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Lupron Depot: Treating Adrenal Disease in Ferrets


written by Dr.Jo De Klerk - Mar 7, 2022
medically reviewed by Dr. Christine Bishara, MD - Apr 10, 2022

Photo Credit: by librariansarah, flickr.com
Photo Credit: by librariansarah, flickr.com

Adrenal disease is a common condition in ferrets. Typically, it manifests around middle age (three to seven years old), however in rarer cases, ferrets as young as 18 months have started to display symptoms. Adrenal disease in ferrets can affect both male and female ferrets, and although the cause of the disease is the same, males and females may display different symptoms.

What is adrenal disease in ferrets?

The adrenal glands are a pair of glands close to the kidneys. They are part of the endocrine system, which means their predominant job is to produce various hormone messengers. These include mineralocorticoids (responsible for regulation of minerals and water balance), glucocorticoids (responsible for regulating metabolism and the immune system) and sex hormones (responsible for reproduction). These three types of hormones come from different regions within the adrenal glands: the zona glomerulosa, the zona fasciculata and the zona reticularis.

When a ferret has adrenal disease, typically the zona reticularis is affected. This region is responsible for the sex hormones. There are three stages to adrenal disease in ferrets, which increase in severity as they progress.

Stage 1: Adrenal hyperplasia. This is when the cells of the adrenal gland increase, and therefore produce more hormones.

Stage 2: Adrenal adenoma. This is when the growth of the adrenal gland is a result of a benign tumor.

Stage 3: Adenocarcinoma. This is a cancerous tumor of the adrenal gland which can spread to other areas of the body.

While genetics and diet play a role in the development of adrenal disease, the most common risk factor is sterilization early in life. This is done to prevent serious health problems and reduce aggression. However, it results in an interruption in the feedback loop between the reproductive organs in the brain, resulting in the brain overproducing a hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH). This, in turn, constantly stimulates the adrenal glands resulting in cellular changes.

What are the symptoms of adrenal disease?

The most common symptom of adrenal disease in both male and female ferrets is a change in the hair coat. This results in a symmetrical balding of the hair coat, which starts at the tail and gradually extends towards the front tend. The coat can also thin before balding, and the skin becomes dry and itchy.

Even though ferrets with adrenal disease are usually sterilized, behavior changes are frequently observed. These include reverting to sexual behavior, as well as increased aggression towards other ferrets and people. Female ferrets may appear to be in heat, which is evident by a swollen vulva.

Male ferrets often have trouble urinating due to an enlargement of the prostate. This can potentially result in serious complications if the prostate fully blocks the flow of the urine and can lead to death if not immediately attended to by a veterinarian.

Other less common symptoms include lethargy, weakness, muscle wastage, a pot belly, an increased odor, and the fur becoming more yellow.

How is adrenal disease diagnosed?

Adrenal disease is often suspected through symptoms alone, however, can be confirmed with blood tests or an ultrasound examination of the adrenal glands. Some vets may decide to monitor the disease over several months through multiple ultrasound examinations to determine which adrenal gland is growing and thereby causing the issue.

What are the treatment options?

There are a variety of treatment options for ferrets with adrenal disease, however surgical removal of the affected adrenal gland is the only curative option. This does not come without risks, as the adrenal gland is very close to a large blood vessel known as the vena cava. As a result, surgery can be challenging, and medical management is often preferred. However, the effectiveness of medical management varies from ferret to ferret and doesn’t always slow the growth of the adrenal gland, which can lead to further problems as it grows.

Two hormonal therapies are commonly available worldwide, which include deslorelin acetate (trade name: Superlorin-F) and leuprolide acetate (trade name: Lupron depot). After commencement of medical therapy, most owners will see an improvement, and sometimes, a complete resolution of symptoms after one to two months.

Both treatments are prescribed as “off-label” which means that dosages, regimen, and long-term safety has not been determined for ferrets. Therefore, it is important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully.

What is Lupron depot?

Lupron depot is a long-acting injection of the drug leuprolide acetate, which mimics the effects of a hormone called GnRH (gonadotrophin releasing hormone). This tricks the body into believing there is enough of it, resulting in less being produced. In turn, this decreases the production of LH, and the negative effect on the adrenal gland is prevented.

Lupron depot is usually given as an injection by a veterinarian every month, however for many ferrets, they may have good results with a less frequent schedule. Some veterinarians choose to follow a predictable schedule, whereas others prefer to initially start monthly until symptoms resolve, then inject again when symptoms become apparent again. A case report study into the effect of leuprolide acetate in ferrets demonstrated that the average time to recurrence of symptoms was 3.7 months [Reference 1].

Are there side effects of Lupron?

Side effects of Lupron depot in ferrets include injection site discomfort, breathing difficulties and lethargy. Tolerance has also been observed with repeated use, which means that the dosage may need to be increased over time to have the same effects.

How to order Lupron?

Injectable Lupron depot treatments can be purchased with a valid veterinary prescription from CanadaPharmacyOnline.com. We are a certified and trusted pharmacy, which provides several options for your pet’s Lupron depot needs.

CanadaPharmacyOnline.com offers Lupron depot at very competitive prices. It is available in 3.75mg/syringe and 7.5mg/syringe one-month slow-release, 11.25mg/syringe and 22.5mg/syringe three-month slow-release, and 30mg/syringe four-month slow-release dosages.

Lupron depot should only be used in animals under the guidance of a veterinarian, and therefore it is important to follow the dosage and regimen as prescribed for your pet.

Ordering your pet’s medications is as easy as five simple steps:

1. Search for medication(s) you would like to buy and click on “add to cart”.

2. Once the product has been added to your shopping cart, you may sign-up as a New Customer, or you can login as an Existing Customer.

3. If you have selected “New” customer, please complete the basic sign-up information.

4. Click on “Order Now”.

5. Print the prescription order form for your veterinarian to fill in if you have ordered a prescription item.

Alternatively, you can also order by phone or mail.

Canada Pharmacy Online is accredited by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA) and is a member of the International Pharmacy Association of British Columbia (IPABC) so you can be sure that shopping with Canadian Pharmacy Online is safe, secure, and convenient.

References

1. Wagner RA, Bailey EM, Schneider JF, Oliver JW. Leuprolide acetate treatment of adrenocortical disease in ferrets. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2001 Apr 15;218(8):1272-4. doi: 10.2460/javma.2001.218.1272. PMID: 11330611.

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