FRUITS AND VEGETABLES FOR FERRETS???

Easy answer, NEVER!

First time ferret owners sometimes do lots of research on housing and play toys but neglect to do enough research on their ferret’s diet requirements.

Ferrets are carnivores; look at those sharp pointy canine teeth. Carnivore means meat eater. Meat, meat, meat!

Folks often choose a kibble diet for the convenience. When choosing a ferret kibble for your ferret, you can go with Marshall Ferret Diet or Totally Ferret. You should always have a mixture of two foods. This 50/50 mixture ensures that your ferret can adjust to any changes in one of the foods. Some folks go so far as using a 3 way mix. Ferrets imprint on their food source early in life and it can be nearly impossible to transition them to a new food.

There are only a few high protein cat foods that are suitable for your ferrets kibble mixture. I will only list one food as an example. I want to stress that you should be checking your ingredient list on a regular basis. Manufacturers update on a regular basis and what was once may be a good food for ferrets can become a bad food for ferrets.

Here is a very simple list of must haves:

first 3 proteins ingredients must be meat. Corn is a plant protein and often used to up the protein levels.

no peas, pea powder, legumes, none, nada, no exceptions. Peas are used as a filler and it causes bladder stones in our ferrets; can be fatal for our male ferrets.

try to choose a food with carbohydrates that have a lower glycemic number; tapioca is the best source. Ferrets on a high carbohydrate diet may experience blood sugar issues. The ferret body is not meant to process carbs. Rice is a second choice. Do your own research for more in depth information on carbs and Insulinoma in ferrets.

Under the Precentages:

32 – 40 % protein

20% fat content, check the percentages list

Crude Fiber 1.5% to 3.5% – DO NOT USE A FOOD WITH HIGHER FIBER NUMBERS. This is often overlooked but a food with high fiber is dangerous for ferrets.

So now let’s look at a ferret and cat kibble that the shelter uses; how does it meet the above requirements?

Marshall Premium Ferret Diet lists 38% protein, fat 18% and crude fiber 3.5%. first 3 ingredients are meat, and no peas or legumes.

GO Skin & Coat care Chicken Recipe With Grains. Never buy the Go Chicken Grain Free – it has peas.

32% protein (lower protein level required for our senior ferrets), fat 20% and crude fiber 2.5%. first 3 proteins are meat, and no peas or legumes. they use rice and oatmeal.

If you are choosing to feed a raw meat diet, please, please do in depth research. You can’t just feed a chicken breast and think they are getting all the nutrients they need. I am not an expert on the raw diet so I won’t advise on how to do it.

I embrace the best of both worlds. I recommend that your ferrets have a premium kibble mixture available 24/7; and please don’t drizzle oil over the kibble. It will make the kibble go rancid and you will be wasting a lot of food. Make one meal a day a cooked meat or raw meat meal. After a ferret got a blockage from grizzle, I recommend putting your raw meat through a grinder. I personally use cooked meats.

*Throw away those store bought treats and make your own. Cook a chicken breast and cube it. Tiny cooked meatballs are fun. Raw egg once a week. There are lots of ways to get whole protein into your ferret without carbs. Even canned wet cat food without carbs is good.

So, notice I didn’t mention any fruits. My girlfriend let her ferret steal a small grape. Two days later her lethargic ferret was rushed to the vet. A blockage! The grape skin didn’t break down and it cost her $1200.00 to remove. lesson learned.

No veggies? A member was feeding his ferret bits of carrot. One “bit” was too big and the ferret had to be rushed in for a blockage; their vet bill was $1,600.00. Ferrets do not have the enzymes to break down the skins and or pulp of veggies and fruit. NEVER FEED YOUR CARNIVORE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES!

Your ferret’s Medications!

Over the years, I have taken shelter ferrets to the vet for a variety of issues. I am very happy when I come home with banana flavoured Amoxicillin; even better if the ferret received an antibiotic injection of Convena. I’m crying inside if I have to give the poor ferret Metronizodole.

The Amoxicillin dispensing label will state Refrigerate. Easy Peasy! But there are so many other medications prescribed for our ferret that come in little dark brown bottles. We know that the dark brown bottle is because the medication is light sensitive. Got it! The label states the dosage, perhaps the label will say Shake before use or give with food. All good!

Where do we store the medication? Well, somehow most of us over 30 have grown up with the universal knowledge that to keep anything “fresh”, you store it in the fridge!! This mind set carries over to medications especially since the odd medication states right on the label, highlighted in yellow, REFRIGERATE.

