What are Prostate Inflammation and Abscesses?

The prostate is a fusiform structured organ surrounded by the urethra. Prostate inflammation and abscesses in ferrets often causes prostatomegaly, or the enlargement of the prostate. Due to the close proximity of the urinary structures, an enlarged prostate can impinge on the urethra and cause a complete obstruction. As a result, the abdomen of the ferret will be tense, swollen and painful. Urination may be difficult for the ferret with prostate inflammation or an abscess, which is the primary symptom most pet owners notice. Conditions of the prostate can threaten the life of a ferret and can only be treated by a veterinary professional.

Prostate inflammation and abscesses in ferrets are subcategories of prostate disease. Although poorly understood, these prostate health issues have been linked to bacterial infections secondary to urogenital cystic disease, which is caused by adrenal disease. Experts believe bacteria gain access to the prostate gland by ascending through the urethra and overcoming the body’s natural defense mechanism that is primarily compromised by disease of the urinary system. Tumors of the prostate gland, specifically Sertoli cell tumors of a retained testicle or a transitional cell tumor of the bladder, have also been linked to prostate inflammation and abscesses in ferrets. Prostate disease in ferrets often affects neutered, middle-aged or old ferrets, but can be seen at any age. 

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Symptoms of Prostate Inflammation and Abscesses in Ferrets

Prostate inflammation and abscesses in ferrets may cause a primary symptom of a thick, white or yellow colored, penile discharge associated with urination. As the prostate enlarges, round structures may be palpable near the location of the urinary bladder. The ferret’s abdomen may swell and become painful, discouraging the pet from wanting to be handled by the owner. Urination may be difficult for the ferret, only passing a small amount of urine at a time due to the obstruction of the urethra. The urine that the ferret is able to pass will be cloudy and likely a dark yellow color, as an indication of infection. Inflammation and abscesses of the prostate are very uncomfortable conditions that often causes ferrets to become depressed, lose weight and become anorexic. Clinical signs associated with prostate inflammation and abscesses include: 

  • Purulent preputial discharge 
  • Anorexia 
  • Depression 
  • Weight loss
  • Palpable cysts or abscess 
  • Distension of the abdomen in bladder region 
  • Pruritus
  • Alopecia 
  • Lethargy 
  • Uremia 
  • Pain upon urination 
  • Straining to urinate 
  • Dysuria 
  • Tenesmus 
  • Pollakiuria  

Causes of Prostate Inflammation and Abscesses in Ferrets

Prostate inflammation and abscesses in ferrets are associated with a heavy growth of bacterial species, including: pseudomonas, proteus, E. coli, nonhemolytic Streptococcus and Staphylococcus strains of bacterium. These bacteria enter the body and begin to thrive, as the body’s main defense, the immune system, is compromised by a primary disease. Ferrets suffering from adrenal disease defined as an excessive production of androgens are often affected by this prostate condition. However, ferrets with adrenal disease will develop urogenital cystic disease prior to acquiring prostate inflammation and abscesses. The primary cause of prostate inflammation and abscesses in ferrets cannot be pinpointed to one reason, but a series of problems that arise as the ferret’s clinical condition worsens. Sertoli cell tumors of a retained testicle or a transitional cell tumor of the bladder have also been linked to prostate inflammation and abscesses in ferrets. Most reports made regarding prostate disease in ferrets was pets of middle to old age (over age 7). 

Diagnosis of Prostate Inflammation and Abscesses in Ferrets

The veterinarian will begin the diagnostic process with a review of the ferret’s medical record and a physical examination. It is at this time the doctor will palpate the abdomen and likely find a swollen prostate near the urinary bladder, paired with an expression of pain from the ferret. The vet will discuss the problems the ferret is displaying at home, focusing on any noticeable changes that has called the pet owner’s attention. A urinalysis, or examination of a urine sample, is helpful for identifying infection. The doctor may collect the sample naturally, or through needle aspirate, as the urethra may be completely obstructed. The urinalysis usually gives a positive result for urolithiasis or bacterial cystitis. The diagnosis will be backed up by a radiograph of the abdomen, revealing an enlarged prostate or abscesses on the prostate. 

Treatment of Prostate Inflammation and Abscesses in Ferrets

The veterinarian will first address the bacterial infection associated with prostate inflammation and abscesses before addressing the underlying disease. A lipid-soluble antibiotic known to penetrate the prostatic capsule will be administered for at least four to six weeks. After a period of time, the veterinarian may choose to treat the prostate surgically, removing the abscess on the prostate organ. The ferret’s adrenal disease will need to be treated, which at this point, is often addressed with adrenalectomy or the removal of the adrenal glands. Any detected tumors will also require dissection and follow-up care as directed by the veterinarian. 

Recovery of Prostate Inflammation and Abscesses in Ferrets

The prognosis for a ferret with prostate inflammation and abscesses is guarded. Most ferrets that acquire this condition are of old age and their bodies are no longer capable of making a full recovery from such an elaborate disease. Talk to your veterinarian about the best treatment option and management program for your ferret’s specific condition.