by Jillian Williams
As a conscientious pet owner, no doubt you’ll want to provide your ferret with all the vaccinations he needs, like distemper and rabies. Ferrets are mammals just like cats and dogs and are subject to being susceptible to these diseases and can also transmit them to other mammals – including humans. By following your veterinarian’s vaccination schedule and keeping your ferret away from potentially infected animals, you’ll have a healthy, happy companion!
Unfortunately, certain types of cancer can occur among ferrets and is the leading cause of death of older ferrets. Although veterinary science has made much progress in identifying and treating mammal oncology (cancer), there is still no cure for some cancers among ferrets.
If your ferret is more than 2-3 years old, this is the most likely time that he will develop ferret insulinoma. Technically, this is a disease of the ferret’s pancreas that causes tumors within the pancreas itself. Ferret insulinoma occurs when the tumors produce very high levels of insulin, resulting in symptoms that you can observe: weakness, lethargy, increased salivation, teeth grinding, particular weakness in the ferret’s hindquarters, and seizures. If your ferret shows any of these symptoms, a trip to the vet is an absolute must so that ferret insulinoma can either be correctly diagnosed or ruled out. Your vet will conduct many exams and tests if he/she suspects ferret insulinoma, including specific tests that determine the amount of insulin in your pet’s system. With a diagnosis of ferret insulinoma, other blood test are usually normal. Your vet will also do an ultrasound examination to visualize any possible cancerous tumors on the ferret’s pancreas.
Ferret insulinoma is a serious condition that can be treated –usually through surgery– but there is no cure for this type of cancer in ferrets. Your vet may suggest surgery to remove the tumors or removal of part of the pancreas. The benefits of surgery include a reduction of your ferret’s symptoms, and lengthening his lifespan. However, with ferret insulinoma, removal of all the tumor(s) is unlikely and your ferret will need continual veterinary treatment. Follow-up treatment after surgery for ferret insulinoma includes the medication prednisone, a powerful steroid that improves insulin levels. The medication diazoxide works also to normalize your ferret’s insulin production by his pancreas. To maintain your ferret’s health, he will need to take these medications for the rest of his life.
If your pet develops ferret insulinoma, remember that this is a serious cancer that is 100% fatal if left untreated. Fortunately, with correct veterinary care, your ferret friend can still live with a good quality of life for several years to come. Even though ferret insulinoma cannot be cured, it can be controlled.
About the Author
Jillian Williams has a house full of ferrets and hangs out at Laughing Ferret. Stop by and check out the ferret video, also be sure to visit the ferret auctions as they’re eating her out of house and home.