Post by Forum Administrator on Dec 5, 2008 1:50:08 GMT -5
I am very busy with work and school right now, and I've been meaning to put together the HF website for a while now. I know I am behind so I've decided to copy/paste the text here, into this thread, until I can get it formatted into its own website. I DO have the software to make the site, but won't have the TIME to do this until x-mas break. So here is just a few snippets of the complete website text, layed out in the best order for reading. It should help newbies get an idea of what raw feeding is about, and how to do it. I will add more of the website text as soon as I have more time Enjoy!
Note: If anyone spots spelling/grammar errors in any parts of the text. PLEASE PM ME and bring this to my attention!
[glow=red,2,300]All of this information is copyrighted and if someone is found to be plagerizing this text they will be punished to the fullest extent of the law! If you would like to share this information you MUST give credit to Holistic Ferret![/glow]
Post by Forum Administrator on Dec 5, 2008 1:54:49 GMT -5
Holistic Ferret: Nurture By Nature
Welcome to Holistic Ferret We are so glad you have decided to research a healthier lifestyle for your ferret. Here at Holistic Ferret you will find a wealth of information and resources to help you on your quest to provide premium care for your ferret, just the way nature intended. The contents of this website can be read beginning to end (much like an article) or you can browse through the different sections at your leisure, using the links on the sidebar of the homepage to navigate(we have 10 detailed categories to choose from). Each category contains several sections and subsections. This website is designed to ensure that you are satisfied no matter how you choose to view it.
Each section is thoroughly researched and meticulously written with citations on each page (for a full list of works cited, please go to the “Works Cited” page.) In addition, each section ends with a list of additional reads on the respective topic. Holistic Ferret believes that when researching anything, it is important to utilize multiple sources, which is why we provide additional references and resources beyond our own website. In fact, we wholeheartedly encourage you to seek out other information beyond our site.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy all that Holistic Ferret has to offer you and your furry friend(s), and when your time at Holistic Ferret is at its end, don’t forget to tell us about your experience on our Comments/Questions/Suggestions page. Happy Dooking
Post by Forum Administrator on Dec 5, 2008 2:01:29 GMT -5
Anatomy and Physiology of the Ferret: A Brief Overview of How the Domestic Ferret’s Body Is Designed to Eat and Digest Raw and Whole Prey Foods:
The domestic ferret is equipped with teeth and jaws which are built to efficiently kill prey. The ferret has a total of thirty-four permanent (adult) teeth (incisors, canines, premolars, and molars). Each of these teeth plays a specific role in helping the ferret to catch and consume its prey. The canines, the large fangs located at the front of the mouth, are used to puncture and grip prey. The upper third pre-molar and lower first molar, found near the back of the mouth, in front of the non-carnassial molars, are the carnassial (or sectoral) teeth. The purpose of these teeth is to shear through tissue and bone, much like scissors cut through paper. The non-carnassial molars at the rear of the mouth can be used to crush invertebrates. Incisors are used to help scrape meat off the bone, but it appears that ferrets can continue to eat food with little hindrance if these are lost or damaged. Each of the ferret’s 34 teeth serve a specific purpose and allow for the efficient consumption of raw and whole prey foods.
The ferret has a total of five pairs of salivary glands, the mandibular, parotid, sublingual, zygomatic, and molar. In most creatures digestion begins in the mouth, with enzymes (such as amylase) in the salvia (which is produced by the salivary glands) beginning to break down components in food. Mammalian carnivores, however, (including the domestic ferret) do not begin to digest food in the mouth in the way that humans and herbivores do. Carnivorous animals do not have enzymes for digestion present in their saliva, in fact if a carnivore did have proteolytic (protein digesting) enzymes in their saliva, the oral cavity (mouth) could be damaged by auto digestion (self digestion), instead a ferret’s digestive process begins in the stomach. Food is cut into manageable pieces by the carnassial teeth and then swallowed whole (not chewed). A carnivore does produce saliva, which is acidic and produced in large amounts, but the primary function is to provide lubrication for the esophagus as food is swallowed and transported to the stomach.[8 ]
According the James G. Fox, author of “The Biology and Diseases of the Ferret”:
“Because ferrets tend to ingest their food quickly, it is unlikely that salivary enzymes play a significant role in digestion, as evidenced by demonstration that parotid and submandibular saliva lack amylase* activity (91). For the ferret, it is probable that the lubricant function of the saliva is most important, particularly when the animals are fed a pelleted diet in the laboratory or as pets.”
