What is Overproduction of Estrogen?

Ferrets with hyperestrogenism may have vaginal discharge, blood in their urine or stools, pale gums, weakness in their limbs, and an enlarged vulva. This condition can quickly worsen and cause bone marrow suppression. Because bone marrow creates white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets, hyperestrogenism can eventually lead to anemia and blood loss if it is not treated.

If your ferret is exhibiting the symptoms of hyperestrogenism, take him or her to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your ferret will need to be treated right away if you want him or her to make a full recovery.

Estrogen is produced by the ovaries in female ferrets that have not been spayed. It can also be produced by diseased adrenal glands in both male and female ferrets that have been spayed or neutered. When too much estrogen is released into a ferret’s body, he or she may develop hyperestrogenism.

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Symptoms of Overproduction of Estrogen in Ferrets

Hyperestrogenism typically occurs in sexually mature female ferrets that have not been spayed. However, it is possible for spayed females or male ferrets to develop hyperestrogenism as well if they have diseased adrenal glands. Some of the symptoms of this condition include:

  • Clear or thick white vaginal discharge
  • Bloody urine
  • Dark-colored stools
  • Bloody stool
  • Weak limbs
  • Fever
  • Pale gums
  • Enlarged vulva
  • Hair loss or hair thinning

Causes of Overproduction of Estrogen in Ferrets

Intact females must be vaginally stimulated in order to release eggs from their ovaries. If no mating occurs, the ferret will not ovulate but her body will continue to produce the estrogen hormone. Eventually, the level of estrogen will reach a level at which side effects begin to occur. Other ferrets can also develop hyperestrogenism because of adrenal disease, when too much estrogen is produced by the gland and released into the body. 

Diagnosis of Overproduction of Estrogen in Ferrets

If you notice any the symptoms of hyperestrogenism, take your ferret to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Describe the symptoms you have observed and let your vet know when you first began to notice them. 

The vet will begin by performing basic tests, including a complete blood count, blood chemistry profile, and urinalysis. The results of these tests should indicate that your ferret has an excessively high level of estrogen. The results will also show whether or not your ferret has developed anemia because of his hyperestrogenism. 

After taking these tests, the vet may choose to do an ultrasound to look at your ferret’s adrenal glands. This is done to determine whether the hyperestrogenism is caused by an adrenal gland tumor, or whether it was caused by failure to breed. 

Treatment of Overproduction of Estrogen in Ferrets

Treatment will begin immediately after hyperestrogenism and its cause has been diagnosed. If the cause of your ferret’s hyperestrogenism is adrenal disease, the vet will need to perform surgery to remove tumors growing on the adrenal gland.

The vet will recommend that you spay your ferret if she has hyperestrogenism. Spaying involves the surgical removal of the ferret’s ovaries and uterus. If you do not want to spay your ferret, the vet may recommend injecting human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which will stimulate ovulation so the egg is released from the ovaries and the production of estrogen slows down. If you choose this treatment, the symptoms of hyperestrogenism may disappear within a few days. However, this may not be an option if your ferret is already suffering from anemia or other serious side effects of the condition.

If your ferret has severe anemia because of hyperestrogenism, she may need to be hospitalized. The vet may need to perform a blood transfusion in order to stabilize her condition. If your ferret’s case is not severe enough to warrant a transfusion, iron dextran may be injected into your ferret to stimulate the reproduction of red blood cells. 

Recovery of Overproduction of Estrogen in Ferrets

Most ferrets will recovery from hyperestrogenism, but their recovery may be more difficult if they have experienced complications such as anemia. 

Talk to your vet about your ferret’s diet before you bring her home. A proper diet is crucial in your ferret’s recovery, so follow your vet’s instructions closely. You should also try to keep your ferret calm and comfortable while she recovers, especially if she has anemia. 

Ferrets who have been spayed or who have had surgery to remove adrenal tumors may need to wear a collar to prevent them from biting or licking the stitches. You will need to take your ferret in for a follow-up visit with the vet so he can retest the animal’s hormone levels and remove stitches.

Intact ferrets should never be kept in heat for longer than two weeks. If your ferret is in heat, ovulation should be induced through medication or mating at two weeks in order to prevent the overproduction of estrogen.