Ferret Adrenal Disease. What?

If you’re a ferret owner, you’ve probably heard of adrenal disease because, unfortunately, it’s pretty common in ferrets over three years old. Poor fuzzies. They definitely drew the short end of the stick on this one.


Adrenal disease is a disorder that affects the adrenal glands (adrenal glands are endocrine glands responsible for synthesizing (yeah, don’t worry… I had to “dictionary.com” synthesizing, too) specific hormones). So basically, adrenal disease happens when a ferret produces too many hormones because of an underlying condition. This results in termination of the adrenal gland function. And when their adrenal glands aren’t working (producing those super important hormones), potassium levels will rise in their blood, and nothing good comes from that: low heart rate, serious health conditions, etc.
Unfortunately for ferrets (and for their dedicated human parents), adrenal disease can be life-threatening. Veterinary intervention is one million percent necessary. Without medical treatment, their itty bitty organs can’t function. But how on earth can you tell if your little guy or gal is suffering?


Watch for hair loss, weight loss, tremors or shaking, weakness, dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting. Obviously, if your pet is showing these symptoms, you need to get them to your exotic vet ASAP. Once there, they’ll be able to test for elevated blood potassium levels and glucose levels, both signs that adrenal disease may be the culprit of your ferret’s recent behavior. Although these tests may point us in the right direction, the only bullet-proof test to diagnose adrenal disease is ACTH stimulation, which measures the adrenal glands’ response to adrenocorticotropic hormone. (Yeah, I didn’t even bother “dictionary.com-ing” that one because I can’t even pronounce it.) But that hormone is actually produced by the pituitary gland, and if the veterinarian sees that the pituitary gland triggers a response in the adrenal glad, ya’ll are probably in the clear, and your ferret’s symptoms are likely not caused by adrenal disease.


So. We know how to diagnose. But what’s the culprit of this disease? What the heck is the cause?
You won’t like this answer. We actually don’t know for sure why the adrenal glands discontinue hormone production. However, in a lot of cases, the ferret’s immune system (like everyone else’s immune system… it protects the body from getting sick) starts to attack itself and destroys the tissue of the adrenal glands, AKA an immune mediated disease (again, no known cause. Frustrating, right?).
Other illness though, too, (cancer, infection) can also destroy the tissue of the adrenal glands and can cause your ferret to develop the disease.


  1. Surgery to remove the affected adrenal (adrenalectomy). But like any surgery, this is a huge decision. You need to make sure your vet (and you) are comfortable with this option. If both of the adrenals are affected, generally surgery isn’t the go-to option. Removal of both can lead to even more severe hormone deficiencies (Addison’s disease).
  2. Drugs. Several drugs are available to suppress hormone release from the adrenal glands. Talk with your vet to determine if this is an option. But remember, drugs will not cure the disease, they will only reduce your ferret’s symptoms of it.
  3. Hormone replacement therapy drugs for the rest of their life (Lupron). Frustrating again. However! Once diagnosed, the drugs can be given by you in your home. That’s a positive, right? When the hormones that were not being produced by your ferret are substituted with meds, your furry friend will likely bounce back to their happy-go-lucky self. And on top of that, they’ll live a happy life…. as long as you provide them with snackers. And toys.
So, while adrenal disease in ferrets happens pretty often, there’s a great success rate when treated. Pay attention (how could you not pay attention to those adorable little faces?) to how your ferret is acting. If you see them feeling funky and not acting normal (refer to above signs and symptoms) take them in to get checked out. You know your baby better than anyone else. If they end up not having the disease, you’re out a vet bill… skip Starbucks for the next week to make up for it. If they do, you just saved their life. And I’ll buy you a Starbucks for that!

Blueberry Lane: Good Will Ambassadors

blueberry lane rabbit chinchilla guinea pig and bird

(Don’t miss coloring page downloads at the end of chapter two!)

Chapter One

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock sweeps the minute hand on the clock.

Rasmus rabbit nibbles the paper corner off his writing assignment.

Guinevere twirls a pencil in her long white fur.  She dreams about being a shorthaired guinea pig.  She would spend less time fixing her fur and more time playing.

Pedro taps his paw.  He is anxiously waiting to get his English report card.  He sneaks a snack of Small Pet Select Timothy hay to calm his nerves.   It tastes like the hay he had when he was a baby chinchilla in Peru.

