By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
I have a young ferret, roughly 2 years in age. Recently, we believe she was trying to get out of her cage at night and somehow hurt her leg. She is favoring it and refuses to move around the cage. It looks to have some bruising under the leg, and I am hoping that it is not broken. Unfortunately we had to put down one of our ferrets not too long ago due to a similar injury. When taken in to treat the broken leg it was found that he had a heart condition that we were never told about, so we put him down. I don’t know that I can take another ferret being put down. Please tell me what you think, because I am at a loss. I don’t want her to suffer, but I don’t want to lose her either.
Fractures of the bones of the leg in a ferret typically heal well once treated with either external splints or internal fixatures, such as rods and pins. If this is just a soft tissue injury, such as a sprain or strain, it will likely get better on its own without the need of splints or bandages.
Without the benefit of the physical examination by your ferret’s veterinarian, you will not know which of these conditions exist. If it is a fracture, there are two detrimental things that can happen if you wait. First, your ferret will remain in pain, and your veterinarian has medications now that can safely help alleviate the pain. Second, if this is a fracture, the longer you wait, the less chance the bones will heal together in the proper alignment.
The longer your ferret favors the leg, the more likely this is a serious injury. A serious injury does not have to be a fracture but there could be a rupture in the structures around the knee, such as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the same injury that football players and skiers endure at times. This is also a very painful injury, and the sooner you have a diagnosis, the sooner your ferret can start to feel better and be back on the road to recovery.