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Insulinoma in Ferrets

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: February 22, 2018
Insulinoma in Ferrets

The ferret has gone from being a mammal that hunts to becoming a pet in many homes; so much so that the ferret is among the most common pets in the US. This is not so surprising, as this animal was domesticated around 2,500 years ago in order to hunt rabbits.

Like any pet, ferrets require specific care and veterinary check-ups to prevent and treat any health problems that may arise. Ferrets are prone to certain diseases, and cancer is one of them.

This AnimalWised article talks specifically about the symptoms and treatment of insulinoma in ferrets, a malignant tumor that is often diagnosed in these animals and affects the pancreatic cells.

  1. What is insulinoma?
  2. Symptoms of insulinoma
  3. Treatment and diagnosis of insulinoma in ferrets

What is insulinoma?

Insulinoma is a malignant tumor that affects the pancreas, specifically the cells of the pancreatic islets, which are the ones that secrete the hormone called insulin. The balance of insulin is essential for good health.

Insulin allows the organism to use the energy obtained through carbohydrates, as it is the hormone that makes glucose enter the cells. Insulin is released into the bloodstream in accordance with blood glucose levels, and when these levels have been stabilized, insulin secretion stops.

In ferrets affected by insulinoma, insulin secretion is continuous. Blood glucose levels, necessary for the proper functioning of the body, fall below the normal value. This is known as hypoglycemia and can result in your pet going into a coma if not properly treated.

Ferrets aged between 4 and 6 years have an increased risk of developing this cancer, but fortunately metastasis does not usually occur in these animals.

Insulinoma in Ferrets - What is insulinoma?

Symptoms of insulinoma

Symptoms of insulinoma in ferrets are those typical of a sudden decrease in blood glucose. Therefore, these symptoms affect the nervous system and body tissues since glucose acts as an energy source for the whole organism.

If your ferret does not have enough glucose, the following symptoms may be observed:

  • Staring into the distance
  • Agitation
  • Nervousness
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Disorientation
  • Muscle twitching
  • Dribbling
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Excessive salivation
  • Coma (in severe cases of hypoglycemia)

Hypoglycemia also causes weight loss and, in severe cases, can lead to neurological sequels. If you observe these symptoms in your ferret, offer it some food. If it rejects the food, put some honey on its gums and in its mouth to try to restore blood glucose levels.

Insulinoma in Ferrets - Symptoms of insulinoma

Treatment and diagnosis of insulinoma in ferrets

If you observe any sign of hypoglycemia you should go to the vet as soon as possible. They can verify whether your ferret suffers from insulinoma or not based on a biopsy and analysis of the pancreatic tissue.

If the diagnosis confirms this disease, there are several possible treatments for a ferret with insulinoma:

  • Surgery: If it is possible to completely remove the tumor. Surgery provides better results than other treatments. However, it is not always possible to remove all of the cancerous tissue and other factors should be taken into account, such as the age of the animal.
  • Pharmacotherapy: Drugs that increase blood glucose levels and inhibit insulin production will be used.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy attacks cancer cells, but also destroys healthy cells and tissues. Furthermore, its use in ferrets is not safe because there are multiple adverse effects that may occur.
  • Dietary treatment: Feeding your pet appropriately is essential in the treatment of insulinoma. You must avoid simple sugars and carbohydrates, increase protein intake and give it food throughout the day but in moderate doses.

The vet will decide on which treatment is most appropriate while considering the individual characteristics of your ferret. They will also decide on the necessary tests that need to be carried out.

Insulinoma in Ferrets - Treatment and diagnosis of insulinoma in ferrets

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Insulinoma in Ferrets, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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Insulinoma in Ferrets