What it Takes to Become a Ferret Blood Donor
You come home to find your ferret is lethargic and weak, flat-ferreting after only a few steps, and maybe even sleeping in their urine and feces because they are too weak to move. They are pale, maybe most noticeable on the nose, but you even notice their skin is pale through the sparsely-haired areas on their ears. Then you open their mouth – their gums and tongue, also pale. Maybe you notice some pinpoint blood spots or bruising on the skin or mucous membranes, an increased breathing effort or rate, distended belly, black and tarry feces, or signs of pain (teeth grinding, crying or wincing, flinching when touched, squinty eyes or sleeping in an abnormal position. This is a medical emergency.
You rush your ferret to the vet and you are told that your ferret is anemic. Based on the severity of your ferret’s condition and the initial tests they are going to perform your ferret may need a blood transfusion. But there are no ferret blood banks and the vet tells you that your other ferrets (because who only has one ferret) don’t meet the criteria to be a blood donor. Everyone you know (because if you have ferrets, you probably know others with the same addiction) is not answering the phone because it is the middle of the night.
A blood transfusion CAN and DOES save lives. It is for this reason that our hospital is starting a ferret blood donor list.
Because ferrets do not have known blood types, we do not have to worry about blood typing either the donor or recipient and we can use multiple donors for the same recipient. Our veterinary team will consider several factors in selecting which donors are suitable for which recipient. While your ferret may not be selected to be a blood donor, this may be good news… maybe there are no ferrets that needed a blood transfusion!
When a donor ferret arrives at our hospital, they will first receive a physical examination. If no concerns are identified, your ferret will be admitted to our hospital and a CBC (complete blood count) and PCV (packed cell volume) will be performed to identify the overall health and number of their blood cells. They are sedated while the blood is being collected, given some fluids to support their recovery and closely monitored by our veterinary team until they are awake and tipping over the food dish and litter box.
Before submitting your and your ferret’s information to our list, please ensure that you and your ferret meets the donor requirements listed below and that you are comfortable with the blood collection procedure described above.
Must be able to arrange for:
transporting your ferret to and from the hospital
your ferret’s medical records to be sent to our hospital if we are not your family veterinarian
Able to be contacted during the time your ferret is in our care
Update our hospital if your phone number changes or if your ferret’s health status changes and they are no longer a suitable candidate
If you are called for your ferret to be a blood donor, you are not obligated to do so if the time is not suitable for you.
Deemed to be healthy by your ferret’s veterinarian
No current health conditions
No history of ECE (Epizootic Catarrhal Enteritis)
Never traveled to a heartworm endemic area (or had heartworm preventive medication prior to travel)
Current distemper and rabies vaccinations (preferred, not required)
Weigh a minimum of 1kg (2.2lbs) of lean body mass (for this reason males are preferred candidates)
<5 years of age