Message Number: YG5395 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Bruce Williams, DVM
Date: 2001-07-11 19:58:00 UTC
Subject: Re: Osteosarcoma info needed

--- In Ferret-Health-list@y..., dooknook@m... wrote:
> My little runt of a ferret was dragging his left rear leg last
> night. By the time we arrived at the vets (very ferret
> knowledgeable) office this morning, he couldn't use either rear leg
> nor did he react to pinching his legs or toes.
> X-rays showed a "moth eaten" bone loss appearance on his spine at
> about his hip level and the vertabre just above.
> He was given an antibiotic injection and Orbax to continue for
> several weeks at home. I'm praying it's a bone infection and not
> osteosarcoma. My vet said if it's an infection, we should see an
> improvement in a few days.
> In the meantime, I'm so afraid for Stubby. I realize a prognoses
> osteosarcoma is not good but would like to know what to expect and
> there's any treatment you recommend if it is osteosarcoma. I just
> can't lose this special little guy.
Dear Jackie: The symptoms and radiographic signs that you describe,
unfortunately, are much more likley to be a bone tumor rather than an
infection. While osteosarcoma is a possibility, a much more likely
possibility is a chordoma. Not all chordomas arise at the tip of the
tail - they can pop up anywhere on the spinal column. The bad news
is that these are extremely aggressive lesions which over time will
invade and destroy the vertebra. With either a chordoma or an
osteosarcoma in this area with this radiographic presentation,
surgical excision is at this point only a stopgap measur and full
excision is not possible.

Clinical signs will probably continue to increase and movement will
continue to degrade. Most animals are euthanized prior to pathologic
fracture of the vertebra, but it is always a possibility.

While waiting for several weeks to see if it is osteomyelitis is one
way to go, a biopsy now would answer all of your questions. If it is
truely an infection, it could also be used for a culture and
sensitivity, or at least you would know that long-term high-dose
antibiotics are required.

If you decide to do a biopsy, I would be happy to evaluate it for
you. If this is acceptable, I would also appreciate the ability to
look at the radiograph, or at least a good digital representation of

With kindest regards,

Bruce Williams, DVM