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Keeping Odin the Ferret in Charge

Petco Odin the ferret
Odin is prepared for radiation therapy at the NC State Veterinary Hospital. Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine

In Norse mythology, Odin is a powerful god with many powers. He’s married to the goddess Frigg and oversees Valhalla, where the spirits of those who die in battle are received. 

Odin is a 3-year-old ferret whose owners, David and Miranda Brehmer, oversee a home in Leland, North Carolina, with not one, but four ferrets named after ancient gods. 

The Brehmer realm sounds less mythical than Valhalla, but a lot more fun.

“He’s a chunky, cheerful fuzzbutt who hoards squishy balls,” Miranda Brehmer says about Odin. 

Ferrets are generally regarded as friendly, intelligent and inquisitive. They are also quite active at times and can get into mischief if not supervised. 

The Brehmers acquired Odin in late 2017 or early 2018 when he was quite young; Miranda Brehmer says he was the size of a cellphone. He settled into his new home easily, where they say he is quite “chill.” He likes to follow his owners around in hopes of scoring a salmon oil treat, his favorite.

About a year ago, the Brehmers noticed Odin seemed to be even calmer than usual. They took him to a local veterinarian, but with no real symptoms the consensus was he was just growing up.

In December, Odin came down with a cough, runny nose and watery eyes. The couple took him back to their veterinarian, where he was treated for allergies. When the symptoms persisted, another trip to the vet’s office led to an X-ray.

Odin had a large mass in his chest cavity near the heart. He was referred immediately to the exotic animal service at the NC State Veterinary Hospital.

Further examination determined that Odin’s tumor caused fluid to build up around his lungs. A treatment plan was quickly developed. Odin is staying at the hospital and is undergoing a series of radiation treatments through NC State’s radiation oncology service to shrink the tumor.

Odin the Ferret
Tara Harrison (left) and Christine Whitley prepare Odin for radiation therapy. Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine

Fortunately for the Brehmers, the Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo Cancer Treatment Fund helps families defray the significant cost of advanced cancer treatment for companion animals. 

The purpose of the fund is not only to support pet owners, but to support the development of more effective treatment of animal cancers. Treatment for exotic animals in particular, including ferrets, is not always as fully developed due to lack of sufficient experience with specific types of animals. 

“We’re glad to know that Odin’s case is helping to further research,” Miranda Brehmer says. “We know that ferrets are prone to certain types of cancers, and we’re very grateful for this program.”

Earlier this year the Brehmers lost another member of their family of ferrets, Loki, to lymphoma. They are very aware of the cost of treatment and the implications of a cancer diagnosis.

Odin is tolerating his treatment well and feeling better. “We’re just taking it day by day,” Miranda Brehmer says. “So far Odin is in good spirits.” 

And the Brehmers are pleased with their experience. 

“NC State has been very accommodating and patient,” she says. “And I think they’re handling the COVID situation very well. We’re grateful for all the restrictions and precautions.”

Of course, anything involving ferrets needs to have an element of fun, too. 

“The [veterinary] techs noticed that Odin was feeling a little glum,” Miranda Brehmer says. “So they built him a fort from boxes, and it even had tunnels for him to play in.”

~Steve Volstad/NC State Veterinary Medicine