Update ECE, pics of Aura & Tindraindex
May 19, 2011. All the affected ferrets have been marked, more or less, by the ECE. For those at the better end of the scale it manifests as a sensitive stomach and occasional indigestion. Others have a little more frequent digestive upsets mixed with normal stools. Tindra continues to be the most affected with regular digestive issues and diarreah.
Despite that, I think we've set into a routine and diet schedule that seems to be working fairly well. Tindra remains slightly underweight, but all the others are back at their normal weights. None of the ferrets are in any need of medication.
For a while it was a downward spiral to a certain death for Tindra, but what eventually turned things around was fresh cecotropes from a rabbit. I had researched pre- and probiotics for some time but felt that most of the info and the available products didn't really fit the obligate carnivore nature of the ferret (and none of the products I tried ever worked). Yet, it seemed clear that some type of probiotics is indeed beneficial also to carnivores. So I started thinking, what would be the natural source for such things for a carnivore in the wild? The only answer I could come up with was the instestinal flora of the prey animals. Around this time I also read an article about fecal transplantation as a mean to succesfully re-establish a healthy gut flora in humans who suffer from various inflammatory bowel disorders. Yes, it's totally gross, I know! ;-)
Rabbit cecotropes are loaded with micro-nutrients and entire colonies of beneficial instetinal bacteria. Rabbits are also among the natural prey for polecats. So I collected fresh cecotropes from one of my own rabbits that I know is parasite free and completely healthy (very important!!). I mixed it with water (terrible stench) and then with the food. To my surprise, Tindra gulfed down the meal! The next happy sursprise was a few hours later when she produced the most normal looking stools in several months.I continued with the cecotrope supplement, first in every meal, later a few days apart, and Tindra seemed to know that this was something that she needed at the time. She seemed to crave the food with cecotropes, despite the nasty smell. I eventually, very slowly weaned her off the cecotropes, with only an occasional addition when needed. She's been able to digest her food relatively well since then, but it requires that I regularly adjust the diet slightly to fit her current needs. I've learned to predict relatively well what type of meal will work best for her each day. She eats mainly whole prey with a bit of extra meat and vitamin/mineral supplements to make up for her reduced nutritional uptake. She also gets rabbit fur, and either fresh whole bones or complete bone meal (never plain calcium) with meat meals.
These are pics from November, of Aura and Tindra:4>