Friday, August 7, 2009

Adrenal Disease

Warning some pictures on this post show graphic details of adrenal surgery and of ferrets with the disease.


     Adrenal disease is seen often as high as 70% in ferrets on average over the age of 3 years old and most being female.

     There are a number of different beliefs in what causes this devastating disease. Ranging from household light to a ferret’s diet but there is no concrete proof as to what does cause it.

     Adrenal disease affects the adrenal glands. These are two small glands that sit on top ofAdrenal glands the kidneys. 

     The yellow marks the right and left adrenal glands.







     The adrenal glands consists of two parts, the internal medulla and the outer cortex. Each part does something differently.

     The internal medulla is responsible for producing adrenaline and noradrenaline. The cortex produces three types of hormones: Glucocorticoids, mineralcorticoids, and androgens.

     Glucocorticoids include hydrocortisone, cortisone, and cortisterone, which causes the liver to increase glycogen levels raising blood sugar levels and also acts like anti-inflammatory agents. Some ferrets with adrenal disease display an increase in activity and are very energetic.

     Mineralcorticoids are regulate the salt and water in the blood and extracellular tissues. If these are out of balance then there is the possibility of electrolyte or fluid imbalances. These can affect different parts of the body including cardiac to urinary.  A lot of ferrets with adrenal tumors become very thirsty and have increased urination.

     Androgens include androsterone and testosterone promoting male characteristics and are necessary for the maintenance of muscle mass. Estrogen masks this in most females until it is depleted will show more aggressive behavior. Neutered ferrets will show sexual behavior and traits.

     Adrenaline and Noradrenaline are powerful hormones that increase blood sugar levels. Slow down the bowels, and increase blood pressure, heart, and metabolic rates, preparing a ferret for action.

     Noradrenaline is similar to adrenaline but is not as immediately powerful or as long lasting. This is the one that causes the buzz when the fight or flight reflex kicks in.

     Some of the first noticeable symptoms are hair losshairlossadrenal , due to elevated corticosteroids, around the base of the tail. Changes in behavior. In females the vulva swells. An increase in body heat and uncontrolled blood sugars. Symptoms very from ferret to ferret and depending on what part of the gland is affected are not seen until it is too late to do much but make the ferret comfortable.

     Most adrenal disease in ferrets is due to tumors in the adrenal glands. Surgery can be preformed to remove the affected gland.(adrenalectomies)

     The left adreanal gland is larger to see and therefore easier to remove. healthyadrenal (this is a picture of healthy adrenal glands)

     The right adrenal gland is attached to the vena cava, the largest vain in the body, making it difficult to remove all of the tumor and can lead to postoperative bleeding. abnormal left adrenal (abnormal left adrenal: picture is enlarged to show detail)

     New techniques are being tried in the removal of the right adrenal gland. One of these is the use of cryosurgery, the freezing of tissues using liquid nitrogen.

     Cryosurgery has been used on/in humans for decades with great results and is now being used by veterinary surgeons in the removal of adrenal glands in ferrets. One vet in Miami, Dr. Charles Weiss, has performed this type of surgery on 35 ferrets with excellent results.

     galahad My Galihad had adrenal disease and was already at end stage when he was diagnosed. Surgery was not an option for him at that point.

     Watching him loose his beautiful chocolate coat was the most difficult part before the last 2 days when his weight dropped from a healthy 3 pounds to a pound. 

     Not once did he let this disease run his life. He was active and happy up to the end when he went to bed for the night and didn’t rise in the morning this last April.

     Because of Galihad I know what to look for and how to deal with this horrible disease that no prevention nor real cure.


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