Adrenal disease seems to strike ferrets when they are around 6 years old here in Western Australia.
In America, it seems to affect ferrets at a much earlier age and there is a growing opinion that the early neutering of ferrets contributes to this problem.
The disease progresses slowly and these days the success rates after surgery are quite high, and the ferret has a good chance of complete recovery and a long and happy future.
Some of the things to watch out for are:
- Loss of hair, starting at the base of the tail
- Muscle loss
- Pear-shaped appearance
- Alabaster-like skin
- Scratching due to itchy skin
Because adrenal disease appears to affect the hormones in various ways, you might find that:
- Females with adrenal problems can have swollen vulvas, appearing to be in season even if they have been spayed.
- Males can show aggression, even if they have been neutered, and also tend to have prostate problems, so keep an eye on your boy to make sure he isn’t straining in the litter box.
Treatment is usually the removal of the affected gland surgically but if the ferret is not a good candidate for an operation, then it can usually be treated with drugs.
In Australia & the UK, we can help ferrets with a suprelorin/deslorelin implant while in the States they had melatonin implants, but these days they’re getting deslorelin implants.
Speak to your vet about getting an implant for your ferret if it’s not a candidate for surgery.
More information on Deslorelin acetate implants can be found on this site.
Nonsurgical Management of Hyperadrenocorticism in Ferrets by Sue Chen DVM, ABVP (Avian), Dennis Michels VMD, Erin Culpepper DVM
Current and future alternatives to surgical neutering in ferrets to prevent hyperadrenocorticism by Nico J Schoemaker, DVM, PhD, DECAMS, DABVP (avian practice), Ad Rijnberk, DVM PhD DECVIM; Johannes T. Lumeij, DVM PhD DECAMS DABVP (avian practice) (dvm360)
Having dodged the Adrenal bullet for 17 years, it finally came and bit me in the backside in February this year (2011).
My albino boy, Angus, had a beautifully thick winter coat but as summer progressed it thinned out quite it bit. It didn’t worry me initially, as we were going through a very hot summer. However around the end of February it struck me that Angus was losing a line of hair on either side of his spine.
It was hard initially to notice it happening, because of the white hair and skin underneath. But as time went by, it was very obvious that yes, Angus was losing hair on either side.
I spoke to one of the Committee Members at WAFFS about the problem and was told that Dave Neck, the society’s vet, won’t operate on ferrets 5 years and upwards – he puts a suprelorin/deslorelin implant in.
I took Angus to Fiona, my vet, and when she examined him, she agreed that there was no doubt that he had AGD – the bilateral hair loss up his spine, the translucent skin … they were the only two symptoms he had but they were definite enough for her.
I asked Fiona about what she thought of the suprelorin/deslorelin implant and asked if it was just a cosmetic fix. No, she said, it wasn’t because it helps to suppress the production of GnRH in the brain which, in turn, suppresses the production of hormones from the adrenal glands.
It doesn’t cure the disease but it certainly helps the ferret to get back to normal.
When I took Angus to see Fiona, he had lost quite a bit of hair off his back, as you can see from this photo …
He didn’t get over-aggressive with the other ferrets, thank goodness. To be honest, if it weren’t for the hair loss and translucent skin, I would never have known he was ill. He was always my numero uno weasel wardancer and the illness certainly didn’t slow him down one bit ?
I took him to get his implant on March 24 (2011) and Fiona said that it’d take about 2 weeks to start working so I marked the date on the calendar and once that fortnight passed, I kept my beady little eyes on him.
There wasn’t any sign of improvement until the end of April. I noticed that Angus’ back was no longer translucent but the skin was looking “thicker” and had a yellowish tinge to it.
Over the weekend his fur started to look fuller and it was very obviously when I stroked his back that it was growing back.
Update: Sadly, just at the time when Angus was about to see the vet to get his 2nd implant, he suddenly got ill. It took 3 days from the first sign of illness to him leaving us for the Rainbow Bridge. He’d had an ultrasound on the Friday which found he had Acute Renal Failure and he died the next day. He was buried on May 10, 2012 ?
Virbac have a Vet Locator on this page which should find a vet who’ll be able to prescribe a Suprelorin implant if your ferret needs it.
