Adrenal Disease in Ferrets

By PetMD Editorial on Sep. 26, 2008

Spontaneous Hyperadrenocorticism and Other Such Diseases

Adrenal disease is any disorder affecting the adrenal glands -- endocrine glands that are responsible for synthesizing certain hormones. It is a common and often systemic(Or far-reaching) disease affecting many animals; in this case, ferrets. Typically, adrenal disorders occur when a ferret produces too many hormones because of an underlying disease or condition.


Ferrets suffering from an adrenal disease display various signs and symptoms. These signs and symptoms are most common among ferrets that have been either neutered(Males) or spayed(Females). While ferrets typically begin to demonstrate symptoms between the ages of three and four, those as young as one or as old as seven years of age may also exhibit symptoms. Such symptoms, which vary in severity, may include:

  • Loss of hair
  • Abdominal pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Discharge from reproductive organs
  • Cysts in the reproductive organs, especially in the genital tract
  • Swollen sex organs, especially among females that are spayed
  • Blood disorders (e.g., anemia, low red blood cells or iron)
  • Swollen adrenal glands
  • Cancerous tumors along the adrenal glands


Most ferrets develop this condition when the adrenal glands are damaged by the overproduction or underproduction of certain steroids from various causes, including stress and cancer tumors. Other causes may include adrenal tumors and hyperadrenocorticism, a condition characterized by the elevated concentration of the hormone cortisol. In ferrets, hyperadrenocorticism has been linked to the excessive use of sex steroids as a medical treatment.


To diagnose the ferret with adrenal disease, your veterinarian will first want to rule out other causes for the ferret’s symptoms, including lymphoma, urinary tract infections, cystitis, and alopecia. Otherwise, they will perform diagnostic tests to check if the ferret's blood sugar levels are low or if the steroid hormones estradiol and androstenedione are levels are abnormally high, both good indicators of adrenal disease. The veterinarian may also take X-rays of the animal to identify any cysts in its genital tracts or to detect an enlarged spleen or liver.


Treatment typically involves the removal of the ferret's adrenal glands. The veterinarian may also recommend administering medication that suppress certain hormones, such as luteinizing hormone (LH) and testoterone.

Living and Management

You must bring the ferret in for its regular follow-up appointments to ensure the disease remains in remission.


Some studies suggest early neutering or spaying of the ferret may help prevent adrenal disease in young ferrets.

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