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I first became aware of ADV from a chat group that I belong to.They were having a guest in chat one Saturday night on the topic of ADV and I just happened to show up late because I had forgotten and landed myself right smack in the middle/end of the conversation.Well I gathered as much information as I could, but something struck me hard that night and it was the bringing up of the store “Petco” and “New Jersey”. I had purchased both Merlin and Mist from Petco, here in Central New Jersey. Shortly there after the chat, in the beginning of May, I noticed that Merlin was losing weight very quickly.Something clicked and I scheduled a vet appointment as soon as I could.First off, I am not saying that any rapid weight loss in a ferret is definitely ADV but it was one of the symptoms, wasting.

My vet really didn’t know about ADV and I told him as much as I could. He contacted United directly got the information about the test, took their blood and sent it off. I really thought Merlin might have had another problem, but ADV was still floating around in the back of my head.

I will remember this day well. It was the week after the test and my husband Nick called me at work, it was 4:00 p.m. exactly.He sounded kind of funny and I asked him, “by the way did the Vet call?”.He said “yes" he did and Merlin is positive for ADV but Mist is negative”.I was stunned. I starting crying hysterically because at this point all I had thought of was he was going to die. I came right home and called the vet.He told me that Mist was negative and we began having a lengthy conversation about what we were going to do with Merlin and Mist. Merlin was exactly 1 year 4 months old and Mist was 10 months old. Mist had already been exposed to Merlin since he was 6 weeks old. We talked about separating them but at this point we didn’t know how long Merlin had ADV and had to assume that Mist was already exposed.I made the decision right there and then they could not be separated. In MY opinion, they were very close and the stress of separating them for a situation that was probably unavoidable would be more harmful. Do I know if that decision was right, No.Nor will I ever know.Did I feel guilty, yes.I had brought Merlin to the pet store as a baby, not knowing about ADV. Oh the questions: Did I buy him infected? Did I infect someone else? Did someone else infect me? Did I bring it home? Did I bring it there? etc.The guilt was very a big burden for me to carry.None of my friends, family or co-workers that I see all the time have ferrets so there was no one I saw on a daily basis that understood what I was going through.

I then proceeded to put Merlin under a microscope which was not healthy for him or I. I would sit there and watch him and look at him as dead ferret walking.  Any little thing that happened I was immediately chalking up to ADV (i.e. if he slipped on the hardwood floor, I immediately thought it was his hind legs giving out). I was filled with too much written information on ADV in such a small amount of time, that everything that happened or I noticed with Merlin I was totally consumed with, it had to be ADV.My only consolation was talking in ferret groups or chat with other people that had ferrets but I was still alone as ADV was not something common on the few boards I was on.I was one of the only ones that I saw.

One day I was watching Merlin play and I felt the tears well up and I mentally kicked myself in the butt and said HE DOES NOT KNOW THAT HE IS SICK.I was doing more harm to Merlin and I by having this train of thought. I backed the train up and stopped myself in the height of my pity party.I proceeded to send all the bad guests at this pity party packing and stepped up to the plate not only for Merlin but for myself.

