What are Cancer of Plasma Cells?

Symptoms will vary depending on how severe the cancer is and where the cells are located. Your ferret may begin to experience weakness and fatigue, along with pain in the general area that has been affected. Ferret owners may not believe these symptoms are a cause for concern, but that is definitely not the case. Immediate treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or even surgery, may be needed to help your ferret recover.

Plasma cell cancer can often be fatal, but your ferret will have a better chance of recovering if you take him to a veterinarian as soon as you spot the symptoms of this condition. The quicker treatment begins, the better the chances are that your ferret will recover.

Cancer of the plasma cells, or multiple myeloma, is a rare form of cancer that can affect ferrets. This type of cancer occurs when there is a group of cancerous plasma cells concentrated inside the ferret’s bone marrow. The cancerous cells can also be found in various other parts of the ferret’s body, including the spleen, kidney, liver, lung, stomach, intestines, and lymph nodes.

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Symptoms of Cancer of Plasma Cells in Ferrets

Cancer of the plasma cells can affect different locations in your ferret’s body, including the lungs, kidneys, lymph nodes, or gastrointestinal tract. The symptoms your ferret exhibits will depend on which location is affected. However, some of the most common symptoms of this cancer include:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Lameness
  • Pain
  • Paralysis

Causes of Cancer of Plasma Cells in Ferrets

There are no known causes for any type of cancer, including cancer of the plasma cells. Many researchers believe genetics play a large role, however there are certain environmental factors that could put animals at a higher risk of developing cancer.

Diagnosis of Cancer of Plasma Cells in Ferrets

If you spot any of the symptoms of cancer of plasma cells, take your ferret to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Describe the symptoms you have observed, and tell your vet when you first began to notice them. Unfortunately, the symptoms of plasma cell cancer are very similar to symptoms of other conditions. Therefore, the vet will need to do some testing to eliminate other possible causes.

First, the vet will perform a complete blood count, urinalysis, and blood chemistry profile to get a better picture of your ferret’s overall health. He may also perform X-rays, especially if you believe your ferret is experiencing pain in a certain part of the body. The diagnosis is often made based on the results of the blood test, however, it’s possible the vet will also want to perform a bone marrow aspiration to closely analyze the plasma cells. 

Treatment of Cancer of Plasma Cells in Ferrets

You will need to see a veterinarian who specializes in oncology in order to get your ferret the treatment he needs. Treatment will depend on the severity of the cancer. You should always have a thorough conversation with your vet about the success rates and side effects of different options before you decide on a treatment. In some cases, the cancer may no longer be treatable, in which case the vet may recommend euthanizing the ferret so he is no longer in pain. This can be very difficult for ferret owners to hear, but unfortunately, this conversation may arise if your ferret has been diagnosed with plasma cell cancer.

However, this will not be recommended in every case of plasma cell cancer. Many ferrets can be treated with a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is usually administered to a ferret every few weeks through an IV. Your ferret may experience extreme side effects from the treatment, including nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Whereas chemotherapy is administered to the entire body, radiation therapy focuses only on the area that is affected. It is administered in small doses over a period of two to three weeks, and does not have as many side effects as chemotherapy. If a certain area of affected cells is not responding to the treatment, the vet could perform surgery to remove the cluster of cells. 

Recovery of Cancer of Plasma Cells in Ferrets

Cancer can be unpredictable, so it’s difficult to say whether your ferret will recover from plasma cell cancer. Unfortunately, many cases of this condition are fatal, especially if the condition has gone untreated for a long period of time.

If your ferret does undergo treatment, make sure you talk to your vet about how to keep your ferret comfortable if he experiences side effects from the treatment. Your ferret may lose his appetite as a result of the cancer treatment, so your vet might recommend learning how to force fed him to ensure he is still consuming the nutrients he needs to stay strong.