Chordoma in a Ferret

Chordoma in a Ferret

History: mass on the tail that had been there several months with sudden changes in size.


The subcutis contains a well demarcated, unencapsulated, moderately cellular neoplasm composed of sheets of large vacuolated round cells (physaliferous cells) mixed with islands of cartilage and bone. Neoplastic cells have abundant cytoplasm containing variably sized clear vacuoles and distinct cell borders. The nuclei are oval with finely granular cytoplasm and 1-3 nucleoli.  There are 2 mitotic figures in 10 400x fields. The neoplasm is completely excised.

Low power showing skin with dermis (on the right), and deep to that is a mass of pale basophilic stroma containing numerous vacuolated cells

Higher power showing the vacuolated "physaliferous cells" in a myxoid stroma with multifocal chondroid and osseous formation which is partially mineralized

Another view of the balloon like physaliferous cells


Chordomas are very common, typically benign, neoplasms of ferrets.  They are thought to arise from the remnant of the notochord from the developing embryo.  In ferrets they are usually found in the tail and efface one or more caudal vertebrae, presumably because the intertebral disc is also a remnant of the developing notochord.  Chordomas are characterized by central zones of bone or cartilage surrounded by vacuolated, balloon-like “physaliferous cells” in a myxoid stroma.   The degree of organization is variable.

About Brian

Anatomic Pathologist, VetPath Services, Stone Ridge, NY- musculoskeletal, oral/dental, and sinonasal diseases
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2 Responses to Chordoma in a Ferret

  1. Jessica Dirks says:

    I would really like to hear more about this. My current ferret Tweeek, I suspect has a chordoma and so does my 1st ferret’s friend Zoe – Whom didn’t get this until she was 7 yrs of age but then it grew rapidly. Is this something I should have a vet remove with surgury? Is it worth the pain for my ferret or the money, if it doesn’t bother her? She never chews on it and doesn’t seem sensitive to me touching it.

    • Brian says:

      Chordomas on the tail are locally aggressive, and may infiltrate the surrounding skin and destroy the vertebrae of the tail, but metastasis to distant sites is not common, especially from the tip of the tail. Due to its locally aggressive nature the closer it is to the body the greater the chance for real damage. One report of a chordoma from the base of the tail found metastasis to multiple subcutaneous locations.

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