Posted: February 1, 2011, 5 a.m. EST
Q: I have a 3-year-old ferret named Spaz. Spaz is our fifth ferret; three of our previous ferrets died from adrenal gland disease at about 5 years of age. About six months ago, Spaz started losing weight and hair. Her temperament was fine, she ate and slept well, always used the litter box, and did the weasel war dance on a daily basis; but I thought, oh boy, her days are numbered. Then about a week ago, like a miracle, she gained all her weight back and her hair all grew back — same temperament. Ever heard of this? I can't think of anything that’s changed, but whatever caused the reversal of her symptoms I want to keep going.
A: It is not uncommon for ferrets occasionally to show signs of adrenal gland disease and then, without treatment, have those signs resolve.
The typical scenario is a younger ferret starting to show signs of adrenal gland disease, such as minor hair loss on the back or tail, or maybe a slightly enlarged vulva. A 3-year-old ferret qualifies as a younger ferret. And these signs usually start in the early or mid-spring. The signs do not progress and by summer, there is evidence that hair is starting to grow back in and the vulva is shrinking to normal size.
Why does this happen? There are a number of theories. One idea is that the adrenal gland may be “shrinking” back to normal size, or there is a decrease in the output of the abnormal androgen production.
Unfortunately, in almost all cases, come the next spring, the signs of adrenal disease return. This time, they usually do not dissipate but continue to progress.
The earlier adrenal gland disease is diagnosed, the better the outcome can be for your ferret; so visit your veterinarian sooner than later.
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