Having a pet ferret is a rewarding and fun experience, but sometimes it could also be worrisome especially when they get exposed to ferret diseases that could threaten their life. It is important that we know the types of common ferret diseases so that we could prepare for it and prevent any of these sickness from being acquired by our pets.
Always bear in mind that prevention is better than cure. Make sure that you are aware how to prevent these diseases from developing early in life so that your pet could reach the potential lifespan it is intended to live, or even beyond that. We don’t want to see our active and rowdy ferrets become weak and sick because of these diseases, right?
Common Ferret Diseases and How to Prevent/Treat Them
- Adrenal disease / Adrenal tumors
This disease is one of the most prevalent ferret diseases among ferrets 2 years old and above wherein tumor growth takes place in the adrenal glands. The exact cause of this disease is yet to be discovered but in some studies, the reasons of having tumor growth in this particular body part of ferrets are: (1) excessive exposure to artificial light and (2) early altering of their reproductive organs.
- Hair loss or hair thinning particularly on the feet, belly, and on the base of the tail. The thinning are apparent in patterns or patches.
- Reduced appetite
- Lethargic behavior
- Paleness of the skin
- Excessive scratching
- Sexual aggression
- Swollen vulva for female ferrets
- Difficulty in urinating due to enlarged prostate, frequent urination
- Weight loss and restlessness
- Increased thirst
Prevention and Treatment: Treatment may be impossible in the later stages but when detected early on, your ferret veterinarian can help control the spread of the tumor. Your ferret may undergo adrenal panel which will evaluate the blood’s level of hormones and production of steroids. Another way to diagnose the disease is by performing radiograph such as x-ray and ultrasound to see if there is any enlargement in the prostate.
Surgery is the only option to remove the adrenal tumor and an experienced veterinarian would most likely recommend this especially if your ferret hasn’t gone through any adrenal surgery. However, there are factors that will not allow surgical options due to serious complications that may arise such as the location of the tumor; if the growth is on the right adrenal gland that means the largest vein in their body which is adjacent to the right gland could become affected. If surgery isn’t possible, veterinarians would suggest medications such as Lupron treatment, melatonin implants, and some other ferret medications.
Just to be safe, it is recommended that you avoid your ferrets from too much artificial light exposure and if possible not to have them altered in such an early age to prevent adrenal disease. Though these causes aren’t really proven, there is nothing wrong in taking these safety precautions.
- Insulinoma / Cancer of the pancreas
This ferret disease is most common in older ferrets aged 5 years and above. The condition is described as a malfunction of one of the two purposes of the pancreas, this particular function is the production of insulin that helps regulate the level of ferret’s blood sugar. When there is an excessive insulin production, lumps in the pancreas start to form and accumulate. Symptoms in early stages are not visible.
Later symptoms are:
- Lethargic behavior
- Reduced appetite and weight loss
- Vomiting and salivating
- Weakness in the rear legs (evident when you see them dragging their legs)
- Twitching and seizures
Prevention and Treatment: The underlying cause of this disease has not been identified yet that is why there is no clear instructions on how to prevent it from happening. The most important thing is to make sure to keep your ferrets healthy through the food they eat and the physical activities they do every day.
Treatment for insulinoma includes surgery to remove the nodules in the pancreas to help minimize the overproduction of insulin and other complications. The option to medicate your ferret is also possible but the chances of going through surgical procedure is higher. Prednisone (steroid based medicine) and Diazoxide are some of the medications that your veterinarian would offer.
- Lymphoma / Cancer of the white blood cells
There are two forms of lymphoma in ferrets, the (1) adult form which takes place in ferrets that are three years of age and above and the (2) juvenile form, which affects ferrets that are younger than two years old. In this condition the lymphocytes or the white blood cells in the body can become cancerous and form tumors that spread throughout the body. The cancer travels to the different organs which leads to organ failure and death.
Symptoms in adult ferrets are slower in progress compared to the symptoms in younger ferrets. These include:
- Poor appetite and weight loss
- Weakness and looking mopey
- Inflamed body parts particularly on the chin and on the shoulders and thigh areas
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Enlarged spleen
Prevention and Treatment: Juvenile lymphoma could be difficult to cure because of the ferret’s rapid health decline. For adults, treatment includes administration of corticosteroid medication like Prednisone. This doesn’t cure the disease but it provides improvement on your ferret’s weakening condition that could last for months. Chemotherapy is also an option to prolong your ferret’s life but like steroid treatment, this also won’t cure the condition. Other treatments include radiation therapy, splenectomy, and some scientifically unproven alternative care.
There is no apparent cause to which lymphoma originated but some experts believe that this disease is caused by certain virus similar to the lymphomas and leukemias acquired by other animals and humans. In this case, the only thing to do to prevent this from occurring is to keep your pet health throughout its life span by feeding healthy meat food and providing vitamins, minerals, sunshine, and proper exercise.
Prevention and treatment to these fatal ferret diseases is something we should bear in mind. Taking care of our beloved pets to the best that we can and showing them our love and affection will also help a lot in keeping their physical and well-being healthy through the years.