Message Number: YG1847 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Sukie Crandall
Date: 2001-03-29 14:58:00 UTC
Subject: RE: Dr. Williams - Experience begets Understanding?

Well, I'm not a vet,and certainly not BW, but I'll tackle part of this.

>1.) Do you have now opinion on the long term health status of ferrets
>that have been fixed and descented within the second month of life?
>2.) Out of a group of 100 ferrets, the early fixed & descented, will 70
>of them develop cancer after the 3rd year, the 4th year, the 5th year?
>Some small percentage, say 30, will never be so afflicted?

We've had ferrets in the family for 19 years, give or take a few
months. All but one have been early neuters. Most arrived already
descented. The number which have developed malignancies is 29% at the
highest. (That is if one of multiply-handicapped Ruffle's final
problems was malignant; if not then the rate is lower, but I can't
recall if one of her's was a malignancy.). Otherwise, in all of
these years we have NOT had what we would normally term "cancers",
though there have been other tumors. Certainly, not all growths or
even all tumors are "cancers".

We certainly have had ones which had insulinomae and ones with
adrenal neoplasias.

Adrenal growths are more common here than insulinoma is. Until
Ashling had her adrenal tumor at 3 and 1/2 last year we had never had
one before the age of 5, and until Meltdown had her adrenal growth we
had never encountered one before well into the 6th year. (Meltdown's
was one of only two malignant adrenal growths we've encountered that
I recall, and she went on to live another 3 and 1/2 years after
surgery.) One of these is a rescue who came here as an adult from
harsh circumstances for a protracted time; one was Ruffle who had
just anything that could go wrong go wrong since she as pretty well
on the edge of survivability lifelong. The adrenal growth rate (for
all types of adrenal growths combined in our family over all the
years (most in old ones) is 41% IF Jumpstart has an adrenal growth
found in tomorrow's exploratory surgery.

We also tend to not see insulinomae in young ferrets in our family.
I think the typical case among our family members is during the sixth
to eighth year, but most don't get insulinomae in our family, so it's
pretty rare here, only 18% of our's ever.

Remember that we have made a point of having many ferret family
members who were past abuse victims or handicapped.

>3.) Any way you know of comparing the incidence of 'cancer' in such
>ferrets as defined above to those ferrets that are fixed & descented just
>prior to puberty - say 5 months of age or older? Or never fixed nor

I'd personally love to see an adrenal rate comparison study for early
neuter, half year neuter, and whole. Certainly, there have been
those who have written of whole ferrets with adrenal growths, but the
incidence rate may be lower. Only a decent study would tell.

>4.) Can you say that inbreeding of ferrets has no known consequence in
>terms of the apparent high incidence of 'cancer' in ferrets that we see
>today in the overall ferret population? I am assuming that the overall
>ferret population is roughly known and that the percentage of pet store
>ferrets within this population is also known. What? Something on the
>order of 98 percent of the latter.

One thing that has been noticed and commented upon widely, but may --
or may NOT -- bear out in a study is that ferrets with Waardensburg
Syndrome (WS) markings might have shorter life-spans. Certainly,
doubling up on a neural crest disorder could have its own questions,
and in the case of WS, Leigh Whittacker who is a molecular geneticist
has pointed out that there are already three known pathways in
mammals, using different loci, so it is possible to layer them, too,
which could have its own effects, beyond the documented
variable-expression WS affects such as hearing damage, and intestinal

>5.) As an experienced vet, how would you compare the incidence of
>'cancer' in family pets other than ferrets? With the pet dog, although
>some are fixed at young ages, hardly any are descented, or so it seems.
>6.) Do you think it would be pointedly significant if those ferret
>patients who were asked and wished to do so would please give the source
>of their ferret(s); i.e. pet store or a private ferret breeder, so that
>slowly over time, the answers to such questions as above could be
>answered one way or another as to the long term health effects of early
>fixing of ferrets?
>7.) As is readily seen sexual dimorphisim is quite marked in non-fixed
>ferrets (male to female relative size) so that an illuminating difference
>can be seen in the degree of sexual dimorphisim between fixed and intact
>ferrets. Since this outward quite visible difference is seen, there must
>be also significant differences in the body intertior too. We can refer
>to fixed ferrets as truly 'stunted' by comparison, surely both interiorly
>as well as exteriorly. And that leads to this question, to wit: What is
>the function of the immature gonads, particularly in the prepubertic
>development of the ferret's immune system?

A more interesting question may be to compare the skeletal effects of
early neuters in terms of bone density; I know this interests Bob,
who I hear recently had an interesting week...

>8.) Probably no answer to this question but what is the incidence of
>'cancer' in the native American Black-footed ferret? Do they live long
>enough in the 'wild' to be comparable to in-home, pet ferrets?

Perhaps possible to ask someone like Richard Montali sometime? One
of our vets, Abe, has worked with BFFs (Black Footed Ferrets). Will
try to remember to ask him when get a chance.

>9.) Why is the incidence of 'cancer' so very much higher in USA pet
>ferrets than in other countries where ferrets are kept?

I know that at least in some it might not be, ditto non-malignancies.
We sure have heard form a number of folks in Britain with ferrets
with lymphoma. IN the non-malignancies (non-cancers) we have read of
a number of ferrets with adrenal growths in the Netherlands, and of a
geographical pocket in Australia where adrenal growths have been seen
disproportionately. Maybe Amy Flemming, if here right now, will know
if there has been any follow-up on that Australian report to see if

>Dr. Williams, I do feel so very lucky to ask these questions, for it is
>so very easy to ask, but an altogether different task to answer.
>Edward Lipinski @ F.E.R.R.E.T.S. NW Foundation, est. 01/04/01.