Message Number: YG5893 | New FHL Archives Search
Date: 2001-07-28 22:53:00 UTC
Subject: insulinoma

Hi, Yes, it sounds like classic insulinoma symptoms.

5 is not too old to get surgery if she is otherwise healthy. It can
definitely make her feel more energetic and postpone the need for prednisone.
You need a ferret familiar vet for this though.

Many of us with insulinomic ferrets buy or borrow a blood glucose machine.
You can usually get one for under $50.00 using a rebate...The test sticks
cost about a dollar a piece. Be sure to get one that tests very low blood
glucose though, as some only go down to 40 mg/dl. I started off testing
every few days for a few weeks until Brutus's glucose came up and we got the
prednisone dose stabilized. Now I test about every three weeks and if he
looks lethargic.

The prednisone can be titrated up until the symptoms (low energy, staring
spells etc) improve and the blood glucose comes up to a better level. My
Brutus is on 1.5 mg twice a day. I know of one ferret who is getting 2.5 mg
twice daily. Any pharmacist carries prednisone and prednisolone as they are
used for many human problems.

A common complication is gastric ulcer. The tooth grinding and decreased
appetite are symptoms. Carafate helps alot. It comes in a large caplet that
can be easily dissolved by just dropping it in 10 cc of water (do not crush
it or it won't dissolve well), and giving some with a dropper. It is a
prescription drug. You can give up to one-sixth caplet 2-3 times per day,
although I find that one 20th tablet (1/2cc) twice a day is enough for
Brutus. Carafate adheres to the ulcer area like a bandage to keep the acid
off and allow healing. Untreated ulcers can bleed and cause sudden death as
well as pain. She may need this for the rest of her life. You could try a
course of antibiotics like Biaxin for gastric ulcer. Lots of people use
peptobismal instead of carafate, but my ferrets hate that. You can also give
pepcid to decrease stomach acid, but pepcid shouldn't be used with carafate
as it is the acid that activates the carafate.

One way to improve symptoms is a strict diet of high quality, high protein,
high fat food. Avoid high carbohydrate snacks like the plague as they can
bring on a "spell". The only time you should give fruit or syrup is to bring
her out of a spell and be sure to follow with healthier food. Carbs cause
the glucose level to go up briefly, but also stimulate a burst of insulin
which causes a rebound drop in blood glucose. Food and water should be
available at all times. All of my ferrets prefer a water bowl over a bottle.

I know of no reason to separate her from the other ferrets as long as they
get along. You may need to put a bed for her on the lowest level if she
doesn't have the energy to climb up.

If she lives happily for 2 more years, that's like 20 human years. The
medications are not difficult as you and she get used to the routine and you
find ways to ease the administration. Think of it as a chronic illness that
can be controlled well for a long time.