What is Tumors of the Digestive System?

Tumors in the digestive system can either be cancerous or noncancerous, so they will need to be tested by a veterinarian right away. If the tumor is cancerous, it’s possible that cancerous cells have already spread to other parts of your ferret’s body by the time you bring him in for treatment.

It can be difficult for you to spot the symptoms of tumors of the digestive system, but if you think your ferret is acting unusual or you can feel a mass in his abdomen, take him to a veterinarian right away. Tumors will usually require surgical removal, and if the tumor is cancerous, additional treatment may be needed. 

"Neoplasm" is the term used to describe the formation of a tumor. Tumors can form anywhere in a ferret’s body, including the digestive system. If a tumor forms in your ferret’s digestive system, you may be able to feel a mass under his skin or you may notice other symptoms, including loss of appetite, vomiting, and lethargy.

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Symptoms of Tumors of the Digestive System in Ferrets

The symptoms that your ferret exhibits will depend on the size and location of the tumor. In some cases, your ferret may not exhibit any unusual symptoms. However, most ferrets will exhibit some or all of the following symptoms if they have tumors in their digestive system:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Visible mass in the abdomen

Causes of Tumors of the Digestive System in Ferrets

Unfortunately, the cause of most tumors in the digestive system is unknown, which means there is no way for you to prevent your ferret from developing this condition.  Some tumors found in the digestive system are cancerous. Although there is no known cause of cancer, it is believed that it is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Diagnosis of Tumors of the Digestive System in Ferrets

If you believe your ferret is acting unusual or displaying any signs of tumors in the digestive system, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible for treatment. Let the vet know what symptoms you have observed that led you to bring your ferret in. 

The vet will begin by performing a complete blood count, blood chemistry profile, and urinalysis test. After these tests have been performed, the vet may take X-rays or perform an ultrasound to look for any issues in your ferret’s abdomen. He should be able to quickly spot tumors in the digestive system. At this point, he will need to determine if the tumors are cancerous by performing a biopsy. This is done by creating an incision in the abdomen and taking a small sample of cells from the tumor. This sample will be analyzed to determine if cancerous cells are present.

Treatment of Tumors of the Digestive System in Ferrets

Treatment will vary depending on whether the tumors found in the digestive system are cancerous. If the tumor is not cancerous, the vet will surgically remove all or part of the tumor to prevent any discomfort that your ferret may be experiencing.

Treatment is more complicated if your ferret does have cancer. First, the vet will need to determine if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body (metastasized). If it has not spread, the condition may be treated by surgically removing the tumor in the digestive system. However, if it has spread to other areas of the body, surgery is not enough. Ferrets with metastasized cancer may need to receive radiation therapy and chemotherapy in addition to having the tumor surgically removed. Both of these treatments cause severe side effects, so it’s important to talk to your vet about the benefits and risks of each available treatment option. 

In some cases, the cancer may have spread so far that it is untreatable. Your vet may recommend that you euthanize your ferret if there is little chance of him recovering even with chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Recovery of Tumors of the Digestive System in Ferrets

If your ferret’s tumor is not cancerous, he should make a full recovery from this condition. However, the outlook is not as positive if he has a cancerous tumor, especially if the cancer has spread to other parts of his body.

It’s important to follow all of your vet’s instructions closely and bring your ferret in for follow-up treatments as advised. You may need to administer antibiotics to your ferret to prevent infections after surgical removal of the tumor. Be sure that you do not miss any doses of this medication.

If your ferret undergoes surgery, keep him calm and comfortable at home while he recovers. You may need to put a cone around his neck so he does not feel tempted to lick the incision wound.