Lymphoma in the Ferret: An Overview of Diagnosis and Treatment

Key Points

  • Lymphoma is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases in the domestic ferret.
  • “Juvenile” lymphoma is often associated with respiratory distress secondary to thymic enlargement in young ferrets less than 3 years of age.
  • “Adult onset” lymphoma is seen in ferrets over 3 years. Affected animals often show non-specific signs of illness, diarrhea, and peripheral lymphadenopathy.
  • Lymphadenopathy can be very difficult to distinguish from normal fat deposition, particularly during the colder months in male ferrets.
  • Diagnostics should include hematology including a platelet count and manual differential examination, serum biochemistry, radiography, and ultrasonography.
  • Definitive diagnosis relies upon histopathology of affected organ tissue or lymph node biopsy.
  • Chemotherapy is indicated in most cases. At this point, no conclusive information exists to indicate that any one treatment is superior for the majority of cases, and controlled studies are decidedly lacking.

Lymphoma is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases in the domestic ferret. In one large study by Li et al, lymphoma was the third most common neoplasm seen in 574 ferrets after adrenal disease and insulinoma. Although a possible retroviral etiology has been proposed, no virus has yet been identified . . .

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To cite this page:

Mitchell SC. Lymphoma in the ferret: An overview of diagnosis and treatment. April 10, 2012. LafeberVet Web site. Available at