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It's A Rat And Ferret Tumor

Dr. Murray discusses cases involving a rat with a mammary tumor, and a ferret with both adrenal gland disease and insulinoma.

By Jerry Murray, DVM
Posted: September 22, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT

Click image to enlarge
rat
Photo Courtesy Jerry Murray, DVM
Mammary tumors can develop anywhere on a rat's body; this one is under the rat's arm.

This past week I had another rat mammary tumor case. Rats are prone to mammary tumors, and these can form in just about any location on the body. As you can see in the photo, this rat had a large, ulcerated and infected tumor that was attached to the skin near the left armpit area. Unfortunately due to cost, the owner decided to humanely euthanize this rat.

The next case was a middle-aged ferret with the two most common tumors of ferrets. He had a right adrenal gland tumor and a tumor in the pancreas.

Adrenal gland tumors overproduce the sex hormones and androgens, which can cause a wide variety of problems. In this case the adrenal tumor was causing hair loss, itchy skin and some aggressive behavior toward other ferrets that he normally got along with. The aggressive behavior is from the excessive hormones.

The tumor on the pancreas is called an insulinoma. It overproduces insulin. When there is too much insulin, the blood sugar becomes abnormally low. A low blood sugar level will cause the ferret to become weak and wobbly in the rear legs. If left untreated, this can lead to seizure activity, coma and eventually death.

Fortunately the owner decided to treat the ferret, so surgery was scheduled. The surgery revealed two tumors on the pancreas, which I removed. The right adrenal gland was enlarged and had spread into the lobe of the liver on top of it. The lobe of the liver was removed along with the right adrenal gland. Sometimes when part of the liver is removed, the blood sugar level drops. Conversely when an insulinoma is removed, the blood sugar level may become elevated (like a case of diabetes).

This ferret’s blood sugar level right after the surgery was in the high end of the normal range, but it continued to rise and became abnormally high after a few days. Most of the time the blood sugar level decreases as the remaining portion of the pancreas starts to produce insulin again. Only rarely will the blood sugar level remain elevated. If this occurs, insulin therapy is needed to control the blood sugar level.

This ferret recovered just fine, and no insulin injections were needed.

See all of Dr. Murray's columns>>

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