*Note: Amylase is an enzyme that breaks down starches into sugars. The ferret is an obligate carnivore, and because there is no reason they should be consuming carbohydrates, they have no such need for this enzyme, thus it is not present in their saliva.
The ferret’s jaw, as was previously mentioned, is adapted to killing and shearing prey. The jaw of the ferret has only a vertical motion, its jaw can not move side to side (laterally) and masticate (grind) its food. The structure of the jaw only allows for slicing and shearing motions. The jaw of the ferret is designed in such a way that it does not dislocate when it is opened wide (such as when biting onto a prey animal for the kill). The musculature of the ferret’s jaw gives it a very powerful bite. The masseter is responsible for adducting (closing) the lower jaw. The temporalis also adducts the lower jaw. Lastly, the lateral and medial pterygoids assist the masseter and the temporalis in closing the jaw.  In short, the ferret’s powerful jaws are highly adapted to killing and consuming prey.
The elongated, flat-topped skull of the ferret is another feature which points to its carnivorous nature. The reason for the skull’s shape is twofold. First, the flat surface of the skull allows for the muscles of the cheeks and jaw to attach efficiently to the top of the head. The bite of the ferret is quite powerful, being driven by strong muscles attached to the jaw. The skull of the ferret is also adapted in another unique way: it is elongated, putting the teeth right out in front; perfect for a ferret running through narrow tunnels and burrows. This is an evolutionary method of both defense and offense. The ferret has its powerful jaws leading through the tunnels in case of a frontal assault, but the ferret can also use this design to catch prey in the same environment.
Ferret Skeletal Structure:
The ferret’s vertebrae are slightly longer than those of some other familiar carnivores such as dogs and cats. This gives the ferret its long, unique, streamlined shape. It has a long back, short legs, and elongated neck. This unique combination of body parts allows the ferret to effectively carry its prey through tunnels and burrows without the prey getting caught underfoot and tripping the ferret. 
Ferret Digestive Tract:
The ferret is an obligate carnivore, and like other carnivores it has a very short digestive tract (relative to humans). A carnivore (such as a ferret) has a digestive tract that is three to four times the length of its body, while an herbivore (such as a cow) has a digestive tract that is greater then ten times the length of its body.  Specifically, in the domestic ferret food only takes about three to four hours to digest.  Compared to a human’s digestive time of twenty-four to seventy-two hours (depending on what is ingested), this time is minute.  This short transit time helps to prevent food-borne bacteria (such as salmonella and E. coli) from affecting the ferret.
Bacteria needs a certain period of to multiply and flourish (incubate) in the gut before it affects the animal, causing it to become ill. For example, for Salmonella bacteria the minimum incubation time is six hours and for E.Coli the minimum incubation time is twelve hours.   In most cases, the food has already passed through the system of the ferret before the bacteria has a chance to incubate and multiply to appreciable levels. The reason humans can get salmonella and E. coli has to do with time. Humans have a much longer digestive tract then carnivores and coupled with the extra time it takes humans to digest meat (relative to fruits and vegetables), it is easy to see why humans are such good hosts for such bacteria. While ferrets may be resistant to food borne bacteria, they are not immnue to it. Ferrets can still become infected by salmonella, e. coil, and other food borne bacteria, although the risk is rather minimal.
