Message Number: YG3636 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Bruce Williams, DVM
Date: 2001-05-16 18:09:00 UTC
Subject: Re: leukemia in ferrets and family health issues

--- In Ferret-Health-list@y..., "Pat Andrews" <shiloh_001@m...> wrote:
> I guess the rarity of leukemia in ferrets depends on who you talk
to and where you live. I personally know two people who lost ferrets
to leukemia, one last summer and one whose devoted owner kept her
alive for a year with her awesome nursing skills. Since one of the
cases was diagnosed by one of the vets who frequents this list
<<<<waves>>>> I have no doubts of the legitimacy of that diagnoses.

Here is the answer for everyone who wonders about the difference
between leukemia and lymphoma (lymphosarcoma) -

It's just the location. Now I'll gneralize a bit - the vast majority
of leukemias are composed of lymphocytes. (Leukemia simply means a
neoplasm of white blood cells, of which there are several others -
neutrophils, eosinophils, monocytes, and basophils, but leukemias
composed of these cell lines are pretty rare.)

Lymphoma is a neoplasm composed of lymphocytes - they grow and
multiply out of control. The term lymphoma indicates a solid tumor
growth - it can be in a lymph node, in the liver, in the bladder,
eye, or any other organ.

With leukemia, the tumor is in a specific organ - the blood. The
tumor cells circulate in the blood, and you may see markedly elevated
levels of lymphocytes. (Leukemia also encompasses neoplastic cells
in the bone marrow, where blood is made from).

So if you find the neoplastic cells in the blood or bone marrow, it's
a leukemia. If you find tumors in other organs, it's a lymphoma.
And in the rare cases in which you find both, I have used the term
leukemic lymphoma, which makes everyone happy.

With kindest regards,

Bruce H. Williams, DVM, DACVP
Join the Ferret Health List at