Tumors of the Skin, Hair, Nails, Sweat Glands in Ferrets

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Integumentary Neoplasms in Ferrets


More commonly referred to as a tumor, a neoplasm is an abnormal cluster of cell growth. They can affect various parts of the body, including the integumentary system, which is comprised of the skin, hair, nails, and sweat gland. Integumentary neoplasms are relatively common in ferrets and because the organ system protects the body from damage, they can causes serious health concerns.


Symptoms and Types


A number of tumor types fall into the category of integumentary neoplasms, including mast cell tumors (originating in the mast cells of the bone marrow), basal cell tumors (originating in the basal cells of the skin), and adenocarcinomas (originating in the glandular tissues of the body). Ferrets ages four to seven seem to be the most susceptible to integumentary neoplasia.


The symptoms of integumentary neoplasia vary depending on the exact location, size, and number of tumors present. Mast cell tumors may appear as nodules on the skin and can be either hairy or alopecic (meaning, hair loss occurs). These tumors are more likely to appear on the head and neck. Basal cell tumors appear as alopecic masses that are often pink-beige in color, and may occur anywhere on the body. Adenocarcinomas may appear anywhere on the body, and are often firm, raised, wart-like, and tan-brown in color.




There are no known causes and risk factors that may contribute to the growth of integumentary neoplasia.




The definitive method of diagnosing integumentary neoplasia is via histopathologic examination, in which bodily tissues are examined using a microscope. X-rays may also be used to look for metastasis (the spreading of cancer cells from one organ or tissue to another). Other than the aforementioned types of neoplasia, any number of various skin tumors may be diagnosed.