Archived Articles : Ovarian Cancer in Older Females

The Older Girls  

The Ferret Society, in its present form, has been running since 1993. As a direct result of all these years of sharing with ferret owners, knowledge about health, safety and general well being of ferrets is readily available, so more and more ferrets are reaching old age. Also as more vets become better able to diagnose and treat ferret diseases, more ferrets are reaching their geriatric years. Now we all have experience to gain and share, as we deal with ensuring that our senior ferrets remain well and happy.  

One problem which has become apparent so far, involves the older unsterilised female ferret. Because spaying is a major surgery, with inherent risks, and is fairly costly too, many owners choose to leave these girls entire and have them bought out of season by using a vasectomised hob. Now however, it appears that these girls have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer as they become older.  

Symptoms of ovarian cancer may include an obvious "tummy lump", decrease in activity, increase in affection and overall hair loss. These symptoms are caused by the ovarian growth secreting extra hormones into the bloodstream. Treatment is a total hysterectomy which can have excellent results or not, depending on whether or not the cancer has spread to other organs.  

It would now appear that the best preventative measure against this disease is to have non-breeding females sterilised at six months and to have breeding females sterilised when they are no longer used as breeding stock.  

So, if you have an unsterilised female ferret which you want to have a better chance of trouble-free sunset years, you should consider having her neutered at a younger age when surgery is less of a risk.  


Article Published in Issue 89 of Ferreting Around (July / August 1999)