A ferret chordoma is a tumor typically found on the tip of a ferret’s tail. It is the most common orthopedic tumor in ferrets. Chordomas grow beneath the ferret’s nerve cord and can cause compression of the spinal cord. This can cause discomfort and eventual paralysis.
Chordomas are often first noticed the size of a pea. However, if they are left untreated, they can grow to the size of a grape or larger.
Luckily, Chordomas are slow-growing. They do not metastasize or spread throughout the body. Surgery is used to remove the chordoma.
Not as common -chordomas can also grow on a ferret’s neck which is fatal.
Chordomas are different than Chondrosarcomas, which are a metastatic type of cancer in the cartilage. These types of tumors can grow on the ribs and breast bones, along with the spine.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Ferret Chordoma?
- Loss of Mobility
Chordomas look like firm, hairless balls on the end of a ferret’s tail. They often become scratched or opened as they grow larger due to itching, irritation, and dragging of the tail.
Because chordomas put direct pressure on the spinal cord, they can cause loss of overall mobility in ferrets. This can cause weakness and numbness. This can even extend to incontinence (trouble urinating), breathing problems, and paralysis of limbs.
Chordomas are often very painful for a ferret as they grow. As the tumor grows, it puts pressure on the soft tissue around the spinal column -pain can increase with movement.
Chordomas at the base of the tail cause considerable irritation. Ferrets can often fixate on itching them as they grow, due to the pain they cause. Ferrets often scratch or rupture chordomas as they grow larger.
What Causes Chordomas in Ferrets?
I wish we knew. There is no specific cause that we know of that causes chordomas in ferrets. In humans, chordomas are like any cancer and the result of mutations of a cell’s DNA throughout someone’s life. A small fraction of chordomas in humans are hereditary. Perhaps we will know more about the causes of chordomas in ferrets in the future.
A poor diet is often to blame for any multitude of health issues with your ferret so as a preventative measure, we always recommend the healthiest food you have access to.
How Do You Diagnose a Chordoma in Ferrets?
- Physical examination
- Blood test
A vet will usually assess the ferret with a physical examination to determine if there is a chordoma present. Because they are typically located at the base of the tail, they are easy to diagnose.
If there are further uncertainties or complications (such as a chordoma located in the cervical collar, which is fatal) imaging scans may be required.
If the vet suspects the chordoma may be cancerous (Chondrosarcoma) then they will preform a biopsy of the tumor. Blood tests can also be used to see how far the cancer has spread throughout the ferret’s body.
How Do You Treat a Ferret Chordoma?
Surgery is the most common recommendation to remove a chordoma in a ferret. If the ferret does not receive surgery, the tumor will continue to grow and put increased pressure on the spinal cord. The pain and lack of mobility can be very stressful for a ferret.
Because chordomas do not typically metastasize (spread throughout the body) a single surgery to remove the chordoma is usually enough to stop the tumor.
What is the Prognosis for Ferrets with Chordomas?
Chordomas are relatively common in ferrets. Because surgery is the most common form of treatment, recovery depends primarily on post-surgery care. It is important to keep the surgical area clean and prevent the animal from re-opening the wound. It is also vital that your ferret continues to eat and drink regular while they recover.