As for the harder fragments, such as bone, teeth, and claws, the acidity of the stomach helps to wear down any sharp fragments that are ingested; this helps to keep the fragments from perforating the lining of the intestines.  The pH of a carnivore’s stomach (even with food present) is usually about 1-2.  The pH of the stomach of a fasted ferret is between 1.5-3.5.  The pH of a human’s stomach is usually around 2-4. In addition, carnivores have approximately ten times more hydrochloric acid in their stomachs then the human stomach.  These special digestive features help the ferret to efficiently digest raw and whole prey foods without great risk of illness or injury. This does not mean it is impossible for a ferret to sustain internal injury, such as blockages or perforations from ingested bone, teeth, claw, etc (accidents can and sometimes do, occur) it simply means the risks are rather low.
Another way that the ferret’s digestive tract is specifically suited to digest raw and whole prey foods is the way that they derive glucose from the foods they consume. Glucose is a crystalline monosaccharide used by the cells of the body as a source of energy and a metabolic intermediate. It is believed by Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM, and others (such as Holistic Ferret) that ferrets, and other obligate carnivores, obtain their glucose through a process known as gluconeogenesis (pronounced gloo-coh-nee-oh-jen-a-sis).  This is the conversion of amino acids (found in protein) and fat into glucose.  Humans obtain their glucose though the breaking down of ingested carbohydrates, which is done through the use of various enzymes.  Unlike the liver of the ferret (which is constantly performing gluconeogenesis) the only time a omnivore’s body performs gluconeogenesis is in periods of starvation where the creature’s own muscle protein is broken down and converted into glucose. 
A ferret is fully capable of obtaining glucose solely from amino acids and fats and unless the ferret is insulinomic (see here) they have no need for the ingestion of carbohydrates.  In fact, excess ingested carbohydrates in the diet of the domestic ferret might cause or contribute to the pancreatic disease, insulinoma (see here).
The liver of an obligate carnivore lacks the ability to down-regulate (slow down) the breakdown of amino acids through gluconeogenesis. As a result, the body has a high need for ingested protein. Without a high consumption of protein, the body begins to break down its own muscle protein, which results in muscle atrophy and nitrogen loss.
The final digestive feature, or rather, lack there of, that points to the ferret’s carnivorous nature is the lack of a ceacum, an organ specifically designed for digesting plant fiber.  This organ is present in many animals, including carnivores such as cats and foxes, but the ferret is such a strict carnivore (even stricter then the cat, which is also an obligate carnivore) that it is not equipped with this organ.  Since plant fiber is not regularly ingested by the ferret; it has no need for such an organ.
It can be seen that the ferret is not only capable of capturing and digesting raw and whole prey foods, but they are specifically designed to subsist on a diet of ONLY animal products, thus reflective of their classification as an obligate carnivore. A ferret’s body has built in defense mechanisms to protect it (for the most part) from food borne bacteria, intestinal perforations, and more. Infection from food bourne bacteria, intestinal perforations from bone, and blockages can all occur, but due to the physiology of the ferret, the chances of this occurring are rather low.
Although domesticated for almost 2,500 years, the domestic ferret’s internal anatomy and physiology is identical to their wild relative(s).  The European polecat (one of the possible ancestors of the domestic ferret) and the domestic ferret bear a striking resemblance to each other, and even are close enough in DNA that they can successfully interbreed.  According to noted “ferret expert” Bob Church, ferrets are taxinomically, genetically, reproductively, and specifically very similar, if not identical, to the European polecat (one of the possible ancestors of the domestic ferret).
Ferrets and polecats are so remarkably similar, because the purpose of domestication is to tame and breed animals for human use, and this can be done without altering the internal anatomy and physiology of the animal.  Due to the fact that the ferret’s internal anatomy and physiology is very similar, if not identical to that of the European polecat, the domestic ferret is still perfectly capable of consuming and thriving upon the same foods as their ancestors.
