The current pet ferret (Mustela putorius furo) population in the United States is estimated to be between 8 and 10 million. Hyperadrenocorticism in ferrets was first reported in 1987. Prevalence of the disease has been reported to range from 0.55% to 25%.1,2
This disease commonly occurs in middle-aged ferrets with no sex predilection. The most common clinical sign associated with hyperadrenocorticism is pruritic or nonpruritic alopecia.3 Other clinical signs may vary but include vulvar enlargement, aggression, return of sexual behavior in neutered males, and urinary blockage secondary to prostatic cysts.4
A diagnosis is usually made on the basis of clinical signs, findings on abdominal radiography and ultrasonography, CBC values, and findings on serum biochemical analysis.5–7 Complete blood counts are often within reference range limits. Results of serum biochemical analysis are also generally within reference range limits; however, high serum alanine aminotransferase activities are occasionally observed. Serum concentrations of estradiol, androstenedione, or 17-hydroxyprogesterone are usually high in ferrets with hyperadrenocorticism.5
Ferrets with hyperadrenocorticism are treated surgically or medically.8 Medical treatment is generally recommended for ferrets unable to withstand anesthesia and surgery or that have owners who are reluctant to pursue surgery. Surgical intervention is the preferred treatment and consists of removal of affected adrenal glands. Partial resection, partial resection plus cryosurgery, and complete resection of affected adrenal glands have been recommended.2,9,10 Following subtotal bilateral adrenalectomy in a study,11 approximately 5% of the ferrets developed hyperadrenocorticism.
The purpose of the study reported here was to evaluate the long-term outcome, prognosis, and risk factors that affect survival time of ferrets with hyperadrenocorticism following surgical treatment. Our hypothesis was that ferrets treated surgically for hyperadrenocorticism have a good long-term prognosis.
JMP statistical analysis, SAS Institute Inc, Cary, NC.
Shoemaker NJ, Schuurmans M, Moorman H, et al. Correlation between age at neutering and age at onset of hyperadrenocorticism in ferrets. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;216:195–197.
Weiss CA, Scott MV. Clinical aspects and surgical treatment of hyperadrenocorticism in the domestic ferret: 94 cases (1994–1996). J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 1997;33:487–493.
Coleman GD, Chavez MA, Williams BH. Cystic prostatic disease associated with adrenocortical lesions in the ferret (Mustela putorius furo). Vet Pathol 1998;35:547–549.
Rosenthal KL, Peterson ME. Evaluation of plasma androgen and estrogen concentrations in ferrets with hyperadrenocorticism. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1996;209:1097–1102.
Neuwirth L, Collins B, Calderwood-Mays M, et al. Adrenal gland ultrasonography correlated with histopathology in ferrets. Vet Radiol Ultrasound 1997;38:69–74.
Besso JG, Tidwell AS, Gliatto JM. Retrospective review of the ultrasonographic features of adrenal gland lesions in 21 ferrets. Vet Radiol Ultrasound 2000;41:345–352.
Johnson-Delaney CA. Medical therapies for ferret adrenal gland disease. Semin Avian Exot Pet Med 2004;13:3–7.
Lawrence HJ, Gould WJ, Flanders JA, et al. Unilateral adrenalectomy as a treatment for adrenocortical tumors in ferrets: five cases (1990–1992). J Am Vet Med Assoc 1993;203:267–270.
Weiss CA, Williams BH, Scott JB, et al. Surgical treatment and long-term outcome of ferrets with bilateral adrenal gland tumors or adrenal gland hyperplasia: 56 cases (1994–1997). J Am Vet Med Assoc 1999;215:820–823.
Quesenberry KE, Rosenthal KL. Endocrine diseases. In: Quesenberry KE, Carpenter JW, eds. Ferrets, rabbits and rodents: clinical medicine and surgery. St Louis: Saunders, 2004;79–90.
Rosenthal KL, Peterson ME, Quesenberry KE, et al. Hyperadrenocorticism associated with adrenocortical tumor or nodular hyperplasia of the adrenal gland in ferrets: 50 cases (1987–1991). J Am Vet Med Assoc 1993;203:271–275.