Preventing Adrenal Disease in the Ferret
by Deborah Cottrell DVM
New evidence suggests that the simple fact of spaying or castrating our pet ferrets may be the root cause of adrenal disease, and age of spaying or castrating is not necessarily a significant factor. Performing the procedure at six to twelve months of age delays the onset of disease, but does not prevent it. Having unaltered pet ferrets is not a practical solution for many reasons.
This unique aspect of ferret physiology is only just starting to be understood. When the ferret's reproductive organs are removed, the adrenal glands take over and begin manufacturing large amounts of sex hormones to make up the difference. This causes enlargement of the adrenal glands, and at this stage is called "adrenal gland hypertrophy." As time goes on, the gland undergoes changes to become a tumor called an "adrenal adenoma" and may also progress to a more malignant tumor called an "adrenal adenocarcinoma."
The best way to prevent adrenal disease is by use of Deslorelin and/or melatonin implants under the skin.
It is extremely important to note that ferrets who are implanted with Deslorelin prior to one year of age have the best chance of never developing adrenal disease. Therefore, we recommend the following protocol:
Between the ages of 6 months and 1 year:
One year later:
Metabolic Blood Screen
After this, melatonin is administered every six months, and deslorelin yearly.