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2005-52

Dear Frank B. Ferret

Your column on diseases of senior ferrets helped me recognize that Jazz, our ferret, was ill. Our veterinarian diagnosed insulinoma and recommended we feed Jazz every few hours. What other treatments are available?

Frank Responds

Insulinomas strike one in three ferrets over the age of three, making it one of the most common diseases of senior ferrets.

An insulinoma is a pancreatic tumor that produces excessive amounts of insulin, a hormone that lowers blood sugar.

Signs of low blood sugar in ferrets include lethargy, hind leg weakness, difficulty awakening, increased salivation, pawing at the mouth, lack of coordination, collapse and eventually, seizures.

Initial treatment involves feeding high-protein meals every few hours.

This approach is seldom effective for long, though.
As the disease progresses, Jazz will need a medication that increases blood sugar, like prednisone or diazoxide.

An alternative is surgical removal of the tumor or a portion of the pancreas.

Veterinary researchers compared survival times after each of these treatments. In their study, average survival after medication alone was 186 days; after tumor removal, 456 days; and after removal of part of the pancreas, 668 days.

Unfortunately, insulinomas usually recur, so none of these treatments cures the disease. Still, we hope Jazz does well with whichever treatment you choose.

 

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