Sponsored by: NeoVac(R)FD - NeoTech LLC
On Friday, April 9, 2021, allFerrets will be hosting a free webinar "The Ferret: A short history and legal status in the United States."
Please join us to learn more about the interesting history of ferrets in the United States and their current legal status.
Ferrets: an American story and history of their legal status
Speaker: Dr. F Hoffman, allFerrets® cofounder
Legal status of the Ferret in California - yesterday and today
Speaker: Patrick Wright, Legalize Ferrets founder
8 PM Eastern DST/ 5 PM Pacific DST
The webinar is free, but registration is required.
For more information please see event poster or register at Eventbrite:
Happy Birthday- Elizabeth Ann!! black-footed ferret clone
FORT COLLINS, Colorado-The birth of “Elizabeth Ann” on Dec 10, 2020, welcomes the first cloned ferret. She is created from the frozen cells of “Willa,” a black-footed ferret (BFF) who died in 1988, more than 30 years ago.
DNA from “Willa” was placed into a domestic ferret embryo in a New York laboratory, and then transferred to a domestic surrogate ferret mother at the National Black-Footed Ferret Center near Fort Collins, Colorado.
Elizabeth Ann is the first cloned BFF and first ever cloned endangered species.
The black footed ferret (putorius nigra) is the only wild ferret species native to North America. BFF's were considered extinct, until a Wyoming rancher's dog found a BFF in 1981.
At the time the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) captured the remaining population - only 18 ferrets. Only 7 of these ferrets passed on their genes in the captive endangered species breeding program. Elizabeth Ann adds genetic diversity, increasing that original gene pool by one.
The first mammal cloned was "Dolly" the sheep in 1996. She was cloned from the mammary gland of a 6-year-old Finn Dorset sheep and an egg cell taken from a Scottish Blackface sheep.
Elizabeth Ann heralds a new era for endangered species survival. The groundbreaking effort results from the partnership among the US FWS and scientists at Revive & Restore, ViaGen Pets & Equine, San Diego Zoo Global, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The research team is working to produce more BFF clones in the coming months as part of continuing research efforts.
Elizabeth Ann will be monitored very closely. Her offspring may not be released into the wild until at least 2026.
Covid-19 at Wisconsin mink farming industry
Jan 30, 2021: Last October, not the usual flu virus was seen in the mink at two Wisconsin mink farms located in Taylor County. Mink of all ages and fur coat colors stopped eating, followed by coughing, sneezing, tiredness (lethargy), and then labored breathing.
For the next few days hundreds of mink died, in the end, totaling about 5,500 animals. Within a week, after ranchers thought that most of the mink were going to die, the contagion suddenly stopped. Veteran mink expert, Hugh Hildebrandt stated: “... the next morning.....it’s just stopped. They all start eating. They eat more than they ever did before.”
So far there is no evidence in the US, that infected mink can transfer the virus to humans. Even so, there is concern among scientists that mink could harbor a variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. As a result, the state added mink farm-workers to the category of residents next in line for vaccination against Covid, along with teachers, child-care workers and grocery store employees.
In August 2020, Utah was the first state in the US to see farmed mink infected with the virus. This resulted in a nationwide search for infected wildlife. In mid-December a wild mink trapped near a Utah mink farm was confirmed to have the virus. “To our knowledge, this is the first free-ranging, native wild animal confirmed with SARS-CoV-2,” said Thomas DeLiberto and Susan Shriner of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service. Soon after that, two more mink — both Oregon farm escapees — also tested positive.
Are mink better at pandemics than humans? Experts state that wild mink “socially distance very well.”
Protect your Ferrets from Frostbite and Hypothermia
Ferrets are fur-bearing mammals. Ferrets can handle cooler temperatures better than warm weather. Even so if your ferret is usually housed indoors, their undercoats will be thinner in Winter, than those of ferrets that live outdoors all year round.
Although your pet ferrets have fun playing in the snow, they must be protected from over exposure to the cold which can result in “hypothermia.”
What is hypothermia?
Hypothermia is abnormally low body temperature. It occurs when your ferret rapidly loses body temperature due to the sudden and extreme cold.
