Epidural Analgesia (and Lumbar CSF Collection) in Ferrets (Disease Investigation & Management - Treatment and Care)

Summary Information

Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords  
  • Place the ferret in sternal recumbency with the lower back flexed (hips flexed). (B631.22.w22, J513.4.w4)
    • This opens the lumbosacral space. (B631.22.w22, J513.4.w4)
  • Identify the dorsal spines of the last lumbar vertebra (usually L6; sometimes L5 or L7) and S1, and the wings of the ileum. (B631.18.w18, B631.22.w22, J513.4.w4)
  • Clip the skin over the lumbosacral area . (B631.18.w18, B631.22.w22)
    • Clip a 4 x 5 cm area. (J513.4.w4)
  • Aseptically prepare the skin. (B631.18.w18, B631.22.w22, J513.4.w4)
  • Use sterile technique. (B631.22.w22, J513.4.w4)
  • Slowly insert a 25-gauge needle almost perpendicularly, in the midline, between the vertebrae, and at the level of the wings of the ileum. (B631.18.w18, B631.22.w22)
    • Have the needle bevel facing craniad. (J513.4.w4)
    • Note: unlike in dogs and cats, it is unlikely that any "pop" will be noticed as the intervertebral ligaments are punctured. (B631.22.w22, J513.4.w4)
    • The tail may twitch when the needle is in the correct position. (J513.4.w4)
  • A small amount of fluid may be seen at the hub of the needle. (B631.22.w22)
  • CSF collection: One or two drops of CSF only may be collected from this site. (B631.18.w18)
    • DO not aspirate fluid from this site, due to the risks of spinal cord damage. (B631.18.w18)
  • Epidural analgesia: 
    • Attach a 1 mL syringe and inject 0.1 mL air. Lack of resistance to injection, and lack of blood in the needle hub, confirms that the needle is placed correctly. (J513.4.w4)
    • With one person stabilising the needle, have another person remove this syringe and replace it with the syringe containing morphine. (J513.4.w4)
    • Inject the morphine, and if wanted, the local anaesthetic agent. (B631.22.w22)
    • Morphine 0.1 mg/kg once, as an epidural for surgical analgesia; the effects last 12-24 hours. (B631.22.w22)
      • Morphine can be used with either lidocaine or bupivacaine, producing a more complete and immediate analgesia. (B631.22.w22)
    • Lidocaine (Lignocaine) 4.4 mg/kg epidurally. (B631.22.w22, J29.14.w1)
    • Bupivacaine 1.1 mg/kg epidurally. Note: this may lead to hind limb motor weakness for up to 12 hours. (J29.14.w1)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Epidural analgesia is appropriate for abdominal, perineal or hind limb surgery. (J513.4.w4)
  • Analysis of CSF. (B631.20.w20)
Notes --
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Risk of spinal cord trauma.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Clippers

  • Appropriate consumables for aseptic preparation of the skin.

  • 25 gauge needle

  • 1 mL syringe.

  • Required analgesic drugs

Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • This procedure should be carried out by an experienced veterinarian.
Cost/ Availability
  • Costs are those associated with anaesthetic, personnel time and consumables.
Legal and Ethical Considerations In some countries there may be legislation restricting the use of this type of technique to licensed veterinarians. For example in the UK: "The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practice veterinary surgery." (see: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Treatment of Animals by Non-Veterinary Surgeons).).
Author Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
References B631.22.w22, J29.14.w1, J513.4.w4

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