Posted: October 11, 2013, 2 p.m. EDT
It is unusual for ferrets to develop growths in their ears.
Q: We have a 5-year-old male ferret who has developed what appears to be a blood blister/polyp inside his ear. It seems to be growing, but it does not seem to bother him. When I clean his ear, he doesn't give a murmur. Actually, nothing bothers him. He is very laid-back and docile in nature. His behavior has not changed in any way since this blister developed about a month ago. We have never seen him scratch his ear, and there is never any fighting between him and the two other ferrets we have. We have taken him to a veterinarian recommended by a re-homing center in the United Kingdom who sees hundreds of ferrets a year. We have also spoken to other re-homing centers. No one has ever seen anything like it before. The vet gave us some antibiotics and a fluid for cleaning his ear, even though it does not look infected. Do you have any ideas about what this is?
A: Thank you for sending along the picture. Any sort of mass, blister, polyp or other "extra” tissue in the ear of a ferret is unusual. Ferrets just do not seem to get the same ear diseases that we see in other animals. Therefore, it is very understandable when people say they have not seen this condition before.
But even though something is unusual, it does not mean it cannot happen. Therefore, we can use what we know in other animals and extrapolate that to ferrets to determine what could be causing what you are seeing.
Unfortunately, since this is an older animal, we have to be concerned with a possible cancer causing this. Cancer can do many things to normal tissue, including making it appear as though you are looking at a blister or blood blister. Underlying tissue becomes so abnormal due to the proliferation of the cancer cells that the normal ear appearance takes on one of a "blister.” The types of cancers to consider would be benign cancers such as polyps and malignant cancers such as sarcomas.
Because the type of cancer cannot usually be discerned by observation, we need to remove the entire piece of abnormal tissue or parts of it to tell you what type of cancer is present. In the few ear cancers I have seen, some have been malignant but they slowly spread. Early removal can be curative.
It is also possible that this is an outer ear infection but even that needs treatment. The sooner you have your veterinarian biopsy or remove this mass, the better your chances are of curing this problem.
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