Signs of hypothermia:
What is "frostbite":
“Frostbite” is caused by injury to the skin due to cold temperatures. As frostbitten tissues thaw, they may become red and very painful due to inflammation.
In animals changes due to frostbite can take days to appear, especially if the affected area is small or on non-weight bearing areas, such as the tip of the tail or ears.
Signs of “frostbite:”
In the United States and Canada, most ferrets are kept indoors. If so, there fur will not reach the thickness needed to protect them from cold temperatures (less than 50 degrees F/ 10 degrees C).
How long can my ferret play outside in the Winter?
Limit your ferret’s exposure to cold winter temperatures and snow to not more than 10 to 15 minutes, although smaller ferrets may be less tolerant to the cold.
DO monitor your ferret closely for signs of shivering, and bring her inside.
DO NOT expose your ferret to freezing and subfreezing temperatures.
Keeping domestic ferrets outdoors is NOT recommended for a variety of reasons. When kept outdoors, they must first become accustomed to the environmental temperatures over months.
Even so, all animals must be kept in secure enclosures (sheds, etc.) from which they cannot escape. They must be protected from wind, rain, and cold temperatures, and in the summertime from sun and heat. In such cases, ferrets must have warm bedding and are generally housed together for warmth. Water and food must be checked frequently, to avoid freezing and insect infestation.
For more reading:
Endangered Black-footed Ferrets receive Covid-19 vaccine
In summer 2020, endangered black-footed ferrets (BFFs) were injected with the then experimental vaccine for Covid-19 slated for human use. Testing was conducted in the captive BFF population at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center near Fort Collins, Colorado. To date no BFFS have tested positive for Covid.
Testing was initiated not only to protect the highly endangered wild BFFs, but also potentially to protect humans, should the animals become infected. Minks – both farmed and wild- were found to test positive for Covid in both Europe and North America. In recent months the mink tested positive for the mutated strain of the virus, initially identified in the United Kingdom.
The concern comes from BFF’s genetic similarity to other mustelids, such as mink. Mink not only contracted the illness, but also passed it on to humans, causing several EU countries to dispose of entire colonies of farmed mink, in the millions.
The wild BFFs are native to the North American prairie. Their range, once spanning the vast American West, was reduced as humans exterminated the prairie dog populations, which is the BFF’s primary food source.
By early fall 120 of the 180 ferrets housed at the center were inoculated, with the rest remaining unvaccinated in case something went wrong with the animals. So far, the vaccinated BFFs appear healthy, and tests show SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in their blood. However, there is no data to show whether the vaccine actually protects against the disease. Efficacy studies in domestic ferrets are still pending.
Aug 18-USA: The first cases of novel coronavirus found in minks in the United States were reported in Utah, according to multiple reports. The United States Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Service Laboratory announced that all five cases were found at two mink farms in Utah. Necropsies were performed on several dead minks from the farms by the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory after receiving exceptionally high reports of mink fatalities, the agency stated in the release. Both farms have been completely quarantined, according to a news release from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
Mink, like their close relatives, ferrets, are known to be susceptible to coronavirus, and like humans, they can show a range of symptoms, from no signs of illness at all to severe problems, such as pneumonia.
Scientists suspect the virus spreads in mink farms through infectious droplets, on feed or bedding, or in dust containing droppings. Mink have caught the virus from humans, but genetic detective work has shown that in a small number of cases the virus seems to have passed the other way, with the virus spreading from mink back to humans. Mink have become "reservoirs for the virus" and surveillance is required in other wild and domestic animals that may be susceptible, said Prof Joanne Santini of University College London. Since the pandemic started, Europe has witnessed the spread of corona virus to mink farms in Europe, including Denmark, the Netherlands, and Spain have now triggered the culling of millions of farmed mink.
Spain culled 100,000 mink in July after cases were detected at a farm in Aragón province, and tens of thousands of the animals were slaughtered in the Netherlands following outbreaks on farms there.
Denmark is the world's biggest producer of mink fur and its main export markets are China and Hong Kong. In early November, Denmark stated that it would cull all its mink - as many as 17 million - after a mutated form of coronavirus that can spread to humans was found on mink farms. The culling began late last month, after many mink cases were detected. But cases are spreading fast in Denmark - 207 mink farms in Jutland are affected - and at least five cases of the new virus strain were found. Twelve people had become infected, the authorities said.