1. James G. Fox, Biology and Diseases of the Ferret, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 1998), 36.
Post by Forum Administrator on Jan 6, 2009 22:01:27 GMT -5
The Benefits of Feeding a Natural Diet
(Remember a natural diet means a whole prey diet, a raw diet, or a whole prey/raw diet)
What is affected: Muscles How it is affected: *More muscle development in the head, jaw, and chest *Increased dexterity *More muscle mass
What is affected: Oral Health How it is affected: * Less smelly breath * Lower instances of plaque build up and periodontal disease
What is affected: Behavior How it is affected: *A healthy outlet for natural behaviors such as chewing and biting *Increased energy
What is affected: Organs How it is affected: *May prevent insulinoma *Increased digestibility *Prevention and/or management of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease)
What is affected: Skin and Coat How it is affected: *Less smelly pelt *Softer fur *Sometimes longer/stronger fur *Less “orange” hue to the undercoat
What is affected: Waste Output How it is affected: *Less amount of fecal output per elimination *Less smelly fecal output *Less frequent fecal output *Less smelly urine
What is affected: Overall Health How it is affected: *Stronger immune system *Less appealing host for parasites such as fleas, ticks, and worms *Hairballs are eliminated or severely reduced *Higher hydration levels *Better nutrition
What is affected: Ears How it is affected: *Less wax buildup *Lower occurrence of ear mites
What is affected: Mental Health How it is affected: *Increased problem-solving abilities *Increased enrichment for your ferret
For Additional Information on This Topic, Please Visit:
1.)Go to the following website, then scroll down the page and read the sections titled: “Why Should I Feed A Raw Diet” and “What Have People Reported”: www.rawlearning.com/rawfaq.html
2.) Go to the following website and scroll down to the bottom of the page. There is a summary of the benefits of raw feeding: www.rawfedcats.org/benefits.htm.
Post by Forum Administrator on Jan 6, 2009 22:05:27 GMT -5
What If A Natural Diet Is Not For You and Your Ferret(s)?
A common misconception is that a natural diet for ferrets (or any domestic carnivore, for that matter) is “a nice thought” and not really a necessity. This thinking could not be further from the truth. While it is true that a ferret can survive on a diet of processed commercial foods, a ferret will never truly thrive unless they are eating a properly formulated natural diet. We really hope that by reviewing all the information on Holistic Ferret, you will come to see the importance of feeding your ferret naturally. In our collective opinion, natural feeding is not a luxury; it is a necessity.
Holistic Ferret feels very strongly that kibble cannot ever provide a ferret (or any other domestic carnivore) with proper nutrition; therefore, we do not offer guides on how to pick out kibble for your ferret if you choose not to feed a natural diet. We do not want to send a mixed message. Holistic Ferret does not believe that kibble is appropriate for carnivores. Period. We cannot and will not advise you how to pick the “best” kibble.
While the official Holistic Ferret stance is anti-kibble, we do not want to "run you off" or isolate you if:
a.) You are still unclear as to why a natural diet is so important. The Holistic Ferret Team (The HF Mentors and Creator) wants to educate you on WHY a natural diet is so important. If you are still unclear as to the importance of feeding naturally (even after reading “Why Bother With a Natural Diet”), the Holistic Ferret Team can answer your questions personally, and assist you in learning the importance of natural feeding.
b.) You are still uncomfortable with natural feeding. If so, we want to help ease your worries, explain the facts, show you that it’s not hard, that it’s not that expensive, hold your hand and help you out, etc. We’ll alleviate every worry or concern that you might have to help you feel more confident when it comes to feeding naturally. Just “contact us” and let us know your concerns.
c.) You are uncomfortable feeding 100% naturally. If you feel uncomfortable going ALL natural and you wish to use kibble as a temporary “crutch” during the first few months of natural feeding until you are more comfortable with how things work, we understand. The Holistic Ferret Team can help work with you one-on-one to get your babies onto all natural foods, with no added commercial food.
d.) You want to continue feeding kibble, but you would like assistance adding more natural foods to your ferret’s diet. We would love to help you add natural foods to your ferret’s commercial diet. We won’t refuse to help you because you feed kibble, but we won’t advise you on which one to feed. Many time, when people start to add natural food to their ferret’s diet, they switch to all natural, or mostly natural because they see the incredible benefits natural feeding has to offer.
e.) You’ve given up on natural feeding because your ferret refuses to try new foods in the past. This is extremely common and just because a ferret won’t try a new food doesn’t mean that he will never be able to eat naturally. If you’ve tried to switch your ferret to a natural diet in the past failed, don’t despair. Failing on the first, second, or even third attempt is not uncommon. Chances are you just didn’t use the right switching method for your individual ferret. The Holistic Ferret Mentors and Creator have experience in helping people switch even the most stubborn of ferrets. If you just try the right method, the switch is a breeze. Don’t give up! If a natural diet is something you truly wish to pursue, we can help you make the change, no matter HOW stubborn your ferret is!
