|Aleutian Mink Disease, A Hidden Danger to Your Ferret|
What is Aleutian Mink Disease Virus?
Aleutian Mink Disease Virus, or ADV, is a parvo virus that infects mink, ferrets, raccoons, skunks, and possibly other Mustilidae. Currently, there is no evidence that it can infect other mammals outside the Mustilidae family.
Because it is a parvovirus, it is very hardy and can live outside the body of a host for a long time. To kill the virus, you must use a parvocide or a 10% bleach solution. Because it is a virus, ADV can mutate. Currently it is known that there are at least five strains of ADV that can infect mink. It is believed that there are also multiple strains of ADV that can affect ferrets. Like different strains of the flu in humans, some strains of ADV may be more contagious and more deadly.
Why is ADV a danger to my ferret?
How is ADV spread?
What are the symptoms of ADV?
How do I know if my ferret has ADV?
It should be noted that none of these tests can predict whether or not your ferret will actually become sick with ADV or if it will even spread the disease. The tests only show the presence of antibodies to ADV. Antibodies are what the immune system builds to fight a virus, so a positive test only shows exposure to the disease. In fact, studies have shown that only a small percentage of ferrets that have tested positive for ADV will actually become clinically sick from the disease.
How can I avoid exposing my ferrets to ADV?
To help avoid exposure of your animals, you mostly need to use common sense. Do not turn your ferrets loose around the other ferrets you do not know are negative for ADV. Do not allow strangers to handle your ferrets and do not handle stranger's ferrets. At your vet's office, keep your ferrets in their carrier except in the examination room. When attending ferret shows or frolics with your ferrets, make sure the organizers are following sensible sanitation procedures. When getting a new ferret, find out if it has been tested for ADV. Since it may take several months for the antibodies to show up in kits, when getting a kit find out if the parents have been tested and are negative. Breeders should test all their breeding stock before the beginning of the breeding season. If you get a new ferret and are not able to determine ahead of time if it has come from and ADV free environment, keep it separate from you other ferrets until you can have it tested. By taking a few precautions, you can eliminate problems down the road.
Why is more research needed, and what can I do to help?
With pet ferrets, this is not an acceptable solution. Our ferrets are companion animals, and most of us would not have them put down simply because they might develop a disease.; Additional research is needed to try to develop a better test that will predict whether or not the animal will actually get sick. Research is also needed so we can learn when the infected ferret is actually spreading the disease.
Currently there is no treatment, vaccine, or cure known for ADV. The hope is that with additional research some or all of these might be found.
The Pamela Slack Memorial Fund is currently accepting donations that will be used to fund additional research about ADV in ferrets. Contributions to this fund qualify as a tax deduction in the US.
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