The teacher said, “Rasmus, please read your last poetry assignment to the class.”   Rasmus lifted his head up.  He turned one tall ear to the side then quickly obeyed the teacher.   With a hop to the front of the classroom he proudly read:

One, two, three, four

 The number of bags we pack 

Small enough to fit on our back

Five, six, seven, eight, 

Steps to the train on the iron track 

See the coal smoke from the stack

Nine, ten, eleven, twelve

Ambassadors for pets who have no home

Everyone please adopt so they are not alone.

Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong rings the dismissal bell.  Cheers roar!!  All students, small to tall, rush to wish their friends a happy summer vacation!

Tilly parrot flutters around Blueberry Lane Farm.  She is waiting for Guinevere, Pedro, and Rasmus to arrive home with report cards.   Coral Bell waits by the garden gate to greet them.  She has a surprise for them.  It is a basket of fresh picked parsley and romaine.  Rasmus hops down the lane with Pedro right beside him.  They race to the door excited to eat their afterschool snack.  Meanwhile, Guinevere dilly dallies along picking wild blueberries.   Then she dilly dallies stuffing blueberries in her pack.  Then she dilly dallies to untangle her fur from off the brambles.  Then she gets home late.  She’s always late!

Using her beak, Tilly snatches everyone’s report cards from their back packs.  She flutters upstairs to the library.  Proudly she pins them on Coral Bell’s bulletin board.  Coral Bell has lots of interesting things on her bulletin board.  Tilly sees seed packets, garden notes, and pictures of herbs.

Tilly saw gold star stickers on Rasmus’s report card.  Then she saw the grades on Guinevere’s report card were scribbled out.   The scribbled ink was a different color than the teacher’s ink.   Hmm, Tilly wondered, this was odd.  Why was there scribbling?

Tilly perched on her favorite desk chair.  It has wheels on it.  When she flaps her wings, the chair spins around.  Tilly likes to wonder and think about things while the chair spins.  She remembered Rasmus won a geography contest in school.   That would explain the gold stars, she thought.   Then she remembered Guinevere got in trouble for fussing with her long fur in school.   Her fur always distracts her. Maybe she turns her work in late. Coral Bell always said “Guinevere, stop playing with your fur, you will make us late again!”   Then Tilly would sing “we’re late, we’re late, we’re late for a very important date.”

Now that it’s summer vacation, Tilly wondered if they were going on a trip.  She flapped her wings and flew from one end of the bulletin board to the other.  Yes!  There were travel plans.  Four train tickets, a list of addresses, and a schedule were pinned to the board.  Coral Bell scheduled the group to visit shelters and be ambassadors for pet adoption.   After all, Rasmus, Pedro, Guinevere, and Tilly knew what it was like to be abandoned or lost.  They all remembered a lonely life in a shelter.   They wanted to give back to the community.

Rasmus is an organized bunny.  He planned the first ambassador trip.  They had train tickets to go from Peapack to Philadelphia.  Rasmus told the others they could travel by boat or hot air balloon on the next trip.  It would be more fun that way.  And besides, there would be less traffic.

Thump.  Thump, thump.  Thump, thump, thump.  Rasmus called a group meeting.  He demanded everyone pay attention.  Everyone needs to know the important details.  Everyone needs to have their assignments.   Rasmus reminded the group he got an “A” in geography, so he assigned himself to handle maps and directions.

“Pedro, you are in charge of packing snacks and hay.  Take your time packing.  Don’t get nervous.  When you get nervous you eat too much.   Make sure you pack extra for nervous days.”

“Tilly, you are in charge of our paper stuff:  tickets and travel schedules.  You are the only one who won’t be tempted to shred them.  Don’t worry, I folded the paper stuff very small so it will fit neatly in your little pack.”   Tilly flapped in excitement.  She loved to have a purpose because it gave her confidence.

Tilly could see further than Rasmus, and she secretly wanted to fight him for the map keeper job.   After thinking it over, she decided it was more important to be a team player.

Snoring sounds came from the corner.  Oh dear, Guinevere!  She fell asleep during the important meeting!  Rasmus loudly THUMPED his foot with force.  Guinevere awoke in a startle.  Sleepy and yawning, she rubbed her dark little eyes and rolled over.  She had bed head fur.  That’s when chaos broke out.

Tilly cackled in laughter.  She flapped her green wings, and flew to her perch to get a better view.

Pedro exclaimed, “oh, señorita, your fur is el messo!  eres azul!”