If you are having doubts about natural feeding, please “contact us” or stop by the Holistic Ferret Forum to get in touch with natural feeding ferret owners from around the world. Natural feeding sometimes seems like an “out of reach” goal, or perhaps a supremely stubborn ferret is making you feel that you’ll never be able to switch to natural. Maybe you feel that with the weakened economy, you can’t afford to buy your family fresh food, let alone for your ferret. No matter what is holding you back from natural feeding, the Holistic Ferret Team can help you find ways to make a natural diet “workable” for you and your ferrets. Don’t forget, we feel that a natural diet is vital to the health of your pet, and it is a necessity, not a luxury.
Post by Forum Administrator on Jan 6, 2009 22:11:56 GMT -5
Random Natural Feeding Terms:
Whole prey: A whole animal that is consumed by a carnivore. (Note: When someone says whole prey, they usually mean frozen-thawed, pre-killed whole prey. Whole prey can refer to either live prey animals or frozen-thawed prey animals. Usually if someone is feeding live whole prey they will generally call it live prey or live whole prey.
Live prey: A whole prey animal that is still living when it is fed to the carnivore.
Raw meaty bones (also known as RMBs): Raw bones with raw meat on them, or raw bone in meat such as chicken legs, chicken wings, and turkey necks.
Muscle Meat (also known as MM): Raw, boneless muscle meat, such as chunks of boneless pork, beef, turkey, etc.
Offal (also known as organ meat): Any internal organ that secretes fluid, such as the liver, pancreas, brain, lungs, etc. (hearts and gizzards pump blood and are considered “boneless muscle meats” rather than organ meat by natural feeders).
There are several types of natural diets. Natural diet is an umbrella term that can be used to describe the following types of diets:
BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods)(Bones And Raw Food)(Born Again Raw Feeder): A type of raw diet popularized by Dr. Ian Billinghurst. This diet focuses on feeding the animal a mix of raw meat-covered bones, muscle meat, organ meat, and ground vegetable matter.
Raw Diet Based on the Prey Model: A type of raw diet that focuses more on replicating all of the parts of a whole animal. This type of diet recommends feeding approximately seventy-five to eighty percent flesh (muscle, skin, tendon, ligament, fat, etc), ten to fifteen percent edible bone, and ten percent organ (similar to the proportions of a whole prey animal). This diet is also referred to as a “frakenprey” diet because random parts of dressed animals are used to “re-create” a whole animal.
Whole prey diet: A type of natural diet that focuses on feeding whole animals, such as mice, chicks, or rabbits, to the carnivore. Most whole prey feeders feed frozen-thawed animals and not live animals.
Commercial Raw Diet: A type of raw diet that is manufactured commercially. This diet can be freeze-dried, frozen, or ground.
Post by Forum Administrator on Jan 6, 2009 22:20:56 GMT -5
Healthy Nutrition At Any Stage of Life:
‘How much food should I feed my ferret?’ and ‘how often should I feed my ferret?’ are two common questions people have when embarking on any type of diet (natural or commercial). There is no exact amount of food that you need to feed your ferret each day. Every ferret is different and the amount of food they need to consume will depend on several things: age, weight, gender, activity level, and more. Also, depending on the age of your ferret, it may require more or less of certain nutrients. Your ferret’s dietary needs will also vary depending on whether it is overweight or underweight, if it has any diseases, and the like. We will address all these issues in this section. Continue reading to learn how to provide your ferret with a healthy diet, no matter what stage of life it is in.
