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Category: Exotic

Adrenal gland disease, Hyperadrenocorticism
Cushing's disease of ferrets

AffectedAnimals:
Ferrets. The majority of cases are seen in animals between three to four years old. Most ferrets with adrenal gland disease are neutered before the age of six weeks, but almost all ferrets in the United States are neutered by the time the disease presents. Both male and female ferrets develop this disease.

Overview:

Adrenal gland disease is a common problem in middle-aged to older ferrets. The disease results in one or both of the adrenal glands producing abnormal amounts of androgens and/or estrogens, which are the male and female sex hormones. This disease can cause hair loss, itching, vulvar enlargement in females, and in rare cases, severe anemia and urinary blockage.

Because adrenal gland disease can be difficult to diagnose through routine bloodwork, it is often necessary to do specialized blood tests and ultrasound examination of the abdomen to diagnose adrenal disease. Physical exam findings and clinical signs often will lead to a suspicion of adrenal gland disease. Although clinical signs such as itching and hair loss are not life threatening, a ferret's quality of life is impacted and, on rare occasions, the disease can lead to more serious complications. Treatment is best accomplished by surgery, although medical treatment is also possible.