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A Really Rare Ferret Gallbladder Case

Dr. Jerry Murray uncovers the cause of a ferret’s gallbladder disease.

By Jerry Murray, DVM
Posted: May 31, 2012, 12:45 p.m.

abnormal ferret liver shown during necropsy
© Jerry Murray, DVM
This ferret's liver is enlarged and has a greenish tint.

Just when I think I have seen it all, something new always comes along. This was definitely the case with a recent ferret patient. An older ferret came in with a vague history of not feeling well and not eating well. He had a thin hair coat, which is a common sign of adrenal gland disease. He also had a yellow tint to the skin, eyes and gums. His liver also felt larger than normal when palpating the right side of the abdomen. It seemed that this ferret was suffering from liver cancer. The owner decided it was to time for euthanasia.

A necropsy (animal autopsy) was done. The liver did look very abnormal. It had a greenish tint to it and was enlarged. The gallbladder also looked abnormal. It was enlarged and was full of a thick green fluid, which is called sludge. There are only a few case reports of gallbladder disease in ferrets, and those cases typically involve gallbladder stones or cysts (benign cancer) of the gallbladder. However, this ferret had no stones in the gallbladder or bile duct and had no cysts either.

The gallbladder and liver were sent to a veterinary pathologist for microscopic examination. The gallbladder had a very rare problem involving the inner lining of the gallbladder. There had been only one published case report of this problem in a pet ferret. It was speculated that the adrenal gland disease was overproducing progesterone. Then progesterone caused the problem with the gallbladder. That problem with the gallbladder caused bile to build up in the liver. This caused inflammation in the liver, which caused the ferret not to eat well. The anorexia caused even more damage to the liver (fatty liver syndrome). It is very rare for adrenal gland disease to cause a gallbladder and liver problem, but it appeared to do so in this unique case.

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