Posted: August 1, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT
Q: I have a question about my ferret, Frodo. I am almost positive that he has a chordoma on the tip of his tail. I took him to a vet yesterday who said that it was fine and most likely benign, so he saw no reason to do any surgery on him unless it grew. I just wanted to double check with someone who specializes in ferrets. I don’t think he was very knowledgeable in ferret diseases and did not even say what it was (I had to look it up online).
I guess my questions are: Is it OK to just let it go without having any surgery to remove it? Is it painful to him? He is an older ferret (approximately 5, maybe even older) so that would also have to be taken into consideration. I just don’t want to put him through any unnecessary surgery, but if he is in pain and it could help his quality of life then I would want to do that. On the other hand, he does not act like he is in any pain at all from this. It is not as big as the pictures online that I have seen in other ferrets though. It is approximately the size of a pencil eraser and does not seem to be growing at this time. I just want to know if it is common to just let the ferret live the rest of its life with it or if it is usually removed in all cases (even in a senior ferret). I really want to do the right thing, just not sure what that is.
A: You have asked a number of great questions. What you describe on the tip of your ferret's tail is likely a chordoma.
A chordoma is a benign tumor that typically can be found on the tail. It is benign meaning that it does not spread past the point where it is growing. It will not spread to other organs and cause serious or fatal disease. If you do nothing about this problem, it is possible your ferret will live its entire life without any further problems.
There are two reasons to consider removing this mass from your ferret.
1. If this is a chordoma, although it will not spread to other areas, it can get much larger at the site it sits at on the tail. That can cause pain and discomfort. If your ferret bites at it or if it gets “bumped,” it can start bleeding and become infected. At that point, you will want to remove the chordoma. If that happens when your ferret is older, anesthesia and surgery is always more risky so that is a reason to do it now while your ferret is in good health.
2. The other reason to consider removing the mass is that we are just guessing as to the cause of this mass. If this is not a chordoma but something more serious, you do not want to wait to remove this — you want to take it off as soon as you can. Then you want your veterinarian to send this to a laboratory for examination of the cells and a report on exactly what type of mass this is.
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