Before she bought her two ferrets, Louie and Clark, Jenna Campbell thought long and hard about the decision. “It wasn’t that I was worried about what kind of pets they’d make. One of my friends had owned ferrets, and I knew they were wonderful companions,” she related. “What I was concerned about was their relatively short life expectancies. My friend’s ferrets all died of cancer at just 4 or 5 years of age, and that was quite devastating for her.”
It’s true — a ferret’s typical life span is only 5 to 8 years, compared to 12 to 15 years on average for most dog and cat breeds. What often shortens their lives is cancer, an affliction ferrets seem prone to developing.
While more than 100 different types of cancer exist, all characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells, three forms of the disease are particularly common in ferrets. These are: adrenal disease (tumor on the adrenal gland), insulinoma (cancer of the pancreas) and lymphoma (cancer of the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell). By age 3, at least half of ferrets develop one of these forms of cancer. Often there is no cure, and the disease can only be managed at best.
For the full article, pick up the 2012 issue of Ferrets USA or click here to buy the issue.