Insulinomas in Ferrets

By Dan Loper DVM

Ferrets make wonderful pets and companions. When you own a ferret there is never a dull moment–if there is a dull moment, please find your ferret, because it is DEFINITELY getting into trouble!

Ferrets need yearly veterinary care to ensure they are happy and healthy, just like dogs and cats. Our last ferret blog focused on adrenal disease, time year I wanted to discuss insulinomas. An insulinoma is a tumor within the pancreas that secretes insulin. Sometimes these tumors are large and sometimes they are microscopic, which can make removal difficult. An insulinoma causes extremely low blood sugar. Symptoms include lethargy and weakness, usually progressing from the rear legs. Dragging of the rear end is a common presentation.

This disease is basically the opposite of diabetes. The body uses insulin to regulate blood sugar. Insulin allows the sugar that is in the bloodstream access into individual cells.  With an insulinoma the ferret’s pancreas is producing too much insulin which drives blood sugar dangerously low, which can cause seizures or even death.

There are multiple treatment options available for an insulinoma, including surgery to remove the pancreatic masses, but medical management is generally preferred as surgery may not remove the entire mass. The medical management of an insulinoma is usually daily medication that causes extra release and production of glucose (sugar). At home, an owner can try to give Karo syrup or something sugary by mouth if they suspect a low blood sugar crisis. Although there are some insulinomas that are very aggressive, most can be managed medically for quite some time.

So, make sure your furry, slinky family members make it in for yearly checkups to ensure they are healthy and happy. We are here to help and answer any questions that you might have.

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