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fstybrat 03-24-2004 08:43 AM

Adrenal Disease
What Is It?

Adrenal disease is most commonly hyperplasia or a benign tumor. It is not Cushing's Disease; adrenal disease in the ferret affects a different part of the adrenal gland than it affects in dogs (which do get Cushing's Disease). Thus, treatment for Cushing's Disease (that is, Lysodren or Mitotane) does not work in ferrets with adrenal disease.

In adrenal disease in the ferret, the adrenal gland produces a lot of sex hormones (in Cushing's Disease in the dog, the adrenal produces a lot of cortisol). It's this overproduction of sex hormones that causes the signs and symptoms we see in adrenal disease.

Sometimes a female ferret may have ovarian remnants: some small bit of ovarian tissue left over from spay surgery. This can produce symptoms similar to adrenal disease. However, if your ferret is more than two or three years old, the odds are that the problem is adrenal disease and not an ovarian remnant.

Sometimes adrenal tumors can be malignant, but this is not nearly as common as benign tumors. However, just because the tumor is benign doesn't mean you don't have to treat it. Adrenal disease is not merely a cosmetic condition. It needs to be treated.

What Are The Symptoms?

These are the "classic" signs of adrenal disease:
Hair Loss:
Excessive Thirst:
Excessive Itching:
Swollen Vulva (females):
Sexual or Aggressive Behavior (usually males):
Difficulty Urinating:
Weight and Muscle Loss:
Skin Changes:

To read a more detailed and complete article please visit the source.

kemasa 05-20-2004 06:10 PM

Diagnosing Adrenal Disease
Does anyone know if there's a definitive way of diagnosing this disease yet? Or what tests might be done? (Besides going straight to surgery)

fstybrat 05-20-2004 08:18 PM

I do believe adrenal disease is usually diagnosed through blood work. It elevates the white blood cell count. Also xrays? That is a very good question though! Now I HAVE to go find the answer. :lol:

Nancy 05-21-2004 12:02 AM

most ferret knowledgeable vets usually go on symptoms alone for diagnosis and/or an exploratory surgery. Or they can run a Tennessee panel on the ferret. It's a blood test, and it can be rather expensive. Not to mention that it is not always able to detect adrenal disease. Adrenal disease causes an influx of sex hormones (there are 3 that the TN panel looks for, I'll see if I can find the exact names...I think it's testosterone, estrogen, and estroidal). Sometimes the hormone levels are high, but not high enough for the TN panel to detect. Most vets and ferret owners feel the test isn't very reliable and that the $$ spent on the test would be best put aside for surgery...the panel can run anywhere around $150 or more.
Ultrasounds and x-rays are also pretty useless in detecting adrenal gland disease...they don't always pick everything up...the glands may be enlarged, but not large enough for the US or x-ray to detect.

CTChin 05-21-2004 10:36 AM

One of my ferrets had this and both had insulinoma when they died :( I sure wish we could get a grip on these diseases in the U.S.

fstybrat 05-21-2004 11:57 AM

THANK YOU SOO MUCH Nancy!! I wish you were her more often :D
I have learned a ton from you & really appreciate you sharing your knowledge! :hugg2:

Nancy 05-23-2004 01:38 AM

aww, you're very sweet, thank you fsty :)

kemasa 06-03-2004 12:38 PM

I took my ferret Ozzie to the vet yesterday for possible adrenal gland disease. He's approx. 5.5 years (I'm not quite sure because I adopted him when he was about 2-or so the lady said), and has been losing his hair for quite some time. I went to this vet because a friend of a friend recommended him as one of the best in the area (although it turns out this friend works for him, so maybe she's a little biased). I've went to him before for this problem in December, and basically he told me to wait and see. At that time Ozzie's hair was starting to grow back. Now he still has hair loss around the base of his tail (it's very smooth there), and up his back there's definitely thinning, and his hair feels wiry, not soft. The vet, again, pretty much told me to not worry about it, and to check back in a 4-6 mo to see if he gets progressively worse. While it was a relief to have someone tell me not to worry, I feel like there must be something causing his hair loss-and shouldn't we find out what it is? The vet suggested an allergy of some sort, although he couldn't think of any allergen that was out in both the winter and summer months. He examined Ozzie, and didn't find anything, but from what I've heard of this disease you can't really tell from an exam or testing anyway. I'm just wondering if you guys have any suggestions on what the vet should have / could have done, or if he's an honest vet who doesn't suggest expensive and unhelpful testing procedures. Is it really sound advice to just wait and see if he get progressively worse? (He said Ozzie really wasn't too bad off- although I still get worried that his backside gets cold without the other ferrets keeping him warm!).

fstybrat 06-03-2004 05:30 PM

Kemasa... my honest opinion... get a 2nd opinion... find a different vet! I have a link in my computer at home that may help you locate one in your area. at roughly 6 years of age a ferret is considered elderly. waiting 4-5 months as that vet said could be fatal for him. By the sounds of it quite honestly it does sound like adrenal and there is surgury that could save him. I will get back to you this evening with that link, but I would strongly suggest at least calling a second (or even 3rd) vet.

I wish you the best of luck give that little guy cuddles for me!!

Nancy 06-05-2004 02:35 PM


Originally Posted by kemasa
The vet suggested an allergy of some sort, although he couldn't think of any allergen that was out in both the winter and summer months.

*sigh* When vets suggest a balding ferret has allergies, it usually means they aren't ferret knowledgeable, have no clue what they're looking at or how to treat it. I'd find another vet.......the adrenal issue may not kill him but the prostate condition that goes along with it can......

Brandy 07-09-2004 01:16 PM

yes but you got to remember that as ferrets get older theyir hair thins and sometimes not all of it grows back in when they are done shedding,,,just a thought

but yes i would also agree to get a 2nd opinion

fstybrat 07-09-2004 03:39 PM

Brandy you're right as they get older *sometimes* their hair does thin... BUT it doesn't/shouldn't ever thin so much that they become bald. That generally only happens when adrenal disease is present. :)

Nancy 07-31-2004 02:42 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Thought I'd add a few pics of my adrenal girl, Chase, for reference purposes....
This is what she looked like when we adopted her in February of this year from a terrible shelter in NE:

Nancy 07-31-2004 02:45 AM

1 Attachment(s)
swollen vulva which is a typical symptom of adrenal disease in females...her nosey brother Mocha wanting in on the pic lol

Nancy 07-31-2004 02:52 AM

3 Attachment(s)
she had adrenal surgery at the end of was a tricky right, and unfortunately turned out to be malignant :( Adrenal tumors are usually benign....Her fur grew back in as little as 3 weeks. Very unusual, as it usually takes much least several months. This is what she looks like now...

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