Message Number: YG1861 | New FHL Archives Search
From: bill and diane killian
Date: 2001-03-29 18:56:00 UTC
Subject: [Ferret-Health-list] Dr. Williams - Experience begets

----- Original Message -----
From: "Edward Lipinski" <elipinski@j...>
To: <>
Cc: <>
Sent: Thursday, March 29, 2001 4:39 AM

> Dear Dr. Williams,
> 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?

Our expereinces do not show a great difference between early late and
non--altered ferrets. But it is purely anecdotal.

> 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?

That 70% figure seems much much too high.

> 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.

It would very much depend upon what you mean be inbreeding. With the large
numbers at for example Marshall Farms there ferrets are actually less inbred
than the privately bred ferrets with much much smaller gene pools to work

> 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.

In our experiences nearly all animals (including humans) will develop tumors
of some kind by a certain age for that species. Ferrets have shorter
lifespans than dogs or cats so seem to get them earlier.

> 6.) Do you think it would be pointedly significant if those ferret
> patients who were asked

We keep asking our ferrets things but they never answer us. <just kidding
you> We know you meant owners of ferret patients.

> 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?

Even a sampling at a veterinarian is not controlled. test would have to
be designed that tracks these regardless of ferrets arriving at a particular

> 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?

Actually no. We should not refer to early altered ferrets as specifically
stunted. Females and males without their normal hormones grow less
different, that means both larger females and smaller males.

It would seem obvious that a smaller male will indeed have to have smaller
organs just so that they could fit.

Without hormones from being altered young it does seem that ferrets do not
develop as fully in skeltal and muscualr ways.

> 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?

I would bet that captive raised nigripes do have the same propensity for
cancers as they "outlive their warranties".

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

Is it? I have no reason to believe that it is. Nor do I believe that
ferrets are necessarily developing more cancers now than earlier. But
ferrets as they become more house pets and less expendable cheap work
animals are cared for differently and that would include better veterinary