So - I didn't get the post done last night - things in our world are just too busy! UGH. So here are the details about what happened yesterday.
Madison went to the vet yesterday because she was experiencing a pretty significant hair loss. There are several reasons ferrets lose their hair. I have posted in the past about photosynthesis and natural light exposure and how it impacts ferrets - especially in relation to their seasonal coat change. I was hopeful that this was what Madison was experiencing. One of the other reasons ferrets lose their hair is adrenal disease which is incredibly common in ferrets. So - I decided I should take her in to find out for sure.
The vet agreed that she is going through a pretty significant coat change. She did not present the classic symptoms of adrenal disease but she did have a couple of key indicators. Hair loss on the tail and some black heads on her tail as well. So - we talked through the options.
Adrenal disease is frustrating in that there is no real super for sure way to tell if a ferret has it. Blood testing is not super accurate because the hormone levels in the blood fluctuate wildly. Ultrasound is fine if the tumor is large enough and in a position to be seen but it doesn't take a giant tumor to cause issues - so again - not super accurate. It used to be that the treatment options were surgery to remove the adrenal gland - typically on the left side (I think) because the right side is near important veins that could cause major complications. Or - they would do injections once a month or quarter depending on what the ferret needed. Thankfully - nowadays they have a handy dandy implant that they can put under the ferret's skin - very similar to a microchip you would use on a cat or dog. This implant is a slow release of medication - lasting about 18 months to 2 years.
The way I understand it is that the implant has the synthetic version of the hormones that the adrenal gland produces. The body recognizes that the hormones are present - and in essence 'shuts off' the adrenal gland so it doesn't produce crazy amounts any more. It keeps things very level. Madison should be a bit less itchy, her hair should grow back and she should not have any side effect from the implant itself or the medication it releases.
The other discussion that we had was proactively placing the implant in the other ferrets to keep them from experiencing the issues from adrenal disease. I think its a great idea and have scheduled an appointment for them in November - the hubs is not on board so far. We will see if I can convince him.
The last thing to mention is that there is still a chance for the need for surgical intervention - the implant controls the symptoms but the tumor(s) can still grow - so if things get too big there is still a chance that surgery would be necessary.
All in all Madison seems happy and like she is feeling good today. I kept her with me for most of the night last night so she got some rest. She is back with the rest of the gang and doing well. I will try to get a pic of her "wound" later today....