The Adrenal Glands
Adrenal disease is caused by a functional abnormality of the adrenal glands. These are small organs located in the abdomen of ferrets, just in front of the kidneys. These glands are responsible for producing hormones such as cortisol, aldosterone, or sex hormones.
In ferrets, these glands are cyclically activated during their natural reproductive season. This occurs in December/January for males and January/February for females. They can be stimulated repetitively or excessively in the case of prepubertal castrated ferrets or those exposed to long periods of light (long photoperiods). In these cases, these glands can grow significantly in size (benign hyperplasia) or even become neoplastic (tumors).
What Happens to Our Ferret?
External signs of adrenal disease typically appear from the age of 3 or 4 onwards: alopecia, hair loss that usually begins at the tip of the tail, inflammation of the vulva in females, difficulty urinating, and prostatic alterations in males.
How Is It Diagnosed?
The best method for diagnosing adrenal disease is through ultrasound to measure the size and assess the appearance of the adrenal glands. It can also be diagnosed through blood tests that measure sex hormone levels.
How Is Adrenal Disease Treated?
There is a surgical treatment that involves removing the adrenal gland. Another option is hormonal medical treatment using GnRH analogs in the form of subcutaneous implants or injections.
Each case should be studied based on the patient’s age, the severity of the disease, whether one or both glands are affected, etc., to determine the most appropriate and successful treatment.
Can Adrenal Disease Be Prevented?
Currently, to reduce the risk of developing this disease, we recommend not neutering ferrets before their first heat. From that moment on, we can inform you about the option of applying hormonal treatments with GnRH analogs on a recurring basis (implants or injections). Studies have shown the benefits of implementing these preventive measures.
From the age of 4 onwards, we also recommend performing regular ultrasound scans in geriatric patients to monitor the evolution of their adrenal glands.