Well now that we were all done feeling sorry for obviously me, because Merlin had no clue, time to get to work. We need more tests and the vet needs more information. I proceeding to print everything there was to print about ADV because I wanted my vet to be knowledgeable in this situation. We took a second test, in July, the Avecon Saliva Test. My hopes were high that this first test was wrong. The results were in – Negative!!! Woo Hoo!!! Merlin does not have it after all!!! Well the little voice of reason in my head said “Hey…let’s play rock, paper, scissors for 2 out of 3, who ever has 2 out of 3 wins”.Well after that slap of conscience my elation was deflated and reality set in. My vet at this point knows I am going to make another test and we schedule it for the fall to give a couple of months apart. Third test we did the United blood again and Positive. Well now there are no more tests, 2 bloods test come up positive, I am positive. But Mist is still negative! There is some hope that maybe Mist will stay negative.I am not unrealistic, I read, I know the information, but a little hope never hurts.I read everything I could about ADV and what I can tell you is that there is a horrible disease out there.How it spreads, how long it incubates, all the information is different. I have read so many different stories that my head was spinning. I decided then and there to separate myself and my ferrets from the ferret community.  If I did not spread it then it would ease my mind.I started ordering my ferret food and supplies on-line.I ordered a very big jug of parvocide and I went to the beauty supply store and purchased a spray bottle.Got home and in my crazy little mind of mine decided the more parvo the better.Please mix the parvocide to the measurements on the bottle, I made a teeny bit of a mistake.Too much parvo started to take the skin off my hands. Back to the drawing board and mix another batch according to the bottle.On the few, and I stress few, emergency trips to the pet store which over the last year and I can count them on less than one hand I was drenching in the stuff.The thing that hurt were I used to admire the ferrets, I had to steer clear, get what I needed and get out.

The consequences of what I have chosen are not lost to me.These are possibly the last two ferrets I will ever own.At least until a cure, a vaccine or a definitive incubation period or how it is spread is found.So far we know it is spread by fecies, urine and mucus. Taking this information in account, I have to make the assumption that no matter how much I clean that it is everywhere in my house. In my furniture, on my rugs, on my linens, etc.Unless I replace everything in this house I will not be ADV free.

I make sure when I walk into the vet I tell them my ferret is ADV positive. I drive around with that bottle of parvo when I have the ferrets out with me.I wrap the carrier in a towel that has been freshly washed and remember to tell the vet to clean up after us.I used to sit in my car, but the last two appointments because it has been so cold in New Jersey I parvo the carrier and have a special litter pan and bed that is washed.I take a towel that has been freshly washed and that carrier touches nothing but a towel and our lap in the vet.The ferrets DO NOT come out of that carrier until the vet arrives and I announce to all the vet tech’s that I have an ADV positive ferret. Sounds anal, YOU BET.

MY OPINION ON ADV

There are so many people who don’t test. My vet tells all his ferret clients about ADV and has been told by them “I don’t want to test, because I don’t want to know”.These people are doing the EXACT opposite of what I am trying to do.While I am trying to protect them, they could be unknowingly affecting people because of their own selfishness.The “If I don’t know, I don’t have it” syndrome.

Am I bitter? I would be lying if I said I wasn’t.  Am upset about the hand I was dealt with? Sure I am. Life is not peachy with ADV but I have to make it work because I want it to work.  I have never had a sick ferret, not so much as a sniffle.I went from 0 to 150 with a healthy ferret to a ferret with a death sentence. No middle man.  From healthy to they are going to die from this.Bitter pill to swallow, yes and no.I am grateful for the health of my ferret as I have been lucky to have no sickness, and nothing except weight loss as of yet, from the ADV.  I am grateful that these two little boys have come into my life. The joy they have given me, whether it be 2 years or 10 years is a gift. This kind of gift doesn’t come wrapped up in boxes and bows.I am eternally grateful that even if these 2 boys wont be in my life as long as they should be, they will be with me for as long as they can.

Nick and I discussed adopted another ADV positive ferret, but with Mist being negative we wont and Nick and I had a long conversation about it. Do we take in another ferret and possibly weigh ourselves down with costly vet bills or give the two ferrets we have the best life we could give them.I don’t know the end result of ADV from personal experience yet and I guess I don’t want to consider getting another ferret until I know.

People disagree with my decision. I have seen all the arguments. I have seen the hurtful remarks about ADV. But ultimately it is my decision and I can live with knowing that I am trying with all my heart to not spread this disease, while there are people out there that will not even acknowledge it.The people that are afraid of me, should me much more afraid of the people that don’t test or don’t care or have the it can’t happen to me attitude.

ADV has come into my house but it has not changed my ferrets as of yet.It has changed our lifestyle and how we do things but we are now back to a normal family with just a lot more precaution and if possible more love than we had before.