Kit (Ages Six weeks to Six Months)
Young ferrets (six weeks to six months old) will generally need to consume more food than adult ferrets.(cite) Kits should usually be fed as much food as they will eat.(cite) Start by offering a certain amount of food. If the ferret continually has leftovers, you might be offering too much. If so, simply cut back on the amount you offer until no food is left at the end of its mealtime. If your kit is constantly running to the fridge or feeding area, it might need more food. Be sure to offer more food if this occurs.
Kits can eat more than one would expect. Keep offering all the food your kit will eat, unless he starts to gain weight and look a bit chubby. Kits will be growing quite rapidly during this stage of their lives (cite). Be careful not confuse regular growth with unhealthy weight gain. Obesity is quite uncommon in ferrets. Always have a vet confirm if your kit is overweight before attempting to scale back his food consumption.
Be sure to offer your young, growing kit a variety of foods. This is the time when it ‘imprints foods’.(cite) Be sure that the ferret is constantly trying new foods so it does not imprint on just one or two foods. A wide variety of foods is essential for a balanced/complete diet.(cite) Start establishing good feeding practices while your ferret is still a kit and this will make things a lot easier for you as it progresses to adulthood. Holistic Ferret recommends spreading your kit’s daily food intake between three and six meals.
Adult (Age 6 months- 4 years)
Adult ferrets eat a moderate amount of food each day. They also eat less frequently than a kit. Depending on their weight, gender and activity level, their specific food needs will vary.(cite) As a general rule, the larger your ferret is, the more food he will need to consume each day to maintain his weight. So larger ferrets will eat more food each day than smaller ferrets . Male ferrets are usually larger than female ferrets.(cite) As such, they will usually require more food each day than a females. Holistic ferret recommends spreading your adult ferret’s daily food intake between two and three meals. If your ferret is overweight, underweight, suffering from IBD, or insulinoma, please read the sections below for details on how to feed your ferret.
Senior (Age 5 Years and Up)
Senior ferrets will often eat less than kits and adults because, as they age, ferrets are less active (cite) and their metabolism can drop due to this decrease in activity.(cite) Holistic Ferret recommends adding an extra meal or two to your ferret’s diet (feeding more frequently, but still less food than adults or kits receive), for a total of three to four meals per day.
Senior ferrets are prone to a variety of diseases, including adrenal disease (which can cause osteoporosis in some ferrets).(cite) Muscle wasting is also common as a ferret ages or becomes ill.(cite) Be sure to include plenty of high quality foods in your ferret’s diet so it hass high quality protein available to it, raising its metabolism and creating lean muscle mass.(cite)
If your senior ferret was not raised on a natural diet, it might have some dental issues such as periodontal disease. Depending on the severity of the disease, you may have to take your ferret into the vet for a professional cleaning. Oftentimes, older ferrets do not handle anesthesia well.(cite) You can avoid stressful dental-related trips to the vet by simply providing your ferret with a natural diet (if you are not doing so already) or by tweaking the natural diet slightly. Provide your ferret with raw chicken bones (such as those from wingettes) to deter dental issues.(cite) Giving your ferret these natural treats to gnaw on not only adds calcium (and other essential minerals) to the diet, but also helps to scrape away any tartar that is present.(cite)
Your Overweight/Underweight Ferret:
Ferrets are rarely overweight, but can sometimes bulk up due to poor diet, too many treats, overuse of fatty acid supplements, or disease (such as adrenal disease).(cite) Sometimes a ferret may appear overweight, but in reality it is not. Before modifying your ferret’s diet for weight loss purposes, be sure to ask your veterinarian’s opinion on the ferret’s weight.
If you have spoken with your vet, and he or she has confirmed that your ferret is in fact overweight, there are several things you can do to help it shed some extra pounds. Its is CRUCIAL that you always work in conjunction with a vet when attempting to help your ferret to lose weight.
1. If your ferret is not already on a natural diet, now would be a good time to start. A natural diet can help ferrets lose weight if they are too heavy.(cite) You can use the resources on this website to help put your ferret on a healthier, more natural diet.
