A common disease in ferrets, insulinoma can have serious consequences. Find out about the symptoms and possible treatments.

What is insulinoma?

Insulinoma is a tumor affecting a ferret's pancreas, which causes a cancer of the pancreas and destabilises the level of insulin in the ferret. This causes spikes in the quantity of insulin produced meaning that your ferret can become permanently hypoglycaemic (low blood sugar).

Insulinoma usually affects older ferrets between the ages of 3 and 7 with no distinction as to sex.

What are the symptoms?

  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive salivation 
  • Vomiting
  • Incoordination of paws
  • Fits: During fits, your ferret may fall on their side and convulse.

How is it diagnosed?

The diagnosis of insulinoma can only be confirmed after multiple tests measuring the level of glucose in the blood. This level can vary over time. Hospitalisation for a whole day will therefore be necessary.

If the ferret presents with a lower level than 0.7 grams per litre, they will need to undergo an echography of the abdomen or an exploratory laparotomy to confirm the presence of the nodules.

What is the treatment?

Treatment against insulinoma can be either surgical or medial:

  • Surgical treatment: If the ferret is under the age of 6, a surgical operation is usually preferred. In consists of removing the pancreatic tumors that are visible to the naked eye. However, this operation doesn't guarantee complete recovery. It will however slow down considerably the progression of the disease.
  • Medical treatment: This method consists of administrating medicine with a view to increasing the blood sugar levels. It doesn't cure the cancer but will slow its progression and treat the symptoms.

If you have any doubts, it is best to take your ferret to the veterinary immediately because insulinoma spreads very quickly. You should therefore react quickly in order to minimise the damage to your ferret!

Have you ever heard of insulinoma?

Photo credit: Yummypets

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