Turns out most of us have been wrong, wrong, wrong when it comes to medications for ourselves, and our pets. A recent event brought the issue to the forefront. A foster parent accidently put the fostered ferret’s Prednisolone in the freezer along with the home made duck soupies. A phone call to our pharmacist confirmed what I already suspected. The Prednisolone was spoiled. That was a $25.00 Owie! The pharmacist went on to explain that Prednisolone should be kept away from light, in a cool, dark place. I nodded sagely and said all my medications were stored in my fridge.

Imagine my surprise when the pharmacist scolded me gently. He told me 90% of all medications in liquid or pill form should be kept at room temperature. But, but, “cool dark place” I said; the fridge is a cool dark place. Apparently cool as in you don’t want the medication sitting on the ledge over your stove and against an appliance that generates heat. You don’t want the medication sitting on your work desk under a lamp. You want the medication to be away from direct light, in a cool place. The pharmacist went on to say that a cupboard in your kitchen is a perfect spot; not the medicine cabinet in your bathroom which is a hot, humid place at the start of each day!

So I challenged him; Sulcrate – cool, dark place, Pepto Bismal – cool, dark place, Kaopectate – cool, dark place, cat hair ball remedy – definitely room temperature, bandages – your medicine cabinet. We had a good laugh.

I then spoke with our vet clinic and sure enough all medications should be kept at room temperate, in a dark place. Keeping the medication in the fridge can actually cause the medication to degrade and affects its stability.

The only medication that is weird is the Medicam for Cats. The external packaging saying refrigerate, but some vets will tell you to keep it at room temperature. Apparently it is one of those medications that can handle it both ways.

So, unless the label states in yellow highlight refrigerate, make room in a cupboard in the kitchen for all the medications. I want a white lab coat so I can pretend I run a pharmacy lol. I had to go out and buy a small two drawer cabinet to put all the assorted medications and ointments in for the shelter ferrets. My medications and vitamins are all now in a cupboard in the kitchen!

CHOOSING THE RIGHT SIZE CARRIER FOR YOUR FERRET!

Congratulations. You are on your way to pick out your baby ferret. You will need to invest in a carrier to bring your baby ferret home. Ferrets grow very fast and that baby ferret at 6 or 7 weeks will be full grown size wise by 16 weeks or 4 months! So plan ahead and purchase a carrier that will be suitable for your full grown fuzzbutt!

Some carriers are not suitable even for a baby ferret of 6 or 7 weeks. There is not enough floor space and very poor ventilation.

Only 6 inches in width

So, now you know not to purchase this carrier. If you have one or two ferrets but NO MORE than 2 ferrets the next carrier would be very suitable. Good floor space and best of all great ventilation!

You will notice I have not shown carriers made of cloth with plastic mesh. We have found ferret owners complain that the cloth carriers do not retain their shape. Worst of all, a bored ferret can easily chew the plastic mesh and escape into the car.

Bottom line is that you want the largest carrier possible so that your ferrets have plenty of ventilation and will not overheat.

FERRETS AND THE HEAT

Many ferret owners do not realize that their ferret cannot handle temperatures over 24 or 25 degrees Celsius. Ferrets do not have sweat glands and can not cool their body temperature down by panting like dogs do. As a matter of fact if you see your ferret panting, your ferret is in heat distress and in danger of dying from heat stroke!

So, first lets talk about how you can keep your ferrets cool (and thereby safe)! If you have central air in our home or a window air conditioner in their room; you have things covered at home.

If your window air conditioner does not really cool their room but you have access to your basement, most likely it will be a nice cool space to move the cage to for the duration of the heat wave.

If you drive a car with air conditioning you are covered when out to the vets. You shouldn’t be taking your ferret for a car ride on high temperature days. What would you do if your car died or you were in a minor accident and had to wait on the side of the road for help.

Please don’t take your ferrets to the beach. Parking them in the shade will not keep them cool.

Please don’t take your ferrets to the cabin unless you have air conditioning at the cabin. Remember a fan flowing on the cage will not cool your ferrets down.

Do not to leave your cage or carrier in front of a window. That sun beaming through the window can still overheat your ferret. I have had my forearm sunburn through the car window in an air conditioned car.

For those of you without air conditioning of any kind there are still some ways to protect your ferret. You can add water to an empty plastic soda or pop bottle and freeze it. The empty miki bottle from the liquor store is flat and is perfect for your ferret to drape himself/herself over. You can pick up a couple of ceramic tiles from the ReFit store and pop them in the freezer. You can even use those gel packs but only if you are sure your ferret won’t chew on them as the liquid is toxic. Remember to put the frozen container in a pillow case or wrap in a light towel so that your ferret isn’t lying directly on the frozen container.

