Prostatitis and Prostate Abscesses in Ferrets
The prostate is a spindle-shaped structure surrounding the back side of the urethra. Bacterial prostatitis and prostatic abscesses are usually secondary to cysts in the urogenital area. Accumulation of prostatic secretions within these cysts can become secondarily infected, resulting in chronic bacterial prostatitis or prostatic abscess.
Bacteria usually gain access to the prostate gland and prostatic cysts by ascending the urethra and overcoming the lower urinary tract host defense mechanisms. Frequently, abscesses or cysts will impinge on the urethra causing partial or complete obstruction, or rupture and expel its contents into the abdominal cavity. Prostatitis is seen primarily in neutered males, three to seven years old.
Symptoms and Types
Ferrets with complete obstruction will display signs of kidney failure, depression, lethargy and a general loss of appetite (anorexia). Other typical symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Pustular discharge
- Abdominal distention
- Straining to defecate
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty urinating (including intense straining and crying when urinating)
- Bilaterally symmetric hair loss (alopecia) or itching due to adrenal disease
Evidence suggests that ferret adrenal disease and subsequent urogenital cysts and prostatitis may be related to neutering at an early age. Most ferrets with bacterial urinary tract infection have the same bacteria present in the prostate gland. However, ferrets may have a prostatic infection without evidence of bacteria or inflammation in their urine.
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 an abscess is discovered, a sample of the fluid from the abscess will be cultured. Your veterinarian may also require the aid of X-rays or an ultrasound to locate the abscesses.
Surgical removal of the affected adrenal gland(s) coupled with complete surgical excision of any abscess (if possible) or cutting a slit into a cyst and suturing the edges may be the treatment of choice. Removal of the affected adrenal gland(s) will cause a significant reduction in the size of prostatic tissue, usually within a few days. If the bladder is full of pus, surgery may be indicated to remove accumulated material. Medications may be enough to achieve these results; however, surgical removal of prostatic abscesses is still necessary.
Living and Management
The prognosis is poor when large prostatic abscesses are found because complete removal may be difficult and the response to antibiotic therapy is variable. Your veterinarian will want to monitor for signs of peritonitis, such as fever, anorexia, lethargy, and abdominal distension. Following unilateral adrenalectomy or subtotal adrenalectomy (removal of one or both glands that rest above the kidney), he or she will want to monitor for return of clinical signs because tumor recurrence and subsequent prostatic disease is common. An ultrasound at two- to four-week intervals after adrenalectomy may be used to follow resolution of abscesses.