Posted: April 1, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT
Q: I am writing because I don’t know what else to do. My 5-year-old, male ferret has a problem, and I am desperate for any help you can provide. To start at the beginning, since the day I got my ferret (he was a rescue) he had a small blue bubble/blood blister like thing on his prepuce. At first, I assumed it was normal for him, but within a year it grew to about the size of a BB. I took him to our ferret vet and was told it was likely an apocrine cyst and that as long as it didn’t bother him, or affect his urination, he would be fine and it could be left alone.
All was fine for another year or so, and then I noticed it seemed to be growing larger, (about dime-sized) so I decided he needed to be seen again. His original vet left the area, so I scheduled an appointment with our dog/cat vet. He had no idea what to tell me about the cyst/growth but said it could probably be surgically removed; however, he said if it was not bothering him, perhaps surgery wasn’t needed yet.
We waited it out again, and now I have noticed in the last few months, it’s scary-big! About dime-sized on the surface, but it now feels as if there’s more under his skin — maybe an inch in total above and below the surface. He seems to be in no pain and is urinating fine, but it’s so worrisome to see, and I am now really worried about just leaving it.
My problem is this, my current vet knows little about ferrets and just doesn’t feel he can handle it. The only ferret vets in the area are really expensive (expense would not be a concern, except that I am disabled and my husband was laid off several months ago and finances are really, really bad). We’re lucky enough to handle food and emergency care for ourselves and our animals. I tried contacting a ferret rescue for assistance, but the only one in the Kansas City, Missouri, area has shut down. I used to be a member and was sad to see them close. I am at a loss for what to do.
How worried should I be? What could this be? Is it really a cyst? I just feel terrible for letting it sit, even he is not in any discomfort, without doing something. Any ideas?
A: Without seeing this mass on your ferret, it is impossible to tell you what it is. But we commonly see on the skin near the prepuce both benign and malignant tumors that look like what you are describing. This may be a cyst or adenoma that is not going to spread, but it may enlarge in size in the local area that it is situated in. This could cause problems, especially with urination. Or the mass could be a malignant cancer such as an adenocarcinoma and eventually spread to other areas of the body beyond the prepuce.
The only way to know for certain would be to remove as much of the mass as possible and to have a biopsy done of the mass. Without that knowledge, there is little you can do.
Sadly, in the last few years, many pet owners have found themselves in the same situation you are in right now. If you cannot find a rescue group that may be able to help, there may not be much you can do to stop the spread of this mass. But that does not stop your need to help your ferret and to try to keep him as comfortable as possible. So even if you cannot do much for him medically, perhaps you can still visit this new veterinarian and ask for his/her opinion on how to keep your ferret as comfortable as possible. There are new pain medications that come out each year that may be useful for your ferret. So even though you may not be able to remove this mass, at least you can keep your ferret as pain-free as possible.
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