Rasmus ran the bunny-500 around the library then stopped with a quick halt.   “Guinevere, your fur is blue.  There is a blueberry in your ear!   You cannot go on the train with blue fur!  Now you will have to stay home.   Instead, you can weed the garden for Coral Bell when we go to Philadelphia.”

Tears rolled down Guinevere’s cheeks.  She saw her reflection in the window glass.  Her long white fur really was blue.  There really was a plump blueberry in her ear.   Pedro was so nervous, he plucked the blueberry from Guinevere’s ear and ate it.

Tilly flew to the desk chair.  She flapped extra hard so the chair would spin for an extra-long time.  She needed extra thinking time.   All this flapping was hard work for a parrot.  Tilly was in a tizzy.

Rasmus thumped again.   “Calm down everyone.  No need for all the fuss.  It’s settled.  Guinevere can stay home.  Or maybe she can get a wig.   Never mind all that, now it’s time for a nap.”

Chapter Two

Tilly knew she must help Guinevere.  It was too hot to wear a wig.  Besides, where would they get a wig for a guinea pig?  And who would carry Guinevere’s pack?

While the boys napped, Tilly got busy.  She collected a towel, lavender soap, a tea cup of warm water, and a comb.   Then she went to work on Guinevere.   Tilly used her beak to gently scrub away the blueberry stains.  Soap bubbles floated through the air until the blue faded to gray.  Guinevere’s fur smelled fresh and clean, but it had to be combed.  This was the real work.  Tilly used her beak to untangle the knots and pick out some brambles.   Her wet, messy fur looked like a spaghetti factory.  Tilly combed until they both fell asleep for the night.

Thump.  Thump, thump.  Rasmus called an early morning meeting.  This one was urgent.  No time to prepare.  Guinevere stumbled in with her fur still a mess.  Tilly explained it was work in progress.  She stood up for Guinevere and said, “We were up all night washing and grooming her fur.  We’re almost done.   If she can’t go on the trip, then I won’t go either.”

Rasmus turned his tall ears left and right, then toward each other.   His nose twitched.   Tilly hollered, “Rasmus, stop turning your ears.  You are not getting any radio signals doing that.”   Rasmus thumped in denial.

Pedro was feeling nervous.  He ate some basil.  Pedro wanted to speak up. Then he ate some thyme.  He had to be brave.  “Señor, the guinea pig should come.  Her fur es mucho better.”

With all this pressure, Rasmus decided Guinevere could go.  He made her promise to be on time.  He made her promise not to cause a fuss.  He made her promise to have her fur ready early.   Otherwise, Tilly would sing, “we’re late, we’re late, we’re late for a very important date.”

Pedro wanted to help the petite guinea pig.  He gave her wise advice.  “Guinevere, it’s time to put others first.  You cannot just think about your fur and how pretty you look.   It is best not to worry about what others think.   Look at me Senorita.  My English and Spanish get mixed up all the time.  I make mucho grande mistakes, but what matters is that I try.  I don’t worry about what others say about my English.”

Guinevere tried to understand Pedro.  Her fur is too beautiful not to fuss over she thought.  She wondered if it would be better to concentrate on her eyelashes instead.  After all, they were much easier to take care of.

The next day when the group met, Guinevere kept her promise.  She arrived on time.   a pink bow hid her gray fur.   Rasmus took attendance and checked back packs.  Then they waved good bye to Coral Bell.   From Blueberry Lane, they scurried with excitement to the Peapack train station.

Toot.  Toot, toot.  “All aboard,” the conductor bellowed.   The boys hopped up into the train.   Guinevere was next.  Her little legs were short.  She took a running leap on the step.  Oops.  Ouch.  Ow.  Her pink bow unfurled and got caught on the train track.   “Tilly, Tilly please help me.  I cannot get on to the train, and Rasmus will be so mad.”

Toot.  Toot, toot.  The train signaled for departure.  It started to chug forward.

Rasmus thumped, “Guinevere, what are you doing?  Where are you?  What’s taking so long?”

Guinevere was in a panic.  Tilly quickly untied the tangled ribbon with her beak and helped little Guinevere up into the train.   “Oh Tilly, how does my fur look?   Is there dust on my eyelashes?”   Tilly does not like to tell a lie, but it was a mess again.   She promised to comb her fur on the long train ride to Philadelphia.   There would be plenty of time to fix a pretty pink bow too.

The ambassadors enjoyed a scenic train ride from Peapack.  The train rolled over hill and dale until they reached Philadelphia.   It was a busy city.  No sign of wild blueberries or fresh hay here.   Since they were guests of honor, they stayed overnight at each shelter they visited.  They had plenty to eat, and shared their Small Pet Select snacks with new friends.

