Message Number: YG2795 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Bruce Williams, DVM
Date: 2001-04-20 19:18:00 UTC
Subject: Re: New girl in town (Albinism)

--- In Ferret-Health-list@y..., "Brett Middleton" <brettm@a...> wrote:
> The relative unimportance of vision is one reason to consider
> a minor defect in ferrets.

Hey now, if you were a ferret, you might not think it is relatively
unimportant. To my guys, who are free-run ferrets, their vision is
pretty important to them.

To be truthful, though, I didn't really call the lack of pigment in
the eyes of ferret a genetic defect. Yes, they have diminished
eyesight and poor night vision, but it generally doesn't rise to the
level of a "congenital defect" - the development is essentially
normal, although the absence of pigment in the retina results in
diminished vision.

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
> of solar exposure, spending lots of time in the shade even when
> outdoors. Sunburn is probably not a worry since they have very
> skin that isn't protected by their coat. Cataracts may be a
> risk, but I haven't seen any data comparing rates in albinos vs.
> 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
> favorite pathologist has some data on this?)

Thanks for the vote of confidence. No, in my experience, there is no
increased incidence of SCC in albinos over other colorations
(although I haven't specifically looked.) In white-faced cattle, the
SCC's are usually periocular, as they are in white-faced horses. In
dogs, they are generally on the underside, due to reflected sunlight
off of pavement.

In ferrets, SCCs are often perivulvar or mandibular - I'm sure that
there is a reason, but I haven't quite figured it out yet.

With kindest regards,

Bruce H. Williams, DVM, DACVP
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