Concerns were raised after Danish authorities found genetic changes they stated might undermine the effectiveness of future Covid-19 vaccines. As of the date of reporting, over 200 people have been infected with mink-related coronavirus. The UK responded by imposing an immediate ban on all visitors from Denmark amid concerns about the new strain.
Danish scientists are particularly concerned about one mink-related strain of the virus, found in 12 people, which they say is less sensitive to protective antibodies, raising concerns about vaccine development. Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist of the World Health Organization (WHO) stated: "We need to wait and see what the implications are but I don't think we should come to any conclusions about whether this particular mutation is going to impact vaccine efficacy.”
"What we do know is that the mink are picking up the virus from people; they can be infected and they are spreading it between themselves and it's come back to humans."
Studies are under way to find out how and why mink have been able to catch and spread the infection.
End of the Fur-Trade?
Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International/UK, said in addition to animal suffering, the potential for disease spread is another reason for all fashion companies to go fur-free and for governments to shut down "this dirty trade." "We urge the Netherlands and other countries in the process of phasing out fur farming to speed up their industry closures, and countries yet to commit to bans, including China and Finland, to do so now."
In August, the Dutch parliament voted for a permanent closing of the mink fur farms shut down due to COVID-19 outbreaks among workers and animals, and to close down remaining farms this year.
Since a vote in 2013, Dutch mink fur farming under a slow phase out, to close entirely by the beginning of 2024. The spread of COVID-19 among mink across multiple farms since April resulted in at least two workers catching the virus from the animals and triggered calls for the government to rapidly shut down the industry. “Waiting until 2024 for the mink ban to take effect would have been unjustifiable and irresponsible,” says Sandra Schoenmakers, director of Dutch anti-fur organizations Bont voor Dieren. Animal welfare campaigners are celebrating the outcome of the vote after pushing for the early closure of the mink fur industry ahead of a nationwide ban due to come into effect in 2024.
Poland, one of the world’s top producers of mink fur with some 350 mink farms containing around 6 million animals or roughly half of that in Denmark, started Covid testing on minks on Nov 17.
Nov 5-New York City: Results from a recent study in domestic ferrets conducted at Columbia University, NY, showed that a drug delivered by nasal spray could block the absorption of the SARS-CoV2 virus, preventing Covid-19. (Brian Hews - New York Times; Nov 5, 2020). More importantly the test drug does not require refrigeration and is expected to be relatively inexpensive.
Ferrets are used by scientists studying flu, SARS and other respiratory diseases because they can catch viruses through the nose much as humans do, although they also infect each other by contact with feces or by scratching and biting. See: Covid 19 and Ferrets Covid Mar 22, 2020.
Six ferrets were used in the study, divided into pairs in three cages: one group received the test drug, one group received a “placebo” (no drug) spray, one ferret was deliberately infected with SARS-CoV-2 but received no spray a couple of days earlier. After 24 hours together, none of the ferrets that received the spray drug caught the disease, whereas all the placebo-treated ferrets became infected.
Scientists stated that the spray attacks the virus directly. It contains a lipopeptide, a cholesterol particle linked to a chain of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. This particular lipopeptide exactly matches a stretch of amino acids in the spike protein of the virus, which the pathogen uses to attach to a human airway or lung cell.
The medical team has applied to the federal government for funding to initiate studies in people.
Summer is here: How to recognize, Treat, and Prevent Heat Stroke in Ferrets
Ferrets are very susceptible to extreme heat. “Heatstroke” (or “hyperthermia”) occurs when a ferret is exposed environmental conditions that cause the body to exceed a normal temperature range.
Normal (rectal) body temperature for a healthy ferret is 100 to 104 degrees Farenheit (°F) or 38 to 40 degrees Centigrade or Celsius (°C).
Heat stroke must be considered when the body temperature of a ferret exceeds 104° to 105°F (40° to 40.6°C) in the absence of infection or inflammation.
Heat stroke can damage the body. How much damage depends on: 1) how high the body (core) temperature becomes, and 2) the length of time that it is elevated.