You can also move your ferret into the bathroom, placing his blanket, food and water in the bathtub. We all know how cool that porcelain feels. Don’t close the bathroom door as this small space could heat up. And it goes without saying that your should make sure the bathroom is 100% ferret proofed just in case they can jump out of the tub. You don’t want to loose your ferret under the tub or in the walls from the sink cabinet.

Last but not least, you can fashion a simple air conditioner by soaking a bed sheet in water and then draping the wet bed sheet over the cage. Place frozen 4 litre milk jugs inside the cage as well. Place an oscillating fan in front of the cage. The fan blowing on the wet bedsheet will bring down the temperature inside the cage. This only works until the bedsheet is dry. So constant supervision is required.

A FAN BLOWING ON THE CAGE; MOVING THE HOT AIR AROUND THE ROOM WILL NOT COOL YOUR FERRET DOWN.

You could even invest in a small portable cube air conditioner available most hardware stores or on line.

I THINK MY FERRET IS OVERHEATING, HELP!

So let’s talk about the worst case scenario; and you come across your ferret and you think he/she is overheating!

Your ferret is overheating if: it is limp, and lethargic and the temperature in that room is above 25 degrees Celsius /

your ferret is laying there with it’s mouth open and seems to be panting (this is a crisis). This is a life threatening situation and your ferret will die if immediate action is not taken.

Immediately immerse your ferret in a sink or container of tepid water. NOT COLD WATER, you will shock his body if you do so. Test with your elbow. It should feel like room temperature. Cup handfuls of water and pour over the back of the head and body. Have your partner calling your vet to tell them you have a ferret emergency and you need to bring in your ferret for fluids due to heat exhaustion.

If you have caught the heat exhaustion in the early onset stage, your ferret will start wiggling and being himself/herself after 5 minutes or so. Offer him/her water to drink and move to your ferret to a cool location. If you aren’t sure your ferret has fully recovered, please bring him immediately to your vet. Don’t second guess. Your ferret may need fluids to properly recover.

You may not have to bring your ferret to the vet if caught early enough and you are absolutely sure he/she has recovered. Remember if you can’t transport your ferret to the vet in an air conditioned car, your ferret is still in danger of overheating again on the drive over.

So your ferret is out of immediate danger, but you must still rectify the housing situation that allowed him/her to overheat in the first place. Act on the suggestions listed above.

If your ferret is not responding to the tepid bath, warp your ferret loosely in a wet towel and rush him to the vet. The hope is that the vet will be able to administer fluids plus continue with procedures to cool your ferrets body temperature down.

By the way, did you know that putting a single ferret or a pair of ferrets in a pet carrier that is too small will cause them to overheat. Their bodies crammed together will increase their core temperature and overheat them. I know this from personal experience of 2 ferrets coming into the shelter from an air conditioned car. They were 2 fully grown ferrets crammed in a hamster carrier for the 20 minute car ride to my place. It was enough time for them to arrive limp and panting. By the grace of god, they must have just gone into heat exhaustion and the tepid bath was enough to bring them back from the brink of death. I then administered sub-q fluids. It took 30 minutes of working on them to save them. I was 10 minutes away from my vet clinic but they would not have made the trip. Had they been in the carrier another 5 minutes; it would have been too late.

Have I scared you! I hope so! A ferret overheating is a life and death situation. My hope is that you read this and take measures to prevent this ever happening.

Grooming

While you may see your ferret grooming itself, that doesn’t let you off the hook! There are a few things you need to do as a responsible ferret owner to keep your ferret looking, feeling and smelling good!

Bathing

The most important part of your ferret’s bathing routine is to not over do it, ferrets that bath too often end up with a stronger odor. Over bathing can wash away the oils from your ferret’s fur, which in turn will dry their skin out. When a ferret’s skin dries out it over-produces the oils and the poor ferret gets itchy, which all adds up to one stinky fuzzbutt.

Basically you should only be washing your babies  at most twice a year.  Bath your ferret in the Spring when he starts shedding his winter coat and in the Fall when he is shedding his summer coat. Your ferret can  splash a round in the tub or water dish every day so long as there is no soap involved.

To keep smells down make sure the ferret’s environment is nice and clean; scoop litter daily, dump litter weekly, change the  bedding every second or third day  and clean entire cage monthly (or as needed, my boys are slightly messier so I do more often). Washing down your cage floors with a vinegar solution helps deodorize and sanitize.

Shampoo options vary, there are even quite a few ferret specific shampoos. Although baby shampoo works most shampoos meant for adults aren’t pH balanced properly for ferrets. Conditioners are not required but they can help the ferret’s skin from drying out, a good option is to use conditioner  in winter.

