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Abstract

Objective

To determine susceptibility, incubation and morbidity periods, clinical signs of infection, serologic response, and excretion of virus in domestic ferrets inoculated with rabies virus of raccoon origin.

Animals

54 domestic ferrets.

Procedure

5 groups of ferrets were inoculated IM with the rabies virus. Oral cavity swab specimens and saliva were obtained for virus isolation. Blood was obtained for virus-neutralizing antibody determination. If clinical signs were severe, ferrets were euthanatized immediately. Salivary gland and brain tissue was collected for virus isolation and rabies diagnosis, respectively.

Results

Of 51 inoculated ferrets, 19 (37%) were euthanatized with clinical signs of rabies. Mean incubation period was 28 days (range, 17 to 63 days). Clinical signs included ataxia, cachexia, inactivity, paresis, paraparesis, bladder atony, tremors, hypothermia, lethargy, constipation, paralysis, and anorexia. Two rabid ferrets manifested aggressive behavior. Mean morbidity period was 4 to 5 days (range, 1 to 8 days). Virus antigen was detected in brain tissue from all rabid ferrets (n = 19). Two rabid ferrets had detectable virus-neutralizing antibody. Of 32 ferrets that survived, only 1 seroconverted; survivors remained clinically normal throughout the observation period. Rabies virus was isolated from salivary glands of 12 of 19 (63%) rabid ferrets, and 9 (47%) shed virus in saliva. Initiation of virus excretion ranged from 2 days before onset of illness to 6 days after onset.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance

Rabies should be considered in the differential diagnosis for ferrets that have acute onset of paralysis or behavioral changes and a condition that rapidly deteriorates despite intense medical intervention. (Am J Vet Res 1998;59:1629-1632)

Free access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research

SUMMARY

Objective

To determine susceptibility, incubation and morbidity periods, clinical signs, serologic response, and excretion of virus in domestic ferrets inoculated with rabies virus.

Animals

55 domestic ferrets.

Procedure

5 groups of 10 ferrets were inoculated with rabies virus, IM, at doses of 105.5 to 101.5 median mouse intracerebral lethal dose. Ferrets were observed and behavior was recorded. Rectal temperature, body weight, and samples from the oral cavity and samples of saliva and blood were obtained. Virus isolation was attempted, using intracranial mouse inoculation and cell culture. Virus neutralizing antibodies were determined by rapid fluorescent focus inhibition test. Ferrets were euthanatized immediately if clinical signs were severe. Rabies was confirmed by direct immunofluorescent antibody test.

Results

Mean incubation period was 33 days (range, 16 to 96 days). Clinical signs included ascending paralysis, ataxia, cachexia, bladder atony, fever, hyperactivity, tremors, and paresthesia. Mean morbidity period was 4 to 5 days (range, 2 to 10 days). Virus antigen was detected in brain tissue from all clinically rabid ferrets. Ferrets given the highest viral dose were euthanatized and had VNA; ferrets receiving the next dilution also were euthanatized, but only 4 had seroconverted. Of 17 ferrets that survived, 5 seroconverted. Survivors remained clinically normal except for 1 that recovered with severe paralytic sequelae. Rabies virus was isolated from the salivary gland of 1 ferret that was euthanatized.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance

Rabies should be considered as a differential diagnosis in any ferret that has acute onset of paralysis or behavioral changes and a condition that rapidly deteriorates despite intense medical intervention. (Am J Vet Res 1997;58:1327–1331)

Free access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research