Q: I live in upstate New York and I have three ferrets. One of my ferrets, the male, has a big lump on his head. It is very firm, almost like bone. When touching it, it does not seem to bother him. I took him to the veterinarian, who said it did not seem like there was anything he could do because it would cost upward of $1,000 dollars. The vet said it would not be worth it because my ferret will likely pass away soon due to old age. I don’t want to give up this easily. My ferret is 5, and my other ferret lived to be 8. The vet is supposed to be a top vet for exotic pets, but I would still like a second opinion. I don’t want to lose my furry friend, but I don’t have that kind of money. The vet said he thought it was some type of benign tumor that could eventually kill my ferret. He did not do any X-rays or take samples; this was just through an exam. Is there anything I can do?
A: If this is a mass associated with the skull, a few different types of tumors in that area are commonly seen in ferrets. These include both benign and malignant tumors of the bone, cartilage and/or nervous tissue. It is impossible to know which of these tumors is present in your ferret without a biopsy of the tissue.
The reason it is important to know which tumor type your ferret has is because treatment and prognosis depend on tumor identification. This is not as easy to do with a bony tumor as it is in a soft-tissue tumor. And, unfortunately, the procedure and equipment necessary to get a diagnosis is not inexpensive. Furthermore, treatment for these different types of tumors can also prove to be costly, as it may require chemotherapy drugs designed for people or radiation equipment, such as a linear accelerator.
Because you are unsure of how to proceed, the best advice is what you have already suggested — consider getting a second opinion. If the second veterinarian is not close to where you live, call the second vet’s office, explain the situation and see if they are able to offer alternative ideas for your ferret and require a visit.