2013-02-08 / People

Vet centers assist Ferret Rescue of Maine

Animal on ‘death’s doorstep’ is nourished back to health
By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer


When Mocha, a 3-year-old, came to the Ferret Rescue of Maine, above, she weighed 11 ounces and was severely malnourished and dehydrated. Right, with the help of Pine Point Animal Hospital and Maine Veterinary Referral Center in Scarborough, Crystal and Jim Kennedy were able to nurse Mocha back to health. The ferret will remain in the care of the Kennedys for the foreseeable future. (Courtesy photos) When Mocha, a 3-year-old, came to the Ferret Rescue of Maine, above, she weighed 11 ounces and was severely malnourished and dehydrated. Right, with the help of Pine Point Animal Hospital and Maine Veterinary Referral Center in Scarborough, Crystal and Jim Kennedy were able to nurse Mocha back to health. The ferret will remain in the care of the Kennedys for the foreseeable future. (Courtesy photos) Two veterinary centers in Scarborough played a crucial part in ensuring a ferret from Augusta got the treatment she needed after being “severely neglected” by her owner late last year.

Crystal Kennedy, who co-owns Ferret Rescue of Maine in Buxton with her husband Jim, said she received a critically ill ferret in November from a woman from Augusta who didn’t have the resources to care for the animal any longer. When she was surrendered, the ferret, named Mocha, weighed just 11 ounces.

“It was a case of severe neglect and abuse,” Kennedy said. “Unfortunately, we were unable to prosecute.”

The case was the worst she has seen in the 10 years she has operated Ferret Rescue of Maine.

“This is the first time we have tried to prosecute since we started doing this. We have had some bad cases, but we have never seen a case like this,” Kennedy said.

The ferret’s owner called Ferret Rescue of Maine on Oct. 30 and told Kennedy that she had a ferret that was on the bottom of the cage not moving.

Kennedy said her first thought was that Mocha had low blood sugar, or insulinoma, a common ailment in ferrets.

“The more I talked to her, the more it kept leaning towards insulinoma,” said Kennedy, who recommended some veterinarians for the woman to take the ferret to.

Kennedy thought the issue was addressed.

“I gave her a couple of vets’ names and thought it was over,” she recalled.

The woman called the next day, telling Kennedy the animal was still sick and no veterinarians were willing to treat the animal. Kennedy gave her the name of yet another veterinarian.

Instead of taking that advice, the woman, Kennedy said, drove from Augusta to Westbrook, where Jim Kennedy works, to hand over the animal.

It was only then that the Kennedys were able to see what shape Mocha was in.

“We literally could wrap our fingers around Mocha. That’s how thin she was,” said Kennedy, adding the 3- year-old ferret was extremely lethargic and barely breathing at that point. She said Mocha appeared to be suffering from extreme malnutrition and dehydration and was “on death’s doorstep.”

Kennedy said she rushed the animal to Pine Point Animal Hospital, the Pine Point Road veterinary center she and her husband regularly bring their rescued ferrets to for care. She said Dr. Katie Erswell was able to revive Mocha to the point the ferret could safely leave the veterinary center. Erswell was not available for comment.

Kennedy brought Mocha back to the ferret rescue center, which operates in the basement of the couple’s Buxton home, and began feeding Mocha on the hour, every hour.

“She wanted to eat. She didn’t fight it at all. She was just starving,” Kennedy said, adding now Mocha is fed every three to four hours and weighs two pounds, just under a healthy weight for a ferret her age. She is still being fed by hand.

Because Mocha is still too sick, she will remain in the care of the Kennedys for the foreseeable future and will not be able to be adopted, unlike many of the other 26 ferrets in the rescue center. Kennedy said 20 of the ferrets, which were rescued from Maine and parts of New Hampshire, are healthy and up for adoption.

“There are always ferrets in the center. All of them are up for adoption. That is our ultimate goal, except for those like Mocha, who are too sick,” Kennedy said. “We want to find them good, adoptive homes.”

The Maine Veterinary Referral Center and Specialty Hospital on Technology Way was also critical in turning this tragic tale into a success story. A month ago the staff at the center offered Mocha a free examination, testing Mocha’s eyesight, gait and reviewing the progress made.

“It was something we did pro bono just because it was a rescue case,” said Dr. Danielle Eifler, a neurologist and neurosurgeon at MVRC. “I am a neurologist so I see a lot of dogs and cats. I don’t see ferrets a lot.”

The exam, Kennedy said, revealed Mocha had suffered from something traumatic, perhaps a fall from her cage, which resulted in a blood pool on the right side of her brain.

Eifler said it is still not known what caused the trauma. An MRI could help, but Eifler said it may be too late to make much of a difference.

“(The Kennedys) went above and beyond for (Mocha),” Eifler said. “There is still a long way to go.”

Eifler said it is nice to know there are people like the Kennedys who are willing to step up to be advocates for small animals such as ferrets.

As vets, we see a lot of bad things. To know there are people out there to help really is heartening,” Eifler said.

The moral of the story, Kennedy said, is that small animals need the same tender love and care of larger animals, such as cats and dogs.

“I encourage people to do their homework before buying a pet, especially with a smaller animal,” Kennedy said. “When someone is interested in a ferret, I tell people to go to the pet store and pick up a copy of “Ferrets for Dummies.” It is not an insult to them. That’s the (book) we tell everyone to use. It is right on. A lot of books out there are not.”

Ferret Rescue of Maine, the only licensed ferret rescue organization in the state, can be contacted at 727-6905 or fert_ resq@yahoo.com.

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