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Tumor of the Spine (or Tail) and Cancer of the Cartilage in Ferrets

Chordomas and Chondrosarcomas in Ferrets


A chordoma is a slow-growing tumor on a ferret's spine or tail which arises from remnants of notochords -- flexible, rod-shaped bodies that are located directly beneath the animal's nerve cord.


Chordomas do not metastasize (spread throughout the body), although they are locally invasive in the spinal cord. This compression of the spinal cord can cause ferrets to become paralyzed or show loss of some pain perception. Surgery can relieve the compressed spinal cord and usually return the ferret to normal.


Chondrosarcomas, meanwhile, are a type of metastatic (spreads throughout the body) cancer of the cartilage. Surgery is not usually helpful with this type of cancer, as the cancer spreads quickly throughout the ferret's body, and often before it is ever diagnosed.


The prognosis for chondrosarcoma is much worse than the prognosis for a chordoma.


Symptoms and Types


Chordoma and chondrosarcoma tumors may be found on a ferret's spine, neck, upper back and the tip of the tail. Chondrosarcoma tumors, in addition, may be found on the ferret's breastbone or ribs. Both types of tumors are most often smooth, hairless, slow-growing, and painless to the touch. Some tumors are hard.




Unfortunately, there is no known cause to these two tumorous conditions.




Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on the ferret. He/she will take a thorough history from the owner, and order a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel, and a urinalysis to see if the ferret is suffering from systemic signs of disease.


A biopsy of the ferret's nodule should be taken. Slides of the tissue (histopathology) can be tested using immunohistochemistry techniques for cytokeratin. If cytokeratin is present, the nodule is a chordoma and the prognosis is very good. However, if the test for cytokeratin is negative, the ferret has chondrosarcoma.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) should be done when ferrets have chordoma, as this can show the extent of compression the spinal cord is undergoing and is more accurate than a myelogram.


Comments  2

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  • Chordoma research
    11/04/2013 04:54pm

    Dear all,

    I am researcher on a certain tumors in ferrets. This tumor of the tail, vertebrae or brain, called chordoma, rarely occurs.
    In case you or a friend of yours has a ferret with a tailtumor, braintumor or tumor in the spine, please contact me.

    My email is [email protected]

    All the best,

    Y. Yakkioui

  • 07/17/2015 08:04am

    my 5yo male ferret had a chordoma removed from the end of his tail 2 years ago. About 8 months following this surgery another chordoma tumor began to grow on the back of his neck. It is now around a 2"x2"x2"ht. It is beginning to break open in some spots. I was under the impression that chordomas of the back and neck were not able to be removed. Also i am wondering if you have published any of your research on this topic. Thank You