New Breakthroughs in Ferret Surgery

In the ferret, adrenal disease is perhaps the most common ailment. This condition affects up to 70% of ferrets and is a result of adrenal tumors and and hyperplasia, which causes an excess of estrogen and testosterone. The result is a chronic debilitating disease. The typical symptoms include hair loss (base of the tail, over shoulder blades and tops of rear feet), return to male sexual behavior, swollen vulva and straining to urinate (which can result in a life threatening blockage). The treatment of choice is surgical removal of one or both of the affected adrenal glands, which reverses the symptoms mentioned above.

This can be a technically very difficult surgery even for the most experienced ferret surgeon. Most veterinarians will not attempt this surgery particularly when the right adrenal gland is involved because the right adrenal gland normally is attached to the vena cava (the largest vein in the body). The right adrenal gland’s attachment to the vena cava can make removal of the tumor a very difficult task. Right adrenal tumors, as a result, are difficult to completely remove and can be associated with significant postoperative bleeding.

Cryosurgery is the freezing of tissue with liquid nitrogen, intending to kill the cells which are frozen. Cryosurgery has been used, in human and veterinary medicine, for decades for the removal of skin tumors, and has been used more recently to destroy many other tumors including tumors of the liver, breast, prostate and adrenal. Some of the many potential benefits of cryosurgery include decreased bleeding, less intraoperative time, a quicker recovery and a technically easier procedure. Large vessels have been shown to be very resistant to the effects of freezing.

In the past year, I have used cryosurgery to treat over 450 cases, with excellent results. Since I have performed hundreds of traditional adrenalectomies, it is easy for me to already see the tremendous advantages of cryosurgery, particularly when the right adrenal gland is involved. This relatively new technique offers the ferret surgeon many potential advantages over traditional adrenalectomy, and is considered the technique of choice to treat right adrenal tumors in the ferret. We are also finding out the many benefits of cryosurgery to treat tumors and other medical conditions in cats and dogs. Studies are currently underway to compare adrenal cryosurgery and traditional adrenalectomy in the ferret with adrenal disease. Although cryosurgery has worked very well for this condition, we are now also using laser surgery to treat this and many other surgical conditions in dogs, cats and ferrets.


1. Significantly less bleeding postoperatively.

2. Quicker recovery time.

3. More likely to completely destroy right adrenal tumors.

4. Shorter operative time.

5. Technically easier procedure for surgeon.

For more information on cryosurgery, contact: Charles Weiss, DVM, Bradley Hills Animal Hospital at 301-365-5448.

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