Splenomegaly in Ferrets
Splenomegaly is a medical condition in which a ferret's spleen is enlarged. The spleen is an organ that produces the immune system's B and T cells, and where old blood cells, bacteria, and other infectious agents are filtered and destroyed.
Additionally, the spleen stores viable blood cells, so that in the case of an emergency (e.g., an injury causing the ferret to bleed extensively) the organ can distribute blood to the rest of the body.
Splenomegaly is reported to be extremely common in ferrets. Often, ferrets live most of their lives normally with an enlarged spleen.
Symptoms and Types
Occasionally, ferrets will display no signs of the illness. However, some symptoms which may be seen in a ferret suffering from splenomegaly include fever, anorexia, and lethargy.
Splenomegaly is occasionally deemed normal in certain ferrets, especially if the ferret is three years old or older. Other common causes for the medical condition include:
- Viral (e.g., Aleutian Disease)
- Insulinoma (a benign tumor of the pancreas)
- Eosinophilic gastroenteritis (immune cells flock to an inflamed intestine)
- Cancer (e.g., lymphosarcoma, Adrenal neoplasia, systemic mast cell neoplasia; occurs in only about 5 percent of splenomegaly cases)
Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam on the ferret and ask you questions to complete a medical history of the animal. Your veterinarian will then order a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel, and a urinalysis, so as to discover any underlying systemic disease(s).
Next, your veterinarian will sedate the ferret and take a fine needle aspirate of the spleen. An ultrasound will help your veterinarian to visualize whether the ferret's spleen is diffusely enlarged or enlarged with nodules. The ultrasound is also very important in guiding the veterinarian while he/she takes fine needle aspirate samples. These samples may then be sent to the laboratory for histopathology.