Ferrets – New Treatment With Adrenal Gland Disease

New Discoveries on How to Treat Ferrets with Adrenal Gland Disease

Adrenal disease affects thousands of ferrets annually in the U.S. and may be the most common condition diagnosed in ferrets by veterinarians. This disease is caused by the development of cancer in one or both adrenal glands which results in the body’s overproduction of sex hormones, leading to itchy skin, hair loss, and more seriously, bone marrow suppression. Eventually, all affected ferrets develop anemia and poor immune system function, plus male ferrets develop enlargement of the prostate gland with secondary life-threatening urinary tract obstruction.  Until a few years ago, the only treatment available for this ultimately fatal condition was surgery to remove the cancerous gland(s) – a procedure that carries a great deal of risk and that doesn’t prevent the development of the disease in the remaining gland (which, even if affected, cannot be removed completely, as some adrenal tissue is required for ferrets to live). Then a few years ago, along came a miracle drug – Lupron – which, when injected monthly, suppresses the overproduction of hormones from the disease gland(s), thereby lessening the terrible signs caused by the cancer without actually taking away the cancer. Lupron is safe and effective but must be given monthly for life in order for it to continue to work.

Ferrets New Treatment | Deslorelin

Now, there is a new treatment option – Deslorelin – a small implant (similar to a microchip) that is placed under the ferret’s skin in a simple, quick, safe procedure that slowly releases a substance similar to Lupron to block the excessive hormone release caused by the diseased adrenal gland(s), thereby alleviating clinical signs. No one is sure exactly how long this slow-release implant works in ferrets, but in the ferrets we have treated, it seems to last approximately one year. When the implant no longer seems effective, a new one may be placed again under the ferret’s skin. No more need for monthly trips to the vet for Lupron, plus Deslorelin is cost-effective when compared with monthly Lupron injections. So, if your ferret has been receiving Lupron to treat adrenal disease, or if you suspect your ferret may have adrenal disease, have your ferret checked by our Veterinary Center for Birds and Exotics, and inquire about Deslorelin implantation as an alternative treatment.