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A Tale Of Two Ferret Tails

Two ferrets undergo surgery to treat a chordoma on their tail.

By Jerry Murray, DVM
Posted: April 20, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT

tumor on ferret's tail
© Courtesy Jerry Murray, DVM
This ferret has a chordoma at the tip of its tail, which is a common location for this type of tumor.

Everyone complains about taxes being a pain in the tail, but these two cases are about ferrets that truly had a real problem with their tails. Ferrets are prone to an odd and rare tumor called a chordoma. Mink are prone to this tumor also. It is definitely rare in other animals, but it has been reported in people, too.

The first case was located at the tip of the ferret’s tail. Most chordomas are small, clublike tumors at the tip of the tail. As you can see, though, this ferret had a rather large, clublike tumor at the tip of the tail. The tumor was so heavy that the ferret had a hard time lifting up his tail.

Fortunately, tumors at the tip of the tail are slow-growing and rarely spread to other locations. Amputation of the distal half of the ferret’s tail is the recommended treatment. This ferret had his tail amputated and is doing just fine.

The second case was also a ferret with a large tumor of the tail. This tumor was located at the base of the ferret’s tail near its attachment to the rest of the body. This is an odd location for a tumor, and it makes it really difficult to amputate the tail. Amputation of the ferret’s tail was still the best treatment option, so surgery was scheduled.

tumor at base of ferret's tail
© Courtesy of Jerry Murray, DVM
The tumor on this ferret was located at the base of its tail, which made the surgery to remove it more difficult.
ferret with amputated tail
© Courtesy of Jerry Murray, DVM
This is the ferret from the above photo after the surgery that amputated its tail. The ferret recovered very well.

The tail (along with the tumor) was removed very close to the ferret’s body. I was actually worried about damage to the nerves going to the rectum of the ferret, but everything went well during the surgery, and the ferret had no problem with defecation after the surgery.

The ferret’s tail was sent out for a pathologist to determine what type of tumor it was. The pathology report stated it was a chondrosarcoma. This is an even rarer type of cancer. However, a second opinion labeled it a chordoma. Thus, further testing is being done to determine the exact nature of this odd tumor.

Chordomas can also occur in the bones of the spinal column in the neck. Unfortunately, these tumors are not in a location where they can be amputated. I have had only one case with a chordoma in the neck. That tumor was actually painful to the ferret, because it put pressure on the spinal cord. Yes, you guessed it; it was a real pain in the neck.

See all of Dr. Murray's columns>>

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A Tale Of Two Ferret Tails

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Reader Comments
Awesome because been wondering what was on my ferrets tail. thought was scar tissue or dome kinf of parasite growing in her! Thanx for info!!!!!
candy, winston-salem, NC
Posted: 4/14/2012 4:33:53 PM
My little Zoe had a chordoma an inch from her bum also. Her surgery was successful also. Now she looks like a little bear. I am so happy that we have a knowledgeable vet in our location too since anything ferret can be tricky.
Cynthia, Arnold, MD
Posted: 4/22/2011 12:51:37 PM
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