Message Number: FHL14460 | New FHL Archives Search
From: "CaitlynM"
Date: 2011-12-22 06:56:17 UTC
Subject: [ferrethealth] Bilateral adrenalectomy [was Re: Valdosta, Georgia]

Hi, Lynda and everyone else,

I'm going to apologize in advance for the length of this post.

--- In, Lynda Squires <nightflight019@...> wrote:
> Can a ferret live without any adrenal glands as he has already had the left one removed?
Yes, provided the adrenal products are replaced. A ferret with no adrenal glands will be on medication for the rest of their life, generally fludrocortisone (florinef) and prednisolone (pediapred) to keep their electrolytes in balance. Once the right dosages are found and electrolytes are balanced a ferret can do very well with no adrenal glands. My ferret Pertwee lived for more than three and a half years after his second adrenal surgery.

There are two very difficult issues involved. First is the surgery itself. As I mentioned in my previous post the right adrenal gland is attached to the vena cava, the main vein bringing blood to the heart. This makes it both a difficult and a more expensive surgery than a left adrenalectomy. Our current vet, who is outstanding, only claims a 75% survival rate for this surgery. Our original vet (now retired) claimed 90% but he was the man who pioneered the surgery in the first place.

All three of my ferrets who had right adrenal surgery came through fine. That was long before deslorelin was available. I would weigh my options very carefully and discuss them with a vet I trusted before considering this surgery. It is anything but routine and there definitely is a risk of losing the ferret even with a skilled and experienced surgeon. In your position I wouldn't pick a vet off an online list. I'd want a recommendation from ferret owners who knew that the vet in question has a good track record with this specific procedure. Search the FHL archives for "bilateral adrenalectomy" for more information and first hand accounts.

If you opt for surgery you are also looking at a potentially difficult recovery period until electrolytes are balanced. The problem is that every ferret is different and the standard starting point for the medications only works well for a small percentage of ferrets. You have to keep going back to the vet, having electrolytes checked, and adjusting the meds until the balance is right. While electrolytes are out of balance your ferret will likely be miserable. Search the FHL archives for "Addison's Disease" as that is what the surgery effectively causes during the period when electrolyte values are off.

In rare cases a ferret may not respond to one of the medications at all. That was the case with Pertwee and we had to substitute dexamethasone for prednisolone. Unfortunately we didn't know that until he was in a full blown Addisonian Crisis and almost died. This was probably the most frightening thing I have ever seen as a ferret owner. Pertwee collapsed, went limp, and was completely unresponsive. An Addisonian Crisis is rare and in most cases you should be able to avoid it, but you have to be aware of the possibility for it and be ready. Without very quick, expert vet care a Crisis will be fatal. Once again, search "Addisonian Crisis" in the FHL archives.

I'm not posting all of this to scare you out of considering surgery. Quite the contrary. Our vet really tried to avoid this surgery until he was sure it was necessary. We probably procrastinated too long with Ryo-Ohki. She came through surgery well and started to recover and then went downhill again. She was one of the rare cases where an adrenal carcinoma metastasized and spread throughout her body. It's possible that if we had opted for surgery sooner we could have avoided that. We'll never know.

What I am saying is you really need to find the right vet and then you really, really need to weigh your options carefully. I'm not at all sure what we would have done if deslorelin had been available when we had to face these issues.

All the best,
Caity and the dynamic duo
Zephyr and Chin Soon


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