Enlargement of the Spleen in Ferrets

PetMD Editorial
Jun 21, 2010
2 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Splenomegaly in Ferrets

This is a condition where the spleen becomes enlarged. However, this is not typically directly related to the spleen, but rather a symptom of another disease or condition. Because the spleen produces and regulates blood cells (red, white, platelets, etc.), it should be taken seriously. Splenomegaly commonly affects older ferrets, though it isn't quite sure why.

Symptoms and Types

There are two main types of splenomegaly: diffuse and nodular. Their signs are often generalized; that is, the signs will reflect the underlying disease rather than splenic enlargement. However, most ferrets with splenomegaly will be have an enlarged spleen that can be identified through abdominal palpation.

Causes

A variety of things are known to cause an enlarged spleen, including an abdominal injury, infectious disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, bacterial infection, cell tumors of the spleen, and other immune disorders. Hypersplenism -- a syndrome in which red or white blood cells are removed at an abnormally high rate by the spleen -- is also known to precipitate splenomegaly, though it is rare in ferrets.

Diagnosis

Upon examination, a prominent spleen or a protruding abdomen may be noticed. A fine needle aspiration may then be used to diagnose the spleen disorder. Also, ultrasounds and X-rays may be used to view the spleen and surrounding areas for abnormalities. In addition to imaging, blood, urine, and hormone level analysis will give a comprehensive review of all possible underlying medical issues.

Treatment

The recommended treatment options will be dependent upon the underlying causes of the enlarged spleen. As an enlarged spleen is typically a sign of another underlying medical condition, it is important to understand the cause before establishing a proper treatment for the animal. In severe cases, removal of the spleen (splenectomy) may be recommended.

Living and Management

Many of the common underlying medical causes are treatable with prescription medication. In the event that the spleen is removed, your ferret will require rehabilitation to heal properly; its activity should also be restricted.

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