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2005-05

Dear Frank B. Ferret

Gertrude, my five-year-old ferret, has lost the hair on her tail, and the hair on her back seems to be thinning.
She isn’t itchy or scabby, but her baldness seems to be creeping forward. The only other problem she has is a swollen rear end.

What’s going on, and how can it be stopped?

Frank Responds

Hair loss is a common sign of adrenal disease in ferrets. In fact, 40 percent of ferrets over three years of age have tumors on their adrenal glands.

These tumors produce excessive estrogen and other sex hormones. These hormones cause hair loss, vulvar swelling in females, and enlargement of the prostate with urinary difficulty in males.

In addition to hair loss, some ferrets develop thin, greasy skin. Others scratch the skin between their shoulder blades and along the back.

Some ferrets become lethargic and lose weight, or develop muscle atrophy.

Adrenal gland tumors are best diagnosed by ultrasound. They also can be detected by checking the blood for excessive levels of sex hormones.

The treatment of choice is to remove the affected adrenal gland. If surgery is not an option, medications sometimes can be effective.

My brother had this surgery, and I’m happy to say that not only is he cured, but now he sports a new fur coat.

 

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