Three cases of juvenile mediastinal lymphoma developed in a laboratory colony of ferrets. Two ferrets became acutely moribund, and one was found dead with no preceding signs of illness. Splenomegaly, hepatomegaly, and a large thoracic mass were the primary features in each case. All three ferrets had multiorgan metastasis of the tumor. Two ferrets were tested for feline leukemia virus and Aleutian disease virus with negative results.
Cluster outbreaks of lymphoma and leukemia have been associated with viral infections in many species including humans, cattle, and cats. This study describes epidemiological, clinical, and pathological features of cluster outbreaks of lymphoma in multiferret households and examines and compares the Aleutian disease virus (ADV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) status of cases, ferrets at risk, and controls. Three ferret groups with 21 cases of histologically diagnosed lymphoma (12.6% cumulative incidence) and their cohabitants (n = 35) were examined and compared with three control groups (n = 52) of cohabitating ferrets without lymphoma. A familial distribution was observed in one group but most cases were not consanguinous. Ferrets greater than 3 years of age developed chronic disease in two of the groups and 2-year-old adults had acute disease in the remaining group. Lymphocytosis, splenomegaly, and lymphadenopathy were prominent features. Histologically, predominantly small noncleaved cell and polymorphous lymphoid lesions were observed. All of the ferrets with lymphoma that were tested for ADV and FeLV using serology or PCR were negative. The rate of ADV antibody among cases or ferrets at risk was not significantly different from controls. None of the cluster ferrets were seropositive for FeLV p27 antigen using a monoclonal ELISA. Infection with a novel ferret virus is suspected, but an etiological agent has not yet been identified.
The clinical and pathological findings in 19 ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) with malignant lymphoma are reviewed. Peripubescent ferrets had rapidly progressive stage IV high grade immunoblastic or small non-cleaved cell lymphoma. Adult ferrets had stage II or IV low grade diffuse small lymphocytic (DSL) lymphoma, stage IV high grade small non-cleaved cell lymphoma, or stage IV high grade immunoblastic polymorphous (IBP) lymphoma. Three ferrets had concurrent IBP and DSL lymphoma involving different organs. The IBP admixture of immunoblasts, large atypical lymphocytes, Reed-Sternberg-like cells, lymphoblasts and small lymphocytes has been associated with certain retrovirally associated lymphomas and nodal hyperplasias in man, non-human primates and cats. Aleutian disease, a parvovirus-induced lymphoproliferative disease, also involves clinical and histological features similar to certain lymphomas in ferrets. Seven ferrets tested were seronegative for feline leukaemia virus antigen. Only one of eight ferrets was positive for Aleutian parvovirus antibody. The clinical and pathological findings are suggestive of a viral aetiology for certain lymphomas in ferrets.