Q: My vet has given us an option of either monthly Lupron injection or surgery for my 5-year-old, female ferret that has been diagnosed with adrenal gland disease. I was also made aware that if we choose surgery and it happens to be the right gland, the vet may not be able to remove it entirely due to being too close to the main artery — hence the possibility of it growing back in the future. I went through this surgery about 1 1/2 yrs ago with a male ferret. He had his left adrenal gland removed, but a year or so later we were back in the same situation — adrenal all over again. I hear removing both is very risky (right gland) and the ferret would need to be on medicine the rest of its life. How well / long does Lupron work in ferrets, and is it worth going that route?
A: You ask some really excellent questions that we do not have all of the answers to at this time. First, I’ll discuss Lupron. Lupron is an excellent option for ferret owners who do not want to go to surgery with their ferret. Lupron will not cure this disease and some ferrets will have the signs of adrenal gland disease disappear totally with the use of Lupron. But the adrenal gland(s) will keep growing for as long as the ferret is on Lupron. And in some ferrets, Lupron will stop working as the ferret’s body becomes resistant to Lupron. At that point, a new medication will need to be used or surgery should be considered.
Ferrets can have bilateral adrenal gland disease. Sometimes this occurs at the same time — both adrenal glands are enlarged at the same time point. In other ferrets, one adrenal gland is removed and in the future, the adrenal gland that had been normal then becomes diseased and needs to be treated.
A right adrenal gland is difficult for most veterinarians to remove entirely. Some surgeons and some ferret specialists feel comfortable removing the entire right adrenal gland. If you would like the entire right adrenal gland removed, ask your veterinarian to refer you to one of these veterinarians. You could choose to have both adrenal glands removed at the same time, if they are both diseased, and most ferrets will do fine post-operatively. Many of those ferrets will need life-long supplementation, but they are cured of adrenal gland disease.