Prostatomegaly in Ferrets
In ferrets, the prostate is a spindle-shaped structure surrounding the back side of the urethra. Prostatomegaly is a medical condition in which the prostate gland is abnormally large. This is usually due to cystic structures found on the back portion of the urinary bladder or surrounding the part of the urethra near to the prostate in male and (rarely) female ferrets. Cysts can become very large, may be single or multiple, and often cause partial or complete obstruction of the urethra.
Focal or generalized peritonitis (inflammation of the limiting of the pelvic cavity) can develop in ferrets with bacterial infection of cystic fluid or abscesses. Although it’s seen primarily in neutered males, female ferrets are rarely affected. It also usually occurs in middle-aged ferrets, between the ages of three and seven.
Symptoms and Types
Ferrets with prostatomegaly often suffer from stranguria (or the frequent, difficult, and painful discharge of urine) due to urethral obstruction by cysts. This can be accompanied by extreme abdominal pain and/or distension and may be confused with constipation. Other symptoms associated with prostatomegaly include:
- Loss of appetite (anorexia)
- Bilaterally symmetric hair loss or itching (due to adrenal disease)
- Kidney failure
Urogenital (prostatic, periprostatic) cysts caused by excessive androgen production due to functional tumors or cancer, especially those affecting the adrenal system. There is also evidence that ferret adrenal disease and subsequent urogenital cysts may be related to neutering (or spaying) at an early age.
There are many other diseases that can account for these symptoms, so your veterinarian will need to rule them out in his search for a diagnosis. He or she will begin with a physical examination before conducting a blood test and urinalysis. If cysts are discovered, fluid will be extracted for microscopic evaluation and culturing. The cyst fluid may have a disgusting yellow or greenish color and emit an awful smell. Your veterinarian may also recommend abdominal X-rays and/or an ultrasound to determine the size of the prostate and locate the cysts.
Ferret adrenal disease may be treated with adrenalectomy (removal of one or both of the glands located above the kidney) or managed medically. Removal of the affected adrenal gland(s) and drainage of the cysts at the time of surgery is often curative in ferrets with mild enlarged prostate, sterile cysts, or small abscessed cyst.
Large or multiple cysts that are abscessed or infected with resistant bacterial pathogens, conversely, may require prolonged treatment and medication. However, prognosis is poorer for complete resolution as compared to sterile cysts.
Hospitalization for fluid therapy will depend on the state of hydration. Ferrets that are suffering from kidney failure require intravenous fluid therapy. Postoperative fluid therapy will probably continue for 24 to 48 hours.
Living and Management
Following adrenalectomy, prostatic tissue should decrease in size within one to three days. If urethral obstruction persists, a second adrenal tumor may be present. The size of the prostrate, meanwhile, has been reported to reduce in size in as little as two to three days, but there have also been reports for it persisting for months.
Your veterinarian may want to do abdominal X-rays or an ultrasound of the prostate to assess effectiveness of the treatment. He or she may also want to culture specimens of urine to access effectiveness of treatment in patients with abscessed cysts and bacterial cystitis.
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