Pancreatic Beta Cell Tumors in the Ferret

Key Points

  • Pancreatic beta cell tumor or insulinoma is commonly seen in middle-aged to older pet ferrets in the United States
  • Signs of hypoglycemia frequently include depression, a dazed or glazed appearance in the eyes (star-gazing), posterior paresis and ataxia, as well as signs of nausea (copious drooling, pawing at the mouth, retching, and gagging). Less commonly, the ferret may collapse or seizure activity can be observed.
  • Normal fasting blood glucose levels range from 90 to 120 mg/dL. Fasting blood glucose less than 90 mg/dL is suspicious for insulinoma and blood glucose less than 70 mg/dL is strongly suggestive.
  • Mild to moderate hypoglycemic episodes may be managed with frequent meals of high-quality, high-protein diet.
  • While there is no cure for beta cell tumors, surgical debulkment of the tumor with possible partial pancreatectomy is the treatment of choice.
  • Medical management of insulinoma centers around corticosteroid administration.

There is no cure for insulinoma. If the ferret lives long enough, eventually it will reach a point where clinical signs cannot be controlled and euthanasia will need to be selected to address quality of life issues . . .


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