Interview with Nicole Hutson (Bonnie’s Mom); edited and compiled by HFF Admin.
Meet Bonnie, a sweet female ferret who developed significant symptoms of Adrenal Disease starting at 4 months of age. Bonnie was officially diagnosed on Feb 2, 2017 and started on treatment via a Suprelorin® F (deslorelin acetate) Implant on Feb 6th at 1 year and 2 months of age; she has responded to treatment beautifully. Thanks to her mom’s early action, Bonnie can look forward to a happy, healthy future.
What were the first symptoms you noticed?
I noticed that she had hair loss and a very, very unquenchable thirst. Every morning their big water bowl would be licked dry after filling it before bed. Also, she had SO MUCH ENERGY. My other ferret would play for a bit and then speed bump on the floor or he would go take a nap somewhere for a bit and he’d get up and play again. Bonnie was go go go every minute when she was out, and she didn’t ever sleep longer than maybe two hours when she was in the cage before she’d get up and run around the cage for a bit.
This started when she was about 4 months old. These were the main things that made me notice that something was off. At first it was just her tail losing hair, but then she started losing all of her hair behind her shoulder blades. There was clumps of hair all over her bed.
(Photo Above: Bonnie around Nov, 2015 showing thinning fur on her hips)
At what age did she first start showing symptoms?
She started showing symptoms around 4-5 months. I knew something was off but didn’t proceed with any kind of treatment because I thought that maybe she was just having a weird shed (since it was her first). Around 8 months is when I noticed it was not growing back when my other ferret was noticeably gaining new fur in his coat.
Bonnie’s neck and shoulders at 4.5 months of age (this area of hair loss was preceded by increased oil production between her shoulders):
How did her symptoms progress?
Her symptoms progressed mostly with hair loss. Her tail/hind/belly were completely bald besides smaller patches of hair that were very thinned out.
Photos below show Bonnie in Jan, 2017 (1yr 1mo old) and Feb, 2017 (1yr 2mo old).
What work up (blood tests, imaging, etc) did your vet try, if any?
I’m not exactly sure what testing was done. He said he wanted to do some lab work (and to my knowledge he did) he also did an ultrasound and then he took down a list of of all her symptoms that I had personally noticed.
What other treatments did you try, if any?
The treatment we decided to go with was the DES implant to start. The reason I chose this was because of all the good feedback I had heard about it. He had recommended that we could do surgery and remove part of her adrenal gland; the reasons I was against that were 1) she’s very young and 2) she would have to supplement with medications such as prednisone for an extended period of time, IF NOT her whole life. I don’t like the side effects that come along with prednisone and because I feel like we caught it pretty early, I decided that we would try the less invasive course with the implant and if that had showed no results we would seek other treatments.
Bonnie was implanted in Feb, 2017 at about 1 year and 2 months of age.
How has she respond to her Deslorelin/Suprelorin implant?
After her implant I saw hair growth in about 3 weeks, although it was small and mainly just spurts on her tail and a little happy trail on her belly. About a month and a half in she had hair growth mostly everywhere. Now two months in she has hair growth everywhere besides the front of her elbows on her front legs. Everything else is COVERED in hair and I don’t notice any more of it falling out (new hair or previous growth). I also notice that she does sleep a little more. She doesn’t sleep through the entire night like Buster does, but she sleeps at least 4-5 hours before getting up for a bit and going back to sleep now. She has also started taking naps while she’s free roaming because she would never do that. She still drinks a good bit of water but not to the point of licking her bowl dry every single night.
Below are photos of Bonnie at 2 weeks (left) and 3.5 weeks (right) after getting her implant:
Photos of Bonnie Mid-April, 2017, two months into treatment:
Bonnie at about 10-11 weeks into treatment. “Look at all that hair!!!”
UPDATE March 2021:
Bonnie is now just past 4 years out from her first implant, and is still doing great! She is getting implants done every two years.
A final message from Nicole:
It can definitely be scary hearing “Adrenal Disease” and we as ferrents have the right to be scared…
But at the same time our little fur babies deserve the treatment that they NEED as soon as they can get it. I’m sure that I would have maybe been quicker to act on it if I had seen stories/heard from people who did have a ferret as young as Bonnie going through the same thing. Hearing other similar experiences can definitely make it a little easier to cope with! I have pretty high hopes with my little Bon that a few months from now you won’t even be able to tell that she is currently battling with Adrenal. Every ferret deserves a long healthy life and it’s our job to help insure that they get that
I am so very thankful to have help from people in groups like this, because if it wasn’t for them who knows how long Bonnie could have gone before getting the treatment that she needed.
If you are ever worried or you get that gut feeling that something just isn’t right, be sure to act on it! I’m sure anyone can agree that they’d rather lose out on some money than to lose out on their baby!
Thank you to Nicole Hutson for your willingness to share Bonnie’s story and photos. We hope that Bonnie has many happy, furry years ahead of her and that her story can help to inspire other owners around the globe with young Adrenal ferrets to push for early treatment of Adrenal Disease.
As a note to the readers, please note that Bonnie’s story is somewhat unusual in how obvious and classic her symptoms presented – particularly the fur loss, which is often not seen until later stages of Adrenal Disease (though not always, as Bonnie shows). Many young ferrets with early signs of AD may have much more subtle symptoms. If you are ever even the least bit suspicious of early signs of Adrenal Disease in a Young Ferret, please consult your veterinarian to rule out other causes, and discuss treatment for Adrenal Disease.