Ferret Adrenal Disease

Adrenal Disease in Ferrets

 

What is adrenal disease in Ferrets?

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Adrenal disease in ferrets, or adrenal hyperplasia, results from an increase in the amount of adrenal gland tissue, particularly that of the adrenal cortex.  This portion of the gland produces sex hormones.  This increase in sex hormone production results in clinical problems some of which are cosmetic and some are more serious.  Most cases are caused by benign growth of the adrenal glands but in a small amount of the cases a tumor is the cause.

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Ferret Adrenal DIsease

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Symptoms

  • Hair loss
    • With loss of hair disease will result in a bald tail and caudal trunk (back half of the ferret).
  • Muscle atrophy and weight loss
    • Individuals with this condition will lose weight and muscle mass.
  • Itching
    • Dry flaky skin may result in itching and even self-induced skin sores.  These usually resolve with therapy to manage adrenal hyperplasia.
  • Aggressiveness
    • Increase in the sex hormones can result in increased aggression, especially in males.  Females may exhibit this but also may develop other breeding related behaviors.
  • Vulvar swelling in females
    • Increase in size of the external genitalia occurs in some female ferrets.
  • Difficulty urinating in males
    • Enlargement of the prostate can result in difficulty urinating and urinary tract infections.
  • Lethargy
    • Lack of energy usually occurs gradually over time. It is not usually an acute finding.

Causes

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While we don’t fully know the cause of this condition, current thoughts are that there are three primary contributing factors:

  • Early age spay / neuter
    • Generally spayed or neutered as early as 3-4 weeks of age before purchase
  • Increased daylight cycle
    • Normally sleep up to 14-16 hours a day only leaving 8 hours of light or less.  Households usually have a much longer daylight cycle.
  • Genetics

Treatment

Recommended first line treatment:
Other treatment options:
  • Lupron injections monthly
  • Surgery
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