Message Number: YG1972 | New FHL Archives Search
Date: 2001-03-31 22:56:00 UTC
Subject: Re: cortisol adrenal disease in ferrets

someone on this list asked for symptom info from owners of known cortisol producing adrenal gland ferrets. i've had the misfortune of having 2 diagnosed in the past 3 months. one died, the other just had surgery last week. neither had what could be called classic adrenal symptoms. both were males.

charlie would have been 4 years old on valentine's day this year, he died january 20th, from what the local vet called stealth adrenal disease. in reality, it was later diagnosed post death by a nationally recognized ferrt adrenal expert as most likely a cortisol producing adrenal tumor. this ferret was incorrectly diagnosed with a number of ailments in the 2 weeks that he was deathly ill prior to death. we moved 3 months prior to his death, his regular vet prior to our move was the nationally recognized adrenal expert i consulted post death. he had been examined just prior to our move and declared healthy,looked and acted healthy too.

symptoms were: the last 2 seasonal sheddings were heavier than usual, hair grew back with a coarse texture each time, but his coat had always been kind of coarse.

all the rest of the below listed sx's happened over a 2 week period: body shape changed from a lean muscular ferret to a pear shape in 2 weeks time, sudden onset rear leg weakness, pale mucous membranes, increasing lethargy that progressed to loss of voluntary muscle control with administration of prednisone. when it was given in oral form, the muscle paralysis would get worse starting about 1 hour after the administration of the pred, and he would regain use of voluntary muscles about 8-10 hours later. when i would give the next dose, the roller coaster would start all over again. I stopped the pred after 3 doses. it had been originally prescribed because the first vet i went to incorrectly diagnosed insulinoma, which was riduculous, because his fasting blood sugar was in the 100-120 range and the po pred doses put him into the 400+ range. i'm diabetic myself and tested his blood sugars here as well as the vet doing it at his office. after the first pred dose, his poop !
changed to bird seed in appearan
ce. He went downhill very quickly, once the cavalcade of events started. evidently his reaction to the administration of prednisone, the acute bone marrow suppression, and the liver dysfunction he had at the end, are diagnostic of a cortisol producing tumor. He died after a second vet didn't feel my interpretation of his reaction to prednisone was correct, and actually gave him an injection of prednisone 5 days after giving him blood transfusions. he lost all control of his voluntary muscles that night, and lost his ability to swallow the next day. post mortom showed cardiac, lung and liver disease, as well as adrenal glands that were triple normal size, and an astronomically high cortisol level. His actual cause of death was adrenal disease complications. he exhibited central nervous system damage the day he lost his ability to swallow.

one week later, i adopted 2 ferrets from a shelter. one of them looked just like him. i took the ferrets home, and that very night saw early subtle signs(slight lethargy, pale mucous membranes, slight thinning of fur on rear feet) of the same symptoms i had seen in my now dead ferret. we went to the vet within one week (earliest possible appt) he disagreed with my assessment, but agreed to run the tennessee panel. it came back with a high normal estradoil ??sp?? level, all else was mid range normal per the test. this was in early february. he was a little underweight, so i beefed him up before surgery.

he had cryosurgery with my original ferret vet, the adrenal specialist, last week. he had a left adrenalectomy, and part of his liver and pancreas removed due to changes from adrenal disease. he's doing quite well all things considered at his point. he's only now just starting to lose hair, postop only. vet said that the liver changes he saw during surgery are produced from either starvation just prior to surgery, or from a cortisol producing tumor. since he had put on a pound in the 2 months prior to surgery due to a special high nutrition calorie diet, he didn't believe it was from starvation. doc said he believed it was a cortisol producing tumor.

sorry to be so long winded, but it's devastating to lose one of these special babies to a potentially treatable condition. the only hair loss present preop on either guy was a slight thinning of the hair on the tops of the rear feet, i wouldn't even call it hair loss. just a slight thinning, very very subtle.

i hope this helps you. email me privately if you want a full blown description of the various tests and abnormal values found on both ferrets. I don't want to bore everyone else with all the rest of the details.

best wishes to you and your baby. an abd exploratory by a ferret knowledgable vet may not be a bad move if your ferret is a surgical candidate. i wish that charlie had been well enough to have one prior to death.