Hypoglycemia is a term used to describe a blood sugar concentration of less than 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) of blood. In ferrets, this is most commonly caused by an insulinoma, a tumor of the pancreas. These tumors produce large amounts of insulin, which causes the blood glucose (sugar) to drop below normal levels, resulting in symptoms of generalized weakness progressing to severe illness and seizures. The cause of insulinoma is poorly understood, but it appears to affect the pancreas of older ferrets. Ferrets who are diagnosed with insulinomas require treatment for the remainder of their lives.
What to Watch For
Insulinoma, and the associated hypoglycemia, is common in ferrets over 3 years old, and both males and females are at risk. For some ferrets onset can be subtle, while others appear normal until they collapse or they begin having seizures. Symptoms of hypoglycemia are mild initially, but they become increasingly worse as the disease progresses. If your ferret shows any of the following signs, contact your veterinarian.
Your veterinarian will want to perform some diagnostic tests in order to determine if insulinoma is the cause of your ferret's hypoglycemia. Some tests may include:
Whether or not your ferret is treated surgically or medically, he will still require home care. Proper care will include:
By understanding the health risks associated with hypoglycemia and insulinoma, you can be better prepared to provide some assistance to your ferret and know when to seek veterinary care.