Adrenocortical Disease in Ferrets

Key Points

  • Hyperadrenocorticism is a common condition of domestic ferrets, typically affecting middle-aged to older individuals.
  • Hyperadrenocorticism in ferrets is not Cushing’s disease, as it is not due to increased cortisol, but instead an elevation in sex steroid hormones.
  • One of the most common clinical signs of hyperadrenocorticism in ferrets is progressive alopecia of the tail, tail base, and trunk.
  • Vulvar enlargement may be seen in spayed females with hyperadrenocorticism.
  • Male ferrets may present with a history of stranguria or urinary tract obstruction due to prostatomegaly.
  • Experienced ultrasonographers can detect adrenomegaly (width > 3-3.5 mm) or abnormal adrenal architecture. In males, prostatic changes include cysts, urethral impingement, and prostatomegaly.
  • Hormone panels are also available. Most affected ferrets have elevated levels of estradiol, androstenedione, and/or 17α-hydroxyprogesterone.
  • Medical therapy using deslorelin implants, though not curative, is recommended. Ferrets may remain asymptomatic for a median of 1-1.5 years per implant.
  • Adrenalectomy may be indicated in case non-responsiveness to medical treatment, although adrenalectomy of the right adrenal gland is difficult.

Hyperadrenocorticism is a common and complex clinical condition in the pet ferret. This disease occurs most frequently in ferrets three years or older but has been reported in animals as young as one year of age. Presumptive diagnosis of adrenal disease in the ferret is based on history, clinical signs, imaging diagnostics, and steroid hormone analysis. Medical therapy using deslorelin implants, though not curative, is recommended. Ferrets may remain asymptomatic for a median of 1-1.5 years. Adrenalectomy may be indicated in case non-responsiveness to medical treatment, although adrenalectomy of the right adrenal gland is difficult . . .

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Further reading

Bakthavatchalu V, Muthupalani S, Marini RP, Fox JG. Endocrinopathy and Aging in Ferrets. Vet Pathol. 2016;53(2):349-65. doi: 10.1177/0300985815623621. PMID: 26936751; PMCID: PMC5397995.

Neuwirth L, Collins B, Calderwood-Mays M, Tran T. Adrenal ultrasonography correlated with histopathology in ferrets. Vet Radiol Ultrasound. 1997;38(1):69-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-8261.1997.tb01606.x. PMID: 9238774.

To cite this page:

Cummings C. Adrenocortical disease in ferrets. LafeberVet Web site. May 22, 2022. Available at