Message Number: YG2785 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Brett Middleton
Date: 2001-04-20 10:19:00 UTC
Subject: Re: New girl in town (Albinism)

Sukie Crandall wrote:
> An engineer I used to know who was an albino told me that he had to
> take extra precautions against the sun, too, not only due to burning
> and related skin diseases, but because it increased his chances of
> developing cataracts. True?

Yes, both eyes and skin are very vulnerable to UV radiation, and
albinos are generally photophobic (eyes sensitive to strong light and
glare). Other vison problems include low visual acuity, nystagmus
(involuntary eye movements), absence of stereo vision, and strabismus
(ocular misalignment, such as crossed eyes). [Note that Siamese cats
get their pattern from a form of partial albinism, which is why many of
them are cross-eyed.]

> If so, I guess that perhaps we have to consider that vision aspect
> (though they really don't usually seem to mind vision loss much at
> all) and the skin disease aspect in daily actions with albino
> ferrets, or perhaps not since their lives are shorter (giving less
> chance to develop skin cancers) and vision less important in their
> sensory menu?

The relative unimportance of vision is one reason to consider albinism
a minor defect in ferrets. I didn't mention the potential problems
with UV exposure because I haven't made up my mind on whether this
danger is worth worrying about, but I lean towards considering it
insignificant. For one thing, ferrets don't generally get a great deal
of solar exposure, spending lots of time in the shade even when housed
outdoors. Sunburn is probably not a worry since they have very little
skin that isn't protected by their coat. Cataracts may be a greater
risk, but I haven't seen any data comparing rates in albinos vs. non-
albinos. White-faced breeds of cattle lacking pigment around the
eyelids are at higher risk of ocular squamous cell carcinoma, but I
don't know if this would hold true for white-faced ferrets. (Maybe our
favorite pathologist has some data on this?)

Overall, I haven't yet seen any evidence that albino ferrets require
any special protection or concern. Perhaps some of our FHL members who
hunt with ferrets and/or house them outdoors might have some insights
for us?


*SLMW 1.0* An object at rest cannot be stopped.