What is Skin Tumor?

Mast cell tumors can appear on many different animals, including dogs, cats, and ferrets. They are often cancerous on dogs, but are usually benign on ferrets. 

If you spot any of the symptoms of a skin tumor, take your ferret to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Some tumors are benign and easily treatable, however, others are cancerous and life-threatening. It’s important to have a vet closely examine your ferret’s skin tumor to determine the appropriate treatment. The longer you wait to see a veterinarian, the harder it may be to treat your ferret, especially if cancerous cells are detected.

There are many different types of skin tumors that could affect your ferret. One of the most common types is the mast cell tumor, which usually grows around the neck and abdomen of the ferret. Mast cells are part of the immune system and are present everywhere in your ferret’s body. These cells are responsible for releasing histamine into your ferret’s body when an allergen is detected. If these cells begin to grow rapidly and abnormally, a mast cell tumor is formed.

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Symptoms of Skin Tumor in Ferrets

It is important to frequently examine your ferret’s skin when you bathe or groom him to look for signs of skin tumors. A mast cell tumor is described as an irregular growth on the ferret’s skin that may change size or shape over time. Mast cell tumors may be pink or tan colored. Sometimes, mast cell tumors are itchy, so the ferret may become irritated and excessively scratch the area.

Causes of Skin Tumor in Ferrets

Unfortunately, there is no known cause of mast cell tumors in ferrets. Because the cause is unknown, it is impossible to prevent the growth of mast cell tumors on your ferret.

Diagnosis of Skin Tumor in Ferrets

If you believe your ferret has a skin tumor, it’s important to take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Show your vet the tumors that you have observed on your ferret’s skin. Let him know when you first observed the tumors, and if they have changed in size, shape, or color since you first noticed them. You should also let the vet know whether your ferret has been exposed to anything unusual lately, in order to eliminate other possible causes, such as an allergic reaction.

The vet will begin by performing a physical examination. He may perform a complete blood count, urinalysis, and blood chemistry profile test before beginning to examine the skin. Because many tumors are cancerous, the vet will take a biopsy of the tumor to test it for cancer. Mast cell tumors are often cancerous in dogs, but luckily, they are typically benign in ferrets. By examining a sample of skin cells underneath a microscope, the vet should be able to determine your ferret has mast cell tumors. 

Treatment of Skin Tumor in Ferrets

Once the vet has diagnosed your ferret with a mast cell tumor, treatment will begin right away. If the skin tumor is cancerous, the vet will need to treat your ferret with a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. The vet should be able to surgically remove the cancerous tissue, but if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, chemotherapy and radiation may be needed. 

If the tumor is not cancerous, your ferret may still need to undergo surgery so the vet can remove the tumor. Some vets prefer to avoid surgery unless it is a last resort. If your vet does not want to try surgery right away, he may attempt to freeze the tumor off of your ferret’s body using cryosurgery instead. 

If your ferret is excessively scratching the tumor, he may break the surface of the skin and cause bleeding. This could lead to bacterial infections that can complicate your ferret’s treatment and recovery. To prevent this from occurring, the vet may prescribe a topical cream that will alleviate itching and make your pet more comfortable. This should be applied until the day of your ferret’s surgery unless the vet says otherwise.

Recovery of Skin Tumor in Ferrets

It is difficult to say whether your ferret will make a full recovery from a skin tumor. If the tumor is not cancerous, your ferret has a much better chance of recovering. If the tumor is cancerous, your ferret’s recovery will depend largely on whether the cancer has spread and if so, how far it has spread.

It’s possible that your ferret will develop additional mast cell tumors even if treatment is successful. This is more common in older ferrets, but it can happen to any ferret. If you spot additional tumors forming after the first tumor has been surgically removed, contact your veterinarian right away and let him know. These tumors will also need to be surgically removed.