Ferrets: clinical pathology

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The ferret is frequently used as a laboratory model and practitioners benefit from data derived from this source. In some cases, normal parameters are extrapolated from those established in other domestic carnivores. Collection of blood samples of adequate volume and quality is relatively easy, even in smaller ferrets. As in any other species, successful analysis depends on adequate sample volume and quality. It is worth practising and reviewing sample collection and handling techniques in order to minimize error due to artefact and poor sample quality. Safe volume collection in a healthy animal is up to approximately 10% of blood volume, which in the ferret is 6-7% of body weight. This chapter details Blood analysis; Clinical chemistry; Cytology and microbiology; and Other tests.

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20.1 Test results are dependent upon excellent sample collection and handling techniques, which is more problematic with smaller sample sizes. A small whole blood sample has been added to a tube containing liquid anticoagulant, which will result in dilution error. The sample is forced through a small 25 gauge needle into a collection tube, which results in cell trauma and haemolysis.
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20.2 The advantage of in-house diagnostic testing is speed of results. An additional benefit of this unit is the ability to produce reliable results with at minimum 0.15 ml high quality whole blood. (Courtesy of IDEXX Abaxis, Union City, California.)
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20.3 Normal erythrocytes demonstrating polychromatophils (arrows); original magnification X40. Normal erythrocytes; original magnification X100. Normal segmented neutrophil with a clump of normal platelets. Normal eosinophil. Normal lymphocyte. Normal monocyte. (Courtesy of Raffaella Capitelli.)
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20.5 Reactive lymphocyte. As in other mammalian species, this may indicate immune response. Marked neutrophilia in an ill ferret, most likely indicative of an infectious or inflammatory disease process. (Courtesy of Raffaella Capitelli.)
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20.6 Blood film of an ill ferret with chronic profound non-regenerative anaemia, PCV 12%. Note abnormal erythrocyte morphology and absence of polychromatophils. Ferrets with haematological abnormalities benefit from analysis of bone marrow. Collection of bone marrow in an anaesthetized ferret via the tibia. Bone marrow from the same patient demonstrating adequate leucocyte precursors with absence of erythroblasts suggesting red cell aplasia.
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20.10 Collection of a gastric swab in an anaesthetized ferret for PCR testing for detection of . In order to reach the stomach, a sterile culture swab is fitted to the end of a red rubber catheter (inset) and advanced gently into the stomach.
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