Whenever you need more information about ferrets, you can check out our articles related to this topic. This time, we decided to focus our attention on the ferret’s dietary requirements, and answer a question we have heard more than once – can ferrets eat dog food?
This is a common question raised usually by pet owners who have more animals under their roofs, including ferrets. It is true, ferrets tend to go and steal from the dog’s bowl, but is it healthy for them?
First of all, ferrets are carnivores. This means that they will be able to properly digest and process meat as their primary source of nutrition. Also, they lack many enzymes that other animals have, which enable them to process other sources of food, like carbohydrates, for example.
On the other hand, dogs are similar to humans, meaning that they are omnivores. Therefore, they can easily process and digest a wide range of foods. Even if it seems that your ferret might be enjoying snacking on your dog’s foods, their small bodies are not developed in such a way to digest and extract the nutrients found in dog food.
To make things even clearer, we, as humans, can eat grass, but our bodies will not be able to extract the nutrients found in it. At the same time, goats or other herbivorous animals eat grass and extract the nutrients they require to live healthily.
The Ferret’s Digestive Tract
This is another aspect we need to mention. Even if they have long bodies, ferrets actually have short and small digestive tracts. This information might solve the mystery of why your little ferret fills up the litter box so fast.
Since this cute animal has a small and very short digestive tract and his or her body is relatively small, there really isn’t much space inside. As a consequence, what goes in, must come out in no more than four hours.
Furthermore, due to their digestive tract that is designed to process only meat, their bodies will extract the proteins and nutrients found in meat. Anything other than this food source is eliminated.
If the ferret eats dog food which contains fibers, carbohydrates, starches, sugars, and other nutrients, his or her body will waste a lot of energy processing that food, without extracting any useful nutrients. In other words, their bodies digest this food, but it is like consuming a lot of energy for nothing.
Ferrets and Dogs
The amount of protein required by a ferret is much higher than that of a dog, or even a cat. The same thing goes for the levels of amino acids which are the building blocks of protein.
One of these building blocks that a ferret requires is Taurine. It is needed for the normal heart and eye function. Dog food lacks enough Taurine, which can lead to congestive heart failure, blindness, and even death.
Also, the lack of other amino acids from a ferret’s diet can generate urinary tract stones. Furthermore, ferrets have a very high metabolism rate. This is why they also require a lot of fat, which is much more than a dog or a cat would need. Such a high content of fat cannot be found in dog food.
This quantity of fat is required by the ferret in order to help them store some of the critical fat-soluble vitamins they need. In case the ferret lacks the necessary vitamins, it can lead to anemia, stunted growth, lack of coordination, night blindness, clotting disorders, and a weak immune system.
Ferrets on Dog Food
If things are ambiguous in any way, we need to mention clearly that ferrets should not be fed any type of dog food. Still, you do not need to panic in case your little pet steals a kibble from your dog’s bowl once in a while – provided, of course, that your dog is not aggressive. It is recommended to refrain from providing dog food as a meal to your ferret, as much as possible.
Nutritionally, dog food is insufficient for ferrets. Actually, a study had been performed on ferrets which were given only dog food. Sadly, those animals eventually died. Ferrets tend to eat more dog food because they instinctively know that they are not getting enough of what their bodies require. Cat food would be more suitable for ferrets, as these felines are carnivores. Still, this type of food has a little too much fat in in.
There still are people who believe that their ferrets can be fed dog food. Indeed, for a short time, it does not cause much harm, but it still isn’t healthy for them.
Let’s say, for example, that you discover you ran out of food for your ferret, and it is already late in the evening. Feeding him or her that night, and maybe the next morning is not a tragedy. However, this should not be something that happens on a regular basis.
Again, aside from the fact that ferrets have a very simple digestive system, they require concentrated foods that are specifically designed for their daily dietary needs. Dog food, of any type, cannot provide that.
For a healthy and happy ferret, you should always make sure to feed him or her a high protein diet, which does not contain too much fiber (or any, if possible). Not so long ago, people thought that the most appropriate food for ferrets was cat food. That is not the best choice, due to the fact that it contains too much fat, a lot of additives and artificial dyes.
Fortunately, these days, more and more pet stores are selling only veterinary approved food that is designed to meet a ferret’s nutritional requirements.
How to Feed Your Ferret Correctly
In terms of what you should feed your ferret, it is recommended to search for foods which consist of no less than 33% protein, 18-30% fat, 21% amino acids, and no more than 3% fiber and 7% ash level.
In addition, to ensure that your small companion gets the amount of calories he or she needs, you should feed him or her two meals each day. However, you need to also offer your pet something to eat every few hours because their metabolism is very fast.
It is also important to consider the size of your ferret when you feed him or her. A small serving should be enough to satisfy an adult pet. In case you are feeding your ferret moist foods, you need to make sure that he or she eats it soon because such foods only last for about 45 minutes. It is recommended to dispose of it after that.
In any case, a dry pellet diet is recommended compared to moist foods, also because it lasts longer and it helps with cleaning your pet’s teeth.
You should also avoid offering your pet ferret frozen meals like frozen meats or fish. Generally, these animals will ignore such food and will not eat frozen foods. They are also known for being picky eaters. Actually, many of them would rather starve than eat something they do not like.
It is recommended to devise a diet plan for your cute friend as it is crucial in preserving his or her health. In other words, selecting the correct foods and amounts is critical if you want to avoid health issues.
Ferrets have unique biological structures and special nutritional requirements. As an owner, you need to be very careful with what you feed your pet. Go for quality meat-based products which are specifically designed for ferrets in order to ensure you always have an active and healthy pet.