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Herbal Therapy… 
Hope for Our Ferrets

by Diane Bodofsky

What can you do when medical science has reached the end of its expertise? How many times have we heard that there is no hope? After hearing from other ferret owners that they were at their wits end, I decided to do a little homework on alternative therapies, specifically the use of herbs.

Before I describe what I have been doing and what the results have been, I want to stress that the use of herbs should in no way be substituted for proper veterinary care. I’m using the herbs with the full knowledge of my veterinarian and we both are monitoring the results.

Now, for a little background… my grandmother was part Native American, so the use of herbs isn’t new to me. Although that was many years ago, and unfortunately I’ve forgotten most of what I learned, I do remember one thing: What she did worked.

Right now I’m only experimenting with three herbs… Pau d’Arco Inner Bark, Alfalfa Leaf and Hawthorne Supreme. The herbs come as an elixir, with or without an alcohol base. I have chosen the alcohol-free since alcohol is processed by the liver and I prefer not to possibly overtax the organ.

To calculate the amount for your ferret, take the “human” dose, multiply the low number by 3 and the high number by 4, divide by 16 to get the ferret dose (round to the nearest whole number). Once that is calculated, give ˝ that amount twice a day. For example, Pau d’Arco is 30-40 drops 3-4 times a day (30 x 3 / 16 = 5.625 rounded to 6 and 40 x 4 / 16 = 10). Therefore, the ferret gets 3-5 drops twice a day.

Alfalfa Leaf 1,2 — helpful in treating anemia and balancing the hormones when treating hypo and hyper estrogenism.

Hawthorne Supreme 1,2 — helpful in treating heart conditions.

Pau d’Arco 1,2 — antifungal, antibacterial, antiyeast, and anticancer properties and useful in chronic health imbalances.

For humans, the books recommend a six days on, one day off protocol. You’ll have to see how well your ferret responds before deciding if the six/one protocol works better than using the herbs for seven straight days. As the symptoms decrease, the dosage can be reduced until you find the maintenance amount.

For now, I will present five case studies, and update their progress at a later date.

Case Study #1: Fido, 9 1/2 year old Marshall Farms sprite. Fido was recently diagnosed with Mitral and Aortic Valve insufficiency. She was placed on Lasix for 5 weeks but couldn’t tolerate the medication even though it relieved the ascities.

I started her on Hawthorne Supreme on 5/12/97: 8 drops twice a day mixed with 50 mg of Vitamin C, 1 teaspoon Hill’s A/D and 1 teaspoon water.

After only two weeks she has shown marked improvement in her energy level and overall health. Before starting the Hawthorne Supreme she could only walk a few steps before falling over and just lying there. Now she is able to walk through the house a couple of times before getting tired.

Case Studies 2, 3 and 4:
Clyde, 3 year old Marshall Farms gib (post adrenalectomy);
Ketta, 3 year old Marshall Farms sprite (pre adrenalectomy);
Chipper, 2 year old gib.

All three ferrets exhibited aggression with each other and with humans. They were started on Alfalfa Leaf on 5/1/97: 5 drops twice a day mixed with 50 mg Vitamin C, 1 teaspoon Hill’s A/D and 1 teaspoon water.

After one week the aggression decreased significantly; after two weeks they could stay in the same room with only mild fighting; after three weeks I was able to reduce the amount of Alfalfa Leaf to 5 drops, once a day. Note… the alfalfa appears to make the ferrets sleep deeper and be more relaxed.

Case Study 5: Butter 8 year old Marshall Farms gib.

Butter was diagnosed with Lymphoma in November 1994 and is in remission after receiving chemotherapy. He was started on Pau d’Arco on 5/15/97: 5 drops twice a day mixed with 50 mg Vitamin C, 1 teaspoon Hill’s A/D and 1 teaspoon water.

Butter started showing an increase in energy and appetite within a matter of days. There has also been a slight increase in fur growth.

One thing to realize when using herbs is that change is gradual. Most books state that the changes can take 30–60 days to become evident. My personal experience is that positive changes show within a few days, although I wouldn’t give up if there was no immediate improvement.

A few other ferret symptoms that I’m using the Pau d’Arco Bark for is lethargy, weight loss, severe diarrhea, rear leg paralysis, hypoglycemia, an inoperable liver cyst, an inoperable intestinal lymph node, and an miliary interstitial lung pattern. I’m also using the Alfalfa Leaf for anemia and adrenal symptoms such as aggression and fur loss.

I will continue monitoring the health improvements with the five “guinea” ferrets and experiment with additional herbs as needed. At this point I am very optimistic that the use of herbal therapy can improve the quality of life for our ferrets, especially when medical science has come to a crashing halt. I’ll keep you posted.

1 Naturopathic Handbook Of Herbal Formulas, Herbal Research Publications, Inc. 3rd Edition.
2 Healthy Healing, Linda Rector page, N.D., PhD, 10th Edition.

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