Were you aware that ferrets are extremely prone to developing problems with their adrenal glands?The adrenal gland is a tiny organ near the kidneys that produces sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. In ferrets affected by adrenal disease, a portion of the adrenal gland, called the cortex, produces too many cells and begins to excrete more of these hormones than normal.
Most commonly, ferrets with adrenal disease will have hair loss along the tail, hind end, and sides. This may go away, but will happen again the following year (usually late winter or early spring). Some ferrets may also be itchy. Females will often have a swollen vulva, and males may have trouble urinating due to an enlarged prostate. Neutered males may begin showing sexual behaviors, and both genders may have thickened skin and/or a musky odor. In severe cases, lethargy or hind-leg weakness may also be seen.
Most times a diagnosis is made on physical examination, however diagnosis can be confirmed by running blood tests evaluating hormone levels. Several treatment options exist, including surgery or a variety of medications. Some people may also choose to do nothing. The right choice for an individual ferret (and owner) varies depending on the severity of the disease, the age of the animal, other health issues, and finances, among other things.
We do not know exactly what causes adrenal disease in ferrets, but it is a problem that every ferret owner should be aware of. If you feel your pet might be experiencing problems related to its adrenal glands, please let us know and we will be happy to discuss the matter with you further.