2. Do not significantly decrease the fat content in your ferret’s diet. While replacing fatty meats with lean meats in a human’s diet might help to spur healthy weight loss, ferrets need fat.(cite) Unlike humans, who get their primary source of energy from carbohydrates,(cite) ferrets get their energy from fat.(cite) Significantly reducing the fat in your ferret’s diet would be the equivalent of putting your ferret on the Atkins diet. Humans on the Atkins diet often suffer from fatigue and other issues associated with low carbohydrate intake.(cite) A ferret that is low on energy from too little fat is not going to have the stamina (or the desire) to exercise (another key component in helping your ferret lose weight).
3. While you should not significantly decrease the fat content in your ferret’s diet, you can trim off a little fat here and there from their regular meals. If you are feeding raw foods, cut a little bit of the extra fat away. If you are feeding exclusively whole prey, try to feed leaner, less plump mice.
4. Feed several small meals per day to increase metabolism.(cite) Depending on the age of your ferret (e.g. kit, adult, senior), you will need to provide anywhere from two to six meals per day. Be sure that meals are sized appropriately.
As in humans, weight loss in ferrets should be slow and steady if it is to remain permanent.(cite) Weight lost rapidly is often regained (cite) and can strain the liver, heart, and other organs as well,(cite) so take things slowly and work in conjunction with your vet on your ferret’s weight loss. Do not starve your ferret to make it lose weight. Starving stunts metabolism, thus counteracting attempts to thin the ferret.(cite) Starving also leads to many other problems: weakening of the immune system (cite), stressing out organs (cite), and insulinomic ferrets could go into hypoglycemic shock.(cite) Simply follow the dietary recommendations above and work to get your ferret more active. For more information on creating an “exercise plan” for your ferret, click HERE.
It is much more common for a ferret to be underweight than it is for a ferret to be overweight.(cite) Ferrets can be underweight for a variety of reasons:
they could have a disease (cite) they could have poor appetite they could be having trouble absorbing needed nutrients from their commercial food (cite) they could have been underfed or poorly cared for by previous owners they could be suffering from oral disease that makes it uncomfortable/painful for them to eat (cite)
Regardless of why your ferret is underweight, it is probably in your ferret’s best interest to help it gain weight.
You do not want your ferret to gain weight solely through added fat. (cite) You want to help your ferret build lean muscle mass in addition to adding some fat.(cite) Meet with your veterinarian before attempting to increase your ferret’s weight. You will need th vet to help you check for any underlying illness that could be causing your ferret’s low body weight.
1. If your ferret is not already on a natural diet, now would be a good time to start. A natural diet is higher in bio-available nutrients, water, and protein than commercial ferret food.(cite) It can help lean ferrets to gain weight, and overweight ferrets to drop excess pounds.
2. If your ferret is already on a natural diet, you can add slightly fattier meats. Be careful to not include meats that are too high in fat.(cite) Do not feed, for example, a chunk of meat that is eighty-five percent fat.
3. To help your ferret add lean body mass, add larger, more frequent feedings regardless of age. This will ensure that ferrets with small stomachs will still get all the calories they need by filling the stomach, eliminating, and eating again a few hours later. Feed up to six times per day, or more if needed.
4. Another way to help your ferret gain weight is to add tasty extras to their diet. Duck soup (check out Holistic Ferret’s Natural Recipes HERE), Pingford’s Porridge, or AFS Food Sprinkles make healthy, nutritious additions to your ferret’s diet.(cite) These foods can often help to rev up the appetite of your finicky eater.
5. If your ferret is not a huge fan of eating, you may have to include supplemental feedings via feeding syringe. You can feed duck soup, Pingford’s Porridge, or AFS Food Sprinkles several times per day via syringe. Be careful to not feed too much food, or your ferret will get full and not eat the other foods in his diet. Pingford’s Porridge and duck soup are healthy extras, but they do not constitute a complete diet for your ferret. Be sure that the ferret is eating the other foods you offer as well.
