortable and he ate another small meal that evening. It was 2 o’clock the following morning when his nightmare worsened, the bruising was coming out, the underside of him went from purple to black from his tail end to his front legs, his heart raced and he cried and cried; I sat up and held him and eventually he fell asleep.

Returning to the vet I was told that despite going to hell and back Hoppy was making splendid progress. I was not convinced, I was horrified at the pain this poor little animal was in, horrified at seeing him pick at and leave his food when normally such a big eater.

The days turned to weeks, the stitches came out, by now Hoppy was biting, something which he had never done before. Exercise time saw him dragging himself round but on he fought, always wanting to be out, always wanting to leave his indoor cage to curl up and sleep in an old body warmer slumped in a corner. In the end he had the freedom of the room and body warmer, I was still not convinced that I had the right thing and an infection in the incision line was proving hard to get rid of.

Hoppy bravely kept going and eventually returned to his outdoor cage, all alone; during his trauma Nipper, his lifelong partner, who Hoppy worshipped had been put to sleep due to ill health. Hoppy still dragged himself around, pushing off with his left hind leg which was under such strain. By now Hoppy’s exercise area was an empty stable full of tubes and cardboard boxes, piles of straw and empty shavings bags.

Within a week he was running around up on three legs, at first he soon tired but his muscles have regained their strength and now he leads a quite normal life despite having developed strange cravings for oranges and salad cream (not together!).

Going to collect him one afternoon after his exercise period, I called him and he emerged from the straw and ran towards me, I must admit I cried when he jumped over one of the tubes he was so pleased with himself.

So in the end all the pain was worth it, Hoppy has his chance of a further good life, he is looking forward to a new partner and enjoys all the extra fuss. The biting stopped once everything settled down and I must say how quickly the bruising went, in two or three days in fact. The whole ordeal lasted about five weeks but it seemed much longer. I hope that I never have to face a situation like this again but if I did once again I would choose amputation and give the ferret a chance.