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The Guinea Pig With Big Lymph Nodes And A Ferret With An Odd Tumor

Dr. Jerry Murray tackles two strange medical cases, one for a guinea pig and one for a ferret.

By Jerry Murray, DVM
Posted: March 9, 2011, 5 a.m. EST

guinea pig
Lymphoma in guinea pigs is frequently fatal only a few weeks after clinical signs of the illness are seen.

Last month I had a guinea pig come in for an exam. The owner had noticed the pet was not eating well and was losing weight. His activity level was less than normal. On physical exam, it was obvious that the guinea pig was too thin. Plus, he had several very big lymph nodes. The multiple enlarged lymph nodes are called generalized lymphandenopathy and are common with some types of cancer. It was suspected that this little guinea pig had lymphoma.

Lymphoma, lymphosarcoma and leukemia have been linked to a retrovirus in guinea pigs. This is similar to the feline leukemia virus in cats. Common signs include lethargy, enlarged lymph nodes, weight loss, an elevated lymphocyte count and anemia. Some guinea pigs also experience eye problems. Some guinea pigs will respond to chemotherapy, but lymphoma is frequently fatal in a few weeks after the clinical signs are seen.

This guinea pig was started on an antibiotic and pred. We were hoping the pred would reduce the size of the lymph nodes, increase the appetite and make the guinea pig feel better. Unfortunately, the guinea pig did not respond to the pred therapy and continued to get worse. At that point, the owner decided to put the guinea pig to sleep.

ferret
© Courtesy Jerry Murray, DVM
The tumor on this ferret was surgically removed and the ferret recovered well after the surgery.

I also treated an odd ferret case. The ferret had a very big tumor in the armpit area. The ferret was in good shape except for the large tumor.

Surgery was performed, and the tumor removed. A small drain tube was also sutured in place. The ferret did not chew out the drain tube, but she did chew out some sutures. Fortunately only a few skin staples were needed to close the gap in the incision line.

The incision line healed up, and the sutures and staples were removed after 14 days. The owner did not authorize the tumor to be sent out to a pathologist, so I do not know what kind of tumor it was.

See all of Dr. Murray's columns>>

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