Insulinomas are tumors of insulin producing cells in the pancreas. They are very common in pet ferrets and are usually found around ages 4-6. Insulinomas usually occur when other diseases are present such as lymphomas, cardiomyopathy, etc.
The tumors produce excessive amounts of insulin causing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Symptoms can be sudden or gradually appear over time.
Signs can include weakness, particularly in the back legs, lethargy, drooling, sometimes pawing the mouth, weight loss, and in severe cases, seizures and coma.
If your ferret shows any symptoms of illness a trip to the veterinarian is a must. Your vet will administer bloods tests and more to diagnose the problem.
Surgery is a treatment option to remove any visible tumors as well as check the adrenal glands at the same time for disease. Tumors tend to spread though despite surgery.
Another option for treatment, including after surgery, is the use of medications such as prednisone and diazoxide to control symptoms. A diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates is recommended. Sweet treats are to be avoided.
Treatment will help control hypoglycemia, but as the disease progresses, medications may not be effective even with increases in dosage.
Since insulinomas are usually malignant, prognosis is not good although the disease can be managed often for quite a while.