Nico Schoemaker, the Dutch vet who first used the implant to “sterilize” male ferrets, wrote a comprehensive article about his findings.
You can download the pdf HERE, either to read yourself or to give a not-so-ferret-savvy vet to read if you want to go that route with your male ferret.
More information about Adrenal Gland Disease can be found on the following sites …
State of the union: Ferret adrenocortical disease (Proceedings) (dvm360)
Adrenal Gland Disease in Ferrets by Todd Driggers, DVM (AEACA)
Ferret Adrenal Disease (Pet Care Veterinary Hospital)
Adrenal Disease (Long Beach Animal Hospital)
Adrenal Disease & Treatment Options – What Ferret Owners Should Know by Jeff Rosenberg (FACT)
An Overview of Ferret Adrenal Disease – What Is Adrenal Disease And Why Do I Need To Know About It? (Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital)
Diagnosis of Adrenal Disease in Ferrets (Greendale Veterinary Diagnostics – UK)
Ferret adrenal disease demystified by Gwen Roy (Western College of Veterinary Medicine)
Ferret Adrenal Glands by Simon Starkey, DVM, DABVP (VIN)
Ferret Adrenal Disease FAQ (Ferret Central)
Adrenal Disease and the Therapeutic Effect of Lupron by John Hines (New Rainbow Bridge)
I’ve put up a few pdfs from the American Ferret Association which might be of interest, so please feel free to download the ones you want …
Adrenal Disease in Ferrets by Ruth L Heller, DVM (AFA)
Click to download this PDF file HERE.
Adrenal Disease (Hyperadrenocorticism) by Rene C Gandolfi, DVM DIPL ABVP & Charles A Weiss, DVM (AFA)
Click to download this PDF file HERE.
Cryosurgery of the Adrenal Gland in the Ferret by Charles A Weiss, DVM and Anne K G Bazilwich, DVM (AFA)
Click to download this PDF file HERE.
Links to supplements which *might* help a ferret with adrenal problems …
TheChocandBlancshow by Lisa, an AAF reader
Success Story: Cancer and Ferrets – Adrenal Cancer GONE! (Healing Cancer Naturally)
(Last updated November 2019)
DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this page is not meant to replace seeing a veterinarian if you think your ferret is ill. It’s only meant to supply general information on a particular illness which was obtained either from personal experience with my sick ferrets, or from books and/or the Internet.
4 thoughts on “Adrenal Gland Disease in Ferrets”
Great Site! I’m not sure if you can help me but I’m looking for a vet in Vancouver, BC, Canada, that does the Suprelorin (Deslorelin) implants. I’ve been calling around for 2 days to no avail.
Any help you can offer is greatly appreciated.
I’m really pleased that you like my site, thanks for saying so 😀
I’ve been doing some googling and have found this, however I don’t know when it was posted …
I hope this will be helpful to you and that you’ll be able to get the implant without any hassles.
Hi, love your site. I’ve housed ferrets for 15 years. I’ve always had them neutered and as a consequence always had to deal with the adrenal gland issues later in life. Unfortunately my most recent jill has not reacted to the hormone implant. They think this may be due to a growth. I’m going to try your herbal cancer aid. How much would you give her per day? How long would your batch last? I’m also keeping her light hours to 7-9 per day (we’re in summertime UK so have much more than this) and going to try melatonin as soon as I get it. Do you have any other suggestions please? I think surgery to remove the adrenal gland and growth will be too expensive for us. Poor Boudicca is only 6!
I’m really sorry to hear about Boudicca’s illness 🙁
Forgive me, but I’m not sure what you are referring to when you talk about my herbal cancer aid. Can you please let me know which page you saw it on?
Have a read of this page as it might help you to figure out what to get to help reduce Boudicca’s symptoms …
The ferrets this lady had seem to have got better on the supplements she gave them so if you can find DIMension3 in the UK, I think it’d be a good idea to follow her instructions and hopefully they’ll work their magic on Boudicca as well! 😀
Am so glad you like my site – thank you for saying so!
I hope that you manage to find all the supplements to get for your baby and that they help to improve her quality of life ❤️
Big hugs for Boudicca from her new buddies down under 😀