6. In extreme cases where a ferret needs to gain weight immediately, you can offer your ferret a mixture of one raw egg yolk, one finely ground eggshell, one tablespoon of organic heavy whipping cream (avoid brands that contain carrageenan, which can lead to gastrointestinal issues), and some fatty ground hamburger blended together and fed via syringe (so you know how much food is going into your ferret). Feed three to five milliliters (mL) of the mixture once a day in addition to your ferret’s other foods.
As in humans, you want your ferret’s weight gain to be slow and steady.(cite) Gradual weight gain is often permanent weight gain.(cite) Rapid weight gain can put stress your ferret’s body.(cite) Be sure to always work in conjunction with a veterinarian when modifying your underweight ferret’s diet. To help your ferret build lean muscle mass, you need to increase its activity levels and get it moving around. For an exercise plan to accompany your ferret’s modified diet, click HERE.
Common Ferret Diseases and Natural Diets:
“Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot, if you can heal your patients with food.” -Hippocrates
Oftentimes, switching a ferret to a natural diet can help to “cure” many of the health problems we see in our furry friends (such as IBD, Peridontal Disease, Bladder Stones, and Kindey Problems), and even if a natural diet cannot “cure” the disease (such as with adrenal disease or insulinoma), it can often help to manage the symptoms and/or drastically improve the animal’s health and quality of life.
IBD and/or Chicken Intolerance:
If your ferret suffers from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), there are a few things you will need to take into account when feeding a natural diet. A natural diet is a lot easier to digest than a kibble diet,(cite) so switching to natural alone can help jumpstart great changes in your IBD ferret.
Heather (one of the Holistic Ferret Mentors) says: “Like feeding a ferret with an ulcer, IBD ferrets will stop eating because their tummies (actually their bowels) will start to cramp up, so the easiest solution is to prevent an attack. I've not found that any particular meat appears to make an attack worse. Stress will often cause an attack, as will going too long without food, also a type of stress.”
Some IBD ferrets might also have an intolerance to chicken (it’s also possible for your ferret to have this intolerance but not IBD).(cite) Either way, you will need to avoid feeding your ferret chicken. If you are feeding a raw diet (as opposed to a whole prey diet), you will need to find another source of edible bone for your ferret (most raw feeders rely on chicken bones wings, legs, etc as their source of raw meaty bones). Duck bones, rabbit bones, or turkey/pork neck segments can all be used in place of chicken bones to supply your ferret with the adequate amount of bone.(cite) It is important to note that sometimes ferrets will have issues eating cooked chicken (such as the chicken in kibble) but they might not have the same issues with pure, raw chicken.(cite)
Unfourtunately, odds are, your ferret will get this disease. Adrenal disease can affect your ferret’s bone marrow,(cite) therefore, you might want to increase the amount of calcium and iron in your ferret’s diet. Holistic Ferret recommends diet modifications as opposed as supplements. Instead of calcium and iron supplements, you can offer your adrenal ferrets iron- rich, organic pastured/grass-fed beef. If you are feeding a raw diet, be sure to include this meat in the diet (if you are not already).
To increase calcium intake, you can add an extra chicken neck or two to your ferret’s diet each week, if you are feeding a raw diet. If you are feeding an exclusively whole prey diet, be sure you continue to feed a variety of ages of prey animals (older animals are higher in calcium than younger ones,(cite) but a variety of ages is important, so don’t omit any ages).
Giuli - You and I discussed Shirley Hewitt's account of feeding raw to ferrets with insulinoma. Her point is contrary to what every vet in the US says. Vets here say that ferrets with insulinoma need a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. Shirley is saying that if you feed raw, you have to add carbs to the diet by giving them kibble or baby food.
Personally, I think you should look into this more closely.
Post by Forum Administrator on Jan 7, 2009 21:51:19 GMT -5
Jojo, I've deleted that portion for the time being. I'll research it further before posting detailed instructions for feeding insulinomic ferrets. I agree that this needs to be looked into a big more. Feeding a ferret with a medical condition is serious business, and we (HF) can't afford to be wrong in what we are advising.