Tumors of the Musculoskeletal and Nervous Systems in Ferrets

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Neoplasia in the Musculoskeletal and Nervous Systems in Ferrets


More commonly referred to as a tumor, a neoplasm is an abnormal cluster of cell growth. There is no known age or sex that is more susceptible to neoplasms in the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. In addition, due to the relatively uncommon nature of these types of neoplasia in ferrets, there is little known about them.


Symptoms and Types


The symptoms of neoplasia vary depending upon the exact location, size, and amount of tumor growth. The most common type of musculoskeletal tumor, chordoma, typically appears as smooth round masses on the tail, or forms in the spine or base of the skull. If it compresses the spinal cord, the ferret will exhibit such signs as weakness and ataxia (demonstrated by a lack of coordination). Another type of musculoskeletal neoplasia, osteoma, may appear as hard, smooth, round masses on the flat bones of the head.


Nervous system tumors, though rare, may also result in a variety of symptoms depending on their severity and location. Gliomas, for example, are tumorous growth that form in the brain or spine due to glial cells, while schwannomas form in the peripheral nervous system due to Schwann cells. These tumors may lead to head tilt, seizures, ataxia (uncoordinated movements), and even coma. This list of symptoms, however, is not all encompassing, and other signs may occur depending on the type of neoplasia present.




The causes and risk factors that lead to the development of tumors in the musculoskeletal or nervous systems in ferrets are unknown.




One definitive way to diagnose neoplasia of the musculoskeletal or nervous systems in ferrets is via a histopathologic examination, in which bodily tissues are examined using a microscope. Another means of diagnosing neoplasia is via exploratory laparotomy, a surgical procedure in which an incision is made into the abdominal wall in order to gain access to the abdominal cavity. This procedure allows for a biopsy sample of tissue cells to be obtained for examination.


Areas that may be evaluated during an exploratory laparotomy are the pancreas, the lymph nodes in the abdomen, and the adrenals (the endocrine glands located by the kidneys). An exploratory laparotomy may also be done in order to remove any tumors that are identified.


If neoplasia is not the cause of the ferret’s symptoms, alternate diagnoses may include hypoglycemia, viral infection such as rabies, metabolic disease, or fungal infection.