Ferrets: endocrine and neoplastic diseases

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The two most common endocrine diseases in ferrets (insulinoma and hyperadrenocorticism) are also the most common neoplastic diseases. Endocrine and neoplastic diseases are therefore highly linked. The combination of an insulinoma and an adrenal tumour is frequently seen. It is even possible that these ferrets have additional concurrent lymphoma. The combination of other tumours is also possible. The chapter explains clinical signs, diagnosis and treatment in the endocrine diseases hyperadrenocorticism and insulinoma. The chapter also explains diagnosis, cytology and histology for neoplastic conditions such as lymphoma, splenomegaly, integumentary tumours and chordoma.

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30.1 A 7½-year-old neutered female ferret with a history of progressive hair loss of more than 1 year and formation of skin masses over a period of 6 months. Ultrasonography confirmed a left adrenal enlargement, and histology confirmed the skin masses to be sebaceous epitheliomas. (© Nico J Schoemaker)
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30.2 The regulation of reproductive endocrinology in intact ferrets, the consequences of neutering on this process, and the possible role it plays in the development of hyperadrenocorticism in this species. High melatonin concentrations for >12 h/day suppress the release of GnRH. When this suppression is lost, GnRH is released in a pulsatile fashion, resulting in the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) which, in turn, stimulate the release of oestrogen and testosterone. This exerts a negative feedback on the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. When ferrets are neutered this negative feedback is lost, resulting in an increased release of the gonadotrophins, which may activate their respective receptors in ferret adrenal glands if they are present.
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30.3 This female ferret was presented for an elbow luxation. The owner had not noticed the swollen vulva, abdominal alopecia and ecchymoses. The elbow luxation was most likely due to a haematoma that occurred as a consequence of thrombocytopenia. (© Nico J Schoemaker)
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30.4 A female ferret at post-mortem examination showing a mucometra following persistent oestrus. Note the swollen pale vulva. (© Nico J Schoemaker)
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30.5 A female ferret with typical alopecia on the dorsum and flanks as seen in ferrets with hyperadrenocorticism. (© Nico J Schoemaker)
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30.6 Major biosynthetic pathways of adrenocortical steroid synthesis. SCC = side chain cleavage; 3β-HSD = 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase; 17β-HSO = 17β-hydroxysteroid oxidase.
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30.7 Typical presentation of a chordoma in a ferret. These tumours can easily be removed when they are present at the tip of the tail. (© Nico J Schoemaker)
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