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Today my vet and I discussed some research being done at university of tennessee on ferrets and at a lesser scale rats. It's found that hormones that produce tumors like estrogen are not eradicated by spaying but only diminished. The gonads aren't the only hormone producing gland.

So there's an injection used primarily on ferrets but available for rats that is essentially depo like humans take I guess. It's once a month that stops tumor growth and prevents further tumors.

Has anyone heard or tried this?
 

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Ferrets are prone to adrenal disease, which is tumors on the adrenal, which are not necessarily malignant. If a healthy ferret-surgery has the best success for at least short term recovery. If it's only on the left adrenal-I would opt for full removal. Right adrenal is more tricky and though the surgeries I've had have been succesful, many of the ferrets adrenal disease have persisted.

Lupron is used to stop progress of the disease, but does not work on malignant growths. this is usually done by injection from a vet. It does not work forever and usually the symptoms will start reappearing, if it works at all. I've had..probably a 50% rate of some kind of success. (what I mean by that is any symptoms going away)

melatonin can also be used. I've had ferrets fully grow back hair and gain weight from just that alone. (yep the stuff you can pick up at any health store-they also make implants specifically for ferrets) I have never had any negative side effects, but it never works forever and in the ferrets who had previously had adrenal disease surgery and were later autopsied after melatonin use had large tumors still indicating it probably does not slow down the growth, even though it's awesome from the symptoms.

Lysodrene was used years ago and it can be extremely hard on the ferret, not recommended. I don't believe anyone has used this in a long time.

Ferrets are more likely to get adrenal that are spayed/neutered at early ages. I've had personal male ferrets which I never neutered and who never got adrenal. I also knew a lot of other ferret folk who found the same thing-still too small sample pool to say how much this works-but recent studies do favor that spaying/neutering causes adrenal disease.

So, we know rats that are spayed/neutered seem to have a slightly lower risk of tumors. We know ferrets are the opposite. Melatonin if given prior to the disease setting in, is believed to prolong when they get it. This might be what your vet was talking about. My issue with this thought is rats are way different, their tumors are different-I would be concerned that it would actually increase their risk.

Other common ferret tumors-islet tumors which are tiny tumors on the pancreas which drop the ferrets glucose levels causing them to be lethargic and possibly go into seizures if left untreated. Thought to be likely caused by diet. Can be helped through surgery, however the tumors can be microscopic so it's unlikely you can get them all. Predisone for life is typical treatment, usually works wonders and ferrets are very tolerant of steroids. Switching to high protein diets (meat) and given at regular intervals throughout the day can help as well by keeping glucose levels stable.

Mast cell tumors-usually easily removed. Unlike dogs who I know this can be a death sentence for, ferrets are rarely malignant.

All things related to lymphoma-enlarged spleens being the most common first notice of it. However puffy armpits can also be found sometimes. This one is just ugly and there is limited ways to treat-but it would be all the same things we would do if a human has it. (think like human juvenile lymphoma)

Anyways-probably more info than you wanted, and I am not a rat expert-but I don't think what works on a ferret would necessarily be safe to assume would work on a rat. The types of tumors are not the same, nor do I think the reason behind them are.
 

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Oh I wanted to add-it's been almost 10 years since I have done ferret rescue so I haven't been involved in many new medical break through. I've only kept up enough for my personal ferrets that I still had. So there might be something new that your vet is talking about-though I'm still wary of it working on rats.
 
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