Two Giant Ferret Paws

Dr. Jerry Murray treats two ferrets with paw trouble.

The director of the local ferret shelter contacted me to ask about taking off a big tumor on a ferret’s rear paw. She was concerned that the tumor was so big that the ferret’s rear leg may have to be amputated in order to remove the entire tumor.

A few years ago the same shelter director had an owner surrender a ferret with a giant paw. The owner gave a very vague story about the ferret and its enormous paw. The ferret was still active and eating well despite the giant paw. The shelter director was hoping the paw was just infected, and an antibiotic would take care of the problem. Unfortunately the size wasn’t caused by an abscess or infection. The paw was enlarged due to cancer.

There was no way to remove the tumor and save the paw. Thus, it was decided to amputate the leg in order to remove all of the cancer. The ferret made it through the surgery and recovered just fine. It did not take long for the ferret to adjust to only having three legs and get back to normal activity. The pathology report called it a tumor from a nerve sheath (a schwannoma).

The new case had a large, mushroom-shaped growth on the lateral aspect of the paw. It would be a challenge to remove the large tumor and still have enough skin to close the resulting hole. If there was not enough skin, a skin flap or other method of closure could be tried, but there was enough skin to close the incision line.

Fortunately this tumor just involved the skin and was not infiltrating deep into the muscles and tendons of the paw, so amputation of the leg was not needed. The incision healed without any complications, and the little ferret is already back to normal activity level.

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