Q: My ferret Baby is 5 years old. She has been on prednisolone for insulinoma for over a year and a half. For a while she was on a really high dose, which has been decreased significantly over the past few months. About six months ago, she caught ringworm from a kitten. It has since turned into a terrible skin infection with granule, pus-filled masses. She is currently on Baytril and Diazoxide (transitioning off the pred). She also was on itraconazole and medicated shampoos
All of her biopsy and culture results have come back with ringworm and MRSA. A few ferret-knowledgable veterinarians have said the reason why it turned so bad and isn’t going away is because the pred has weakened her immune system, and she must get off it ASAP. My main veterinarian thinks it would be too risky to do any type of surgery to remove the pus because of the MRSA and the state of her immune system. What are your thoughts on surgery for Baby? Can you offer some advice on what I should do for my ferret?
A: I agree with everything your veterinarians have told you regarding your ferret. It is likely the unusual skin infections are due to the prednisone that was so necessary to save Baby’s life due to the insulinoma. In both veterinary medicine and human medicine, infections such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) can be truly impossible to treat — we have run out of antibiotic options. MRSA infections kill people because there are no longer antibiotics that are effective against certain strains of MRSA.
An important point here is that there are different strains of MRSA, some being much more deadly than others. There are some very sophisticated genetic typing assays along with antibiotic sensitivity testing that might help define exactly what type of MRSA is causing the infection in your ferret. It may be possible that an existing antibiotic could treat this MRSA.
Only a few specialized veterinarians are microbiologists and infectious disease specialists who might be able to help you and your ferret. Ask your veterinarian if he or she would consider consulting with one of these veterinarians to see if there is any treatment that can help your ferret.
Sometimes, treatments include specialized, medicated baths along with immune stimulants to help the body fight the MRSA. It will be very difficult for your ferret to recover if you cannot get the MRSA under control, and I agree with your veterinarian that surgery sounds like an unwise choice if the MRSA infection is widespread in your ferret.