Ferret With Insulinoma Suffers Pain

Are the signs of pain a ferret shows truly caused by its insulinoma?

Q: My girl ferret is 7 years old and was diagnosed with insulinoma about four months ago. She was on 0.4 pred every other day until recently and doing well. I also give her sucralfate before meals and pred when possible. She has been air biting, which the vet and I recognize as distress. Her breathing is a wheezing sound and an X-ray showed her lungs are clear. Pred was increased to daily, and I have to give 0.8 now, which helps her under 12 hours. Is there anything else I can give her for pain? She still eats on her own. It is heartwrenching for me to see her in pain when the pred wears off.

A: Typically, insulinoma does not cause pain. If you truly believe your ferret is in pain, then you need to speak with your veterinarian and determine what is causing this pain in your ferret.

Based on your description, one thought I had is that your ferret is 7 years old, which means your ferret is geriatric; like any older animal, she is prone to older animal diseases. One common older animal disease is arthritis. It may be that she has arthritis and that once the effect of the prednisone wears off, she feels pain again from her arthritis. Prednisone, although not the drug of choice for arthritis, will help alleviate the pain of arthritis, because prednisone acts as an anti-inflammatory medication. To determine if your ferret has arthritis, your veterinarian may need to take radiographs of the limbs and back.

If you believe that arthritis is not present in your ferret and your ferret is suffering pain, then the next step is to find what else could be causing this pain. Is it dental pain? Again, because prednisone acts as an anti-inflammatory medication, any conditions in which there are inflammatory cells will respond to prednisone.

It may be that you are interpreting your ferret’s actions as signs of pain, but perhaps something else is causing the signs. If your ferret has not had a thorough physical examination and blood tests in the last six to twelve months, consider a visit to the veterinarian for these tests. What you described is not normal for a ferret with insulinoma disease.

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Critters · Ferrets