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Options for the Treatment of Adrenal Disease in Ferrets


There are many options for the treatment of adrenal disease in ferrets. Most will agree that surgery is the top alternative; yet, the operation is not possible in all instances. The ferret may be a high surgical or anesthetic risk, or the owner just may not possess the funds. Luckily, there are several non-surgical alternatives and this informative article will discuss one of those options – the utilization of melatonin for both the treatment of adrenal disease and also the chance of utilizing it as a preventative measure. Lupron Depot is another choice, and while it works fantastically (in this writer’s experience) it might be cost prohibitive if your veterinarian will not use Lupron frequently and can spread the cost over many customers. The usage of Lupron Depot is discussed in detail in several areas on this particular web site. Conversely, light inhibits the release of melatonin.

ferretfeedAccording to Dr. Jerry Murray, “Melatonin, directly and indirectly, activates the mating season (spring/summer) during the ‘long day’ intervals, and it terminates the breeding season (autumn/winter) during the ‘short day’ intervals. In the autumn/winter there is more melatonin discharged during the dark time, and less released in the spring/summer. Along with the mating season, the increased melatonin causes the winter pelt to enter and the winter weight gain. Similarly the low amounts cause the summer pelt to enter and also the summer weight loss.” It is not unlikely that the abnormal lighting to which we subject our ferrets may be at least partially accountable for the high prevalence of adrenal disease. Their in-house environment is naturally light during daytime hours and we add many hours of artificial light on top of that during the evening hours.

This continuous lighting causes a natural reduction of the ferret’s production of melatonin and adds to the stimulation (LH) to the adrenal glands. Just how can melatonin fight the effects of adrenal disease? The overproduction of sex hormones is what causes the typical symptoms we see with the adrenal disease in ferrets. Hair loss, vulva swelling in females, prostate swelling in men and sexual or aggressive behavior; more or any one of these symptoms may be present. The results can often be spectacular if this constant stimulation could be ceased. Except in some cases of carcinoma, the adrenal glands may get no bigger, and hair grows, the vulva or prostate swelling resolves and in certain cases may reduce in size.

TREATMENT PROTOCOL A suggested dosage is 1 milligram of melatonin given orally around 7-9 hours after dawn. In instances where there is no response to this degree of melatonin, up to 3 milligrams may be given. The only side effects seen in ferrets have been sleepiness for the first 3-5 days when beginning this treatment and weight gain. Some ferrets will get fat pads on the sides of their necks.

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