They met bunnies, chinchillas, ferrets, birds, guinea pigs, and other pocket pets in need of homes.   They worked hard to promote adoption from shelters. They talked of the importance of adopting old and sick animals.  They championed for all who needed a home, a warm bed or bird cage to call their own.  They told stories of how it makes a difference to be loved and feel secure.  Guinevere even gave lessons on grooming and fur styling.

When they returned to Blueberry Lane Farm, Coral Bell was eager to hear about their trip.   As they shared their stories with Coral Bell, they realized they learned new lessons in Philadelphia.

Pedro learned confidence.  He could speak in front of strangers and not be nervous.

Rasmus learned to appreciate passion for being brave and speaking up for what is right.

Tilly learned the importance of helping a friend in need and how it made her feel good about herself.

Guinevere learned she is loved for who she is, even if her fur is a mess or her eyelashes are dusty.

They all learned that together they made a difference.  They learned that their messages made a difference, and many animals in need will receive the gift of a home to call their own.

The foursome agreed they will have the best summer vacation stories to tell when they return to school.

They were happy to be back home at Blueberry Lane Herb Farm, a place they could call home, happy to be a family, and grateful to enjoy their Small Pet Select meals together.

The end.


Be on the lookout for our next quarterly installment… coming this fall!

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Traveling with Small Pets

how to travel with small animals

Guinea pigs and rabbits aren’t known for their adventurous spirits. Small animals are easily stressed by a change in scenery. If you’re taking a brief vacation, they’d probably prefer to sit this one out. If possible, let them enjoy a staycation with a trusted friend, family member, or pet sitter. There are times, however, when traveling with small pets is unavoidable. Short trips, such as a journey to the vet, are manageable for most small animals. This is even good practice for longer car rides. Major travel, like a cross country move, requires extra precautions to make for a smooth transition.

Practice makes perfect

Small animals can find changes to their surroundings upsetting. Car rides can be scary, especially if they aren’t used to traveling. Start with short trips, even just 10 minutes, to help train your pet for the big event. If the cage or carrier is going directly on the floor of the vehicle, putting down some towels underneath can help to minimize vibrations. Making the adventure enjoyable, perhaps with some treats, certainly won’t hurt.

Safety first

For shorter trips, a few hours or less, the safest transportation option is a hard-sided pet carrier. This is one of the only times when smaller is better! You want your rabbit to be able to comfortably stand and turn around, of course, but the less room there is to slide about in the event of a sudden stop or accident will minimize the chances of injury. Bonus points if you can strap it down for extra security. For longer trips, a cage may be a better choice to accommodate a litter pan. This can also give your rabbit a comfortable place to call her own if stopping overnight at a hotel with unfamiliar smells and sounds.

Not too hot, not too cold

Goldihops is especially sensitive to changes in temperature, including drafts. Keeping the travel cage or carrier as close to you as possible will allow you to monitor the temperature best. You don’t want to expose them to too much direct sunlight or put them right in the blast from the cold air conditioning. Covering some of the cage with a blanket or towel will keep out drafts, as well as potentially spooky lights from oncoming traffic. Never, no matter what the temperature outside, leave your rabbit unattended in a vehicle. Traveling with small pets and sit-down meals just don’t mix.

Water woes

There is no way around this one. All water bottles WILL leak and all bowls WILL spill in the car. Traditional water containers are a no-go for traveling with small pets. Instead, offer water at every pit stop and keep unflavored Pedialyte® and syringes on hand in case of suspected dehydration. Guinea pigs that are too frightened to drink during potty breaks may be enticed into munching on some hydrating melon, celery, or cucumber slices. Keeping a small cooler full of water-rich veggies can keep your pet both hydrated and distracted during travel.

Take it slow

Your guinea pigs and rabbits probably won’t be game for an all-nighter. Stopping overnight will allow them to decompress a bit as well as eat and drink regularly – super important – to get ready for round two. Hay should be available 24/7 in the travel cage, but it isn’t unusual if they don’t eat much on the road. Small animals may refuse to chow down in the car, and going too long without high-fiber food moving through can be dangerous. Adding a few extra hours, or even days, to the journey is worthwhile to make sure your pet is given enough opportunity to eat as normally as possible.

bunny with suitcase
rabbit with suitcase

Bentley NEVER forgets his hay when he travels.

