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.
Treatment and care are dependent upon the diagnosis, and vary according to the type and size of tumors identified. One main method of treatment is the surgical removal of tumors, especially in cases of adenomas, mast cell, and basal cell tumors. If tumor growth is widespread, amputation may be necessary. Chemotherapy may also be recommended, but because there is little information about this treatment method for ferrets, an oncologist should be consulted.
Living and Management
After initial treatment, the ferret should be monitored to make sure the symptoms subside and that metastasis has not occurred. Further surgery may be necessary to completely remove tumors.
Because there are no known causes or risk factors that may lead to the development of integumentary neoplasms in ferrets, there is no known method of prevention.