IMMEDIATE INTERVENTION IS REQUIRED
Ferrets may require stabilization. The veterinarian may reduce the ferret’s body temperature by using cooling pads, cold-water enemas, or cold fluids instilled into the abdominal cavity or into the blood stream. Oxygen therapy should be given to increase the amount of oxygen to the tissues. In severe cases, the animal may need to be intubated (a tube placed in the airway for administering oxygen).
Even after the body temperature has normalized, hospitalization is warranted to monitor vital signs, blood work, and to ensure that the ferret remains stable. Although the ferret may appear to recover from heat stroke, signs of organ failure or other problems m ay develop over the following days, up to a week later. Medication may be given to protect the ferret’s stomach from “stress ulcers.”
Organ failure: Heat can cause gastrointestinal signs, kidney, liver, or heat problems. When severe it can result in a “shock” syndrome (disseminated intravascular coagulation- or DIC), which can lead rapidly to death. Nervous system damage can occur, as well as severe muscle injury.
Can COVID-19 infect ferrets? This is a key question.
Coronaviruses are a group of related viruses that cause disease in humans and animals. The name comes from the Latin word "corona" - or "crown"-- due to the crown-like projections from the viral surface.
Coronaviruses have been found in both domestic and wild species—including cattle, horses, dogs, cats, camels, bats, civets, domestic ferrets, birds, and more recently, in snakes. At least three groups of coronaviruses cause mild to severe gastrointestinal (GI), lung, or systemic disease. Coronavirus infections are responsible for some cases of the common "cold"; others can be lethal, such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome), and COVID-19.
Ferrets and Coronaviruses
Ferrets are no strangers to coronaviruses. In 1993, a novel serious and highly contagious diarrhea spread through domestic ferrets in the United States. Known as the “Green Slime” from the appearance of the diarrhea, the disease became formally recognized as Epizootic Catarrhal Enteritis (ECE). ECE spread rapidly among ferrets. ECE did not infect humans.
In 2002 people around the globe experienced the SARS (SARS-CoV), which resulted in serious lung infections. Ferrets were found to be susceptible to SARS. However, ferrets were not found to be susceptible to MERS (MERS-CoV), another serious human respiratory virus that appeared a decade later.
Viruses generally spread following contact with an infected person or animal. Concern has been raised regarding the potential spread of COVID-19 from animals to humans: “zoonotic” transmission.
Although zoonotic spread of viruses is not a common way for humans to become infected, transmission from animals to humans has been documented with SARS from wild civet cats. Other viruses besides coronaviruses may also spread from animals to humans, such as the H1NI influenza virus, found in pigs--"Swine flu", and in birds--- "Avian flu".
When COVID-19, officially "SARS-CoV-2", first appeared in China in late 2019, it was thought to have originated from bats, and then transmitted to humans through an intermediate animal host. Studies are still ongoing at this time to explore the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak. At this time it is not known if ferrets can become infected with COVID-19.
Animal Models for Vaccine and Drug Testing
Domestic ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) have been recognized since the 1980's to be susceptible to the "seasonal flu" virus. The ferret can both catch and transmit the influenza virus in a manner very similar to how the virus acts in humans, as shown in the following figure.
The close similarity between how the virus acts in humans and ferrets makes the ferret an excellent laboratory model to test antiviral drugs and vaccines. The ferret has been the animal of choice to study a variety of respiratory viruses, which have included human and avian influenza viruses, coronavirus, nipah virus, morbillivirus, amongst others. [Belser 2011] It is not known if the ferret can become infected with COVID-19.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19. [AVMA,CDC, OIE]
Transmission occurs between people in close contact with one another (less than 6 feet apart). The virus is carried on tiny droplets sprayed when an infected person speaks, coughs, or sneezes. It may also remain on surfaces where the infectious droplets land. Touching surfaces infected by the virus and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes, or food you eat can introduce the virus into your body.
Common Sense Rules
If you or a family member develop signs or symptoms—fever, cough, trouble breathing--and are found to test positive for COVID-19, follow these guidelines:
If you cannot delegate the care of your animals,
As a matter of routine care, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water BEFORE and AFTER contact with pets to help avoid transmission of more common illness-causing agents.