Ow! My Ferret Bites Me!

ferret biting and how to stop
Patience. Technique. Education.
Your ferret, especially kits, nip. Just like toddlers learning how to interact nicely in the real world (I cannot tell you how many times I was called at work because my daughter was bitten at daycare). But kids and kits… they’re learning how to interact. And they need training.
Think of yourself. When you get scared, what’s your reaction? Probably not to just bite something (I hope), but maybe cry? Fight? Ferrets get scared too. And instinct takes over. Some ferrets scream, some run, and we have little biters, too. Biting when scared is a very natural reaction. When a ferret bites, they latch. They do not let go… I mean, it’s no joke. And painful.
So what makes them scared? Stopping the biting means figuring out why they’re scared.
Are they out of their comfort zone? A new environment, maybe? No more familiar smells or feels? Friends, family? Are they new? Is there a new hooman in the home? Be understanding… you gotta be. Help get them comfortable with new things and people: spend time with them and give comfort. Maybe a new toy? Or treat? Treats always help me. Especially ice cream, but I do not recommend that for your ferret.
If your ferret’s not a kit, biting may be because of depression or… they’re just bored. Ferrets do need to free roam, just like bunnies; they’re not naturally caged animals. If we constantly cage them, it’s likely they’re going to act like they just watched The Royal Wedding for the 50th time. Bored. (Okay, I did love it. The first time.) Like me, if my mind isn’t mentally stimulated, I’m gonna do something (I’m more likely to shop online and spend way too much money). And your ferret… they’re gonna nip ya.
It’s possible that, if your ferret isn’t mentally stimulated both in and our of it’s cage, depression can set in, which can also lead to a biting habit. Make sure that you have enough toys inside the cage, and you’re interacting with your pet when they’re out.
If you know anything about ferrets, you know they LOVE to play. And wrestle. And nip. And pounce. And charge. Have you every watched them during playtime? They bite! But that’s just the way they play. Sometimes I cringe when I watch them together; ouch! But hey, if that’s how they like to play… ferrets will be ferrets.
The most important thing is to NEVER lose control of yourself when punishing your ferret for biting you. Remember, your ferret doesn’t know any better until you teach them.
  1. Firm Words: Because ferrets hiss at each other when they’re angry, hissing and/or a firm “NO!” is a good way to start their punishment.
  2. Bitter Spray: Spray some on your arm, hand, foot… wherever they’re biting you so the after taste is yucky.
  3. Isolate in Cage or Another Room: This technique mimics a naughty biting “ferret time-out” and can act as a very successful teaching tool while the other ferrets get to continue playing.
  4. Scruff: If the above more gentle methods don’t seem to be having any effect, try scruffing them by the skin on the back of the neck and giving them a LIGHT shake.
It’s so sad that ferrets can get a kinda bad rep, because they’re not bad pets! They’re actually some of the sweetest little guys in the world. And those cute faces… hello!!?? A properly trained ferret should not viciously bite. They may still nip during play time and moments of pure happiness, but if you put in the time to help them (they want the time to help them!) by using the above techniques (or a combination of the above techniques), they’re gonna make you so happy that you’re an owner.

Does My Ferret Need a Friend?

do ferrets need bond mates
I know I always say this, but small pets are so much like people. I read about a little ferret who had recently become depressed because her playmate had recently passed. It was the saddest story ever: they had really developed a serious bond, just like humans do. And the second reason they became so depressed is because their human owner just didn’t spend the time with him that they require. It broke my heart. So, that being said, is a ferret bond mate needed in order for our pets to live happy, healthy lives?
Not necessarily. But they do need attention… from someone.
Ferrets are playful little guys and gals; they love to have interaction and lots of fun things to do. They’re so sweet, and silly, but in order to keep their happy, loving little personalities, they’ve got to be around other happy, loving personalities.
Your ferret doesn’t necessarily NEED a bond mate, depending on the time, energy and home environment that you’re able to give. If you have enough time, your ferret may even enjoy having you to themselves. But, if you find that you’re not able to provide that level of time commitment, it’s probably beneficial for them to have a companion. I know I’d want one.
If you’re new to ferret ownership, it’s really recommended that you adopt them together so they’re introduced at a young age, and gradually, too.
Let’s not pretend that ferrets aren’t high maintenance animals. To be honest, most small pets are. They require tons of time, cleaning and educating yourself on how to keep a happy, healthy animal. And so much more.
Ferrets don’t need a bond mate. But if you can’t spend as much time as they need with them, they actually really do.