During the first weekend in June 2011, the International Ferret Congress (IFC) held its almost-yearly symposium in Phoenix, Arizona. This is a great meeting where veterinarians, ferret shelter operators, and ferret owners gather to learn more about ferrets. Among other speakers, the symposium included some of the very best ferret veterinarians in the country, who gave presentations on a wide variety of topics.
Dr. Matti Kiupel (a pathologist and ferret researcher from Michigan State University) was the first veterinary speaker on Friday morning. His first presentation was on a new respiratory disease of pet ferrets caused by Mycoplasma. Mycoplasmosis is a common disease in rodents. It usually causes a chronic respiratory infection that can be impossible to cure. In dogs it is one of the infectious agents that can cause “kennel cough.” Recently a new, ferret-specific Mycoplasma was discovered by Dr. Kiupel at Michigan State. Unfortunately, it is extremely hard to eliminate this bacterium in ferrets.
The next presentation was by Dr. Robert Wagner from the University of Pittsburgh. He discussed the newest in adrenal gland disease treatment and preliminary results on a clinical trial of an experimental vaccine to actually prevent adrenal gland disease. Adrenal gland disease is the most common ferret health problem, so it is very exciting that a simple vaccine (GnRH vaccine) may prevent this terrible disease. I am involved in this clinical trial, so it was interesting to see the results from all of the collaborators.
The next presentation was from Dr. Kiupel. He talked about outbreaks of Coccidia in ferret shelters and multiple-ferret homes. This is a common parasite in ferrets, but it is an often overlooked cause of fatal diarrhea in ferrets.
Dr. Natalie Antinoff from Houston, Texas, was the first veterinarian to speak on Saturday morning. She went over some of the latest on lymphoma, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and treatment of other cancers in ferrets.
Dr. Avery Bennett from New York City gave a very thorough presentation on surgical procedures for ferrets. He explained his technique for complete removal of the right adrenal gland and gave several other good tips for some of the hard-to-do surgeries.
Dr. Kiupel was the final veterinary speaker on Saturday afternoon. He talked about the ferret coronavirus, and the two different disease syndromes (enteric and systemic) associated with it. I had previously written an article on the ferret coronavirus with Dr. Kiupel, so it was nice to talk to him about the latest research on the serious and usually fatal systemic form.
I was the final veterinarian to speak when I gave a presentation on Aleutian disease on Sunday morning. Aleutian disease is a serious and potentially fatal parvovirus infection that can infect ferrets, mink and skunks. I covered the clinical signs, testing and treatment options for this viral infection.
The ferret symposium also had plenty of time for questions and answers, and the nightly beer summits provided an informal opportunity to talk about ferrets. On Saturday night there was an auction to raise money for ferret research at Michigan State University (ferret health advancement) and the University of Pittsburgh (adrenal gland disease). In addition to the numerous ferret-related items, my hair was auctioned off for $2,000. For such a worthy cause, I was willing to do it. I am already looking forward to the next ferret symposium!