Tips for ferret bath time; make sure water is just over room temperature (or slightly warmer), a ferret’s body temperature is ~ 102 degrees Celsius. At room temperature the ferret will find it cold.  Some ferrets enjoy a bath full of water, others like to be able to walk in the tub and some others like ‘showers.’

Ear Cleaning

Much of the odor on a ferret is actually their ear wax, you should clean a ferrets ears every two weeks. Ear wax is red, brown or gold in colour, if you see something else contact your vet (black ear wax can be a sign of ear mites).

To clean your ferret’s ear;

1. Warm the solution

There are many different options for ear cleaning ‘solutions’ including oils or liquid (I’m not sure on the oil option as they generally say to stay away from oils for ferrets). Purchase the alcohol free ear cleaning solution from your vet as your best choice.

2. Scruff

Scruffing a ferret is identical to scruffing a dog or cat – the extra skin on the animal’s neck behind their head where a mommy or daddy would use to carry their babies. Generally this will make your ferret yawn – which is pretty adorable.

3. Put a few drops of solution into the ferret’s ear

This will help loosen the ear wax

4. Gently massage the base of the ferret’s ear

This is to work the solution inside the ferrets ear

5. Moisten a cotton swab with more solution and clean the outer ear by beginning at the base of the ear

A ferret’s ear canal is shaped like an L.

6. Continue using a moistened cotton swab until the ear wax is gone, then switch to a dry swab to dry the ear out

7. Follow up with a treat

Left untreated ear mites can cause many health issues including deafness

Here are some more step-by-step guides; WikihowWeaselWords, FerretNews

Nail Trimming

It is very important to keep on top of trimming your monster’s nails – when they become too long they can catch on things. Sometimes in an attempt to pull the nail free, your ferret can pull it’s nail right off! Needless to say that is extremely painful and bloody!I have seen my ferrets get their nails caught then go straight into the alligator roll – this can actually cause a ferret to sprain something.

Tools to clipping nails;

1. Small kitten sized nail clippers

Human nail clippers will not work, ferrets have very small nails that can easily be cut too short, they are also thin enough that you can crush the nail if the blade is not sharp enough.

2. Corn starch or Styptic powder

Accidents happen so be prepared for such. The benefit of purchasing Styptic powder is you know it is sterile, but if you are worried about costs Corn starch works just as well to stop bleeding when nails are clipped too short. Styptic powder will sting, while the cornstarch doesn’t and is what the shelter uses with very good results.

3. Ferret Lax (hair ball remedy) or Salmon Oil/Olive Oil/Flax Oil/Canola Oil -which ever oil product you are using.

These are used to distract the ferret while you clip their nails. I generally place my ferret on their back on my lap, put the Ferret Lax or Oil on their tummy and clip their nails while they lick away.

Where to clip: if you look at a ferret’s nail it has a small red dot called the quick and from there out is clear or cloudy (rarely do they have dark nails, often they are dirty though). It’s best to cut as close as you can to the quick, for stronger nails this is easier, for softer you might have to keep a little more room between.

If you find your ferret absolutely hates having their nails being cut there are a few options; my youngest, Radish, I cut two toes at a time. Sometimes that means he goes first, he takes a break while I cut the other ferret’s toes and finish him off at the end. At times Radish cannot stand even that so his back legs I have to do the next day.

Another option for the difficult ferrets is wrapping them in a towel to keep them stationary without hurting or causing more stress. The towel method works by rolling it around the ferret’s body, keeping one paw and their head loose, while a helper distracts your ferret with their oil treat. *This only works on one ferret in a thousand!

Brushing Teeth

This takes getting used to, be gentle and remember this will probably not be your best bonding moment. You can always ease into this by scruffing and touching your ferret’s teeth for a few seconds. Here’s some general steps to follow, but the best is to figure out what works for each of your little monsters;

1. Wet the baby toothbrush or a baby washcloth  and apply a small amount of paste (pet toothpaste, not human)

2. Scruff your ferret

3. Gently brush their teeth, strokes going with the teeth (i.e. top brush down, bottom brush up). Pay special attention to their back teeth as food can get stuck there and they might not notice it.

4. Ending with a treat, this helps with bitter feelings.

5. Now that StrixNB for dogs can be used off label for ferrets. Simply half the dosage. Offer your ferret one dish with regular water and one with the Strix added.

Other links describing teeth maintenance; PetFinderPetsDotCom.

Ferrets that receive lots of soft treats (i.e. baby food, soft diets and duck soup) should have their teeth brushed weekly. For others generally twice a month is good.

You can also take ferrets to the vet – if you start to see greyish green spots this is a good indication that it is time to do this. Taking your ferret to the vet for a full cleaning (dental prophylaxis) should only be done every 2-3 years.