Urogenital Cystic Disease in Ferrets
Ferrets with this disease have cysts form on the upper portion of the bladder, surrounding the urinary passage. These cysts, which may arise from ducts in the prostate, are typically large. There may be just one cyst or many, and often they cause partial or complete obstruction of the urethra.
Due to the obstruction, the cysts may not only cause compression on the urethra and pain while urinating, but may lead to bacterial infection. Urogenital cystic disease is more common in males than females, and often occur in the spring.
Symptoms and Types
- Intense straining and crying out when urinating (sometimes even when defecating)
- Pus-like discharge
- Abdominal distension
- Firm mass(es) near bladder; may contain fluid
Ferrets with complete obstruction or secondary infections may display signs of depression, lethargy, or lose the desire to eat (anorexia). Moreover, if the cysts are due to an underlying adrenal disease, itching and hair loss may be seen.
Cysts are usually formed as a result of overproduction of the sex hormones (estrogen, androgen) in ferrets. However, cysts in the prostrate may be caused by prostatic tumors, though it is rare.
Your veterinarian will first run various tests on the ferret’s blood and urine to differentiate from other common causes of urinary diseases. Abnormal blood sugar and hormone levels are excellent indicators of urogenital cystic disease. Cysts can also be confirmed via abdominal X-rays (with or without contrast dyes) and an ultrasound. If cysts are present, your veterinarian may recommend take a sample of fluid for further examination.
Prostate and adrenal disease may be managed medically or surgically based on the symptoms. Surgery, for example, is used when the obstruction to the urethra is severe, or when the enlarged glands must be removed. Otherwise, antibacterial treatment, hormonal management, and fluid and electrolyte therapy are often used to resolve the underlying issues and stabilize the ferret.
Living and Management
With surgical therapy, the cyst may reduce in size in as little as two to three days. The prostate, meanwhile, may reduce in size gradually over a period of weeks to months with post-surgical therapy. During that time, your ferret’s activity should be limited.
Neutering at an older age may decrease the risk of the disease. Consult a veterinarian to verify if this is the case for your ferret.
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