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Ferret insulinoma

Ferret Insulinoma

Ferret insulinoma is connected to the beta cells present in the pancreas that develop into tumors.

These tumors produce excess amounts of insulin, which lead to extremely and dangerously low blood sugar levels, known as hypoglycemia.  An islet cell tumor in a ferret usually occurs during 4-6 years of age, however such tumors have been found in ferrets both younger and older than this. Unfortunately, these tumors can be malignant. The tumors can be between 2mm and 1 cm in size and can either be single or in groups.

They are a recurring problem. Very often there are no symptoms at all and the disease is only discovered during testing.

Ferret Insulinoma Symptoms

  • Blank expressions - this is the most common and early sign of the disease.
  • A decreased appetite at times, otherwise normal
  • Weight loss
  • Salivation, pawing at the mouth
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Vocalization
  • Being in an unresponsive state
  • Difficulty in using the hind legs, no proper coordination.
  • Seizures or even a coma in severe cases.

The result from the fasting blood sugar test will clearly confirm the disease.

The normal range is for a ferret is 80-120 mg/dl. A result of less than 70 is indicative of a tumor. Values can fluctuate and several tests may be carried out to calculate the average.  The ferret will have to fast for 4-6 hours before each test. Once insulinoma is diagnosed, the test should be repeated every 4-12 weeks.

Surgery is the best way to combat the disease.  A partial removal of the pancreas has been known to increase survival chances and also do away with additional medication for at least a few years. In this operation a part of the pancreas and the tumor is removed. Certain drugs may be prescribed by your vet but these are not really beneficial as they will not stop the tumors from growing. The drugs will either raise the blood sugar levels or decrease insulin secretion. Treatment depends on the individual ferret and the stage the disease is in. Some ferrets benefit from a combination of medication and surgery, while others do not. Diet is also helpful - sugary treats must be avoided altogether.

It would be beneficial to have your ferret tested periodically once it turns two. This way the disease may be caught even before symptoms are exhibited. Unfortunately there is no proven cure for this disease; however diet control, surgery and medication can help to extend the lifespan and the ferret health by 3 years or more.

  Submitted on May 10, 2010