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Ferrets are curious, active animals who will get into anything they can, whether or not it’s good for them. Since these little creatures are carnivorous, their bodies aren’t made to deal with anything but meat. Other foods can harm them, especially those that are high in fiber or carbohydrates. It’s up to you to safeguard your ferret and protect him from eating the wrong thing.
Ferrets can’t digest dairy products and should never eat them. Avoid giving your pet milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream or any other type of dairy-based food. Dairy can give a ferret diarrhea, resulting in dehydration and possibly even death. The American Ferret Association warns that dairy products and other foods high in complex carbohydrates not only cause intestinal upset, they may also trigger cancer in some cases.
Onions and Garlic
Never give a ferret anything that contains either onions or garlic, as both of these can make him sick or even kill him. Onions are known to cause hemolytic anemia, potentially fatal, while garlic can cause ferret kidneys to shut down, a condition that is frequently fatal. Check the labels of any prepared foods you buy to make sure neither of these things is on the list of ingredients. If you plan on giving your ferret any type of meat-based baby food that contains garlic, check with your vet first.
Feeding your ferret any sugary foods, including honey, cereal or syrup, can trigger a reaction that can cause him to produce too much insulin followed by a drop in insulin production leading to hypoglycemia. Along with processed and natural sugars it is essential to avoid letting your ferret eat xylitol, an artificial sweetener that can trigger seizures, hypoglycemia and liver failure in ferrets and dogs. This sweetener is in many sugar-free gums and other products, all of which must be kept away from your ferret.
Fruits and Vegetables
Ferrets' digestive systems are made to digest meat and not complex carbohydrates. Never feed your ferret any kind of fruit, even as a treat. While some ferret fanciers may say it’s OK, the American Ferret Association advises against feeding bananas, raisins, apples, carrots and all other fruits and vegetables. Too much of the wrong thing could cause his intestines to clog, making him very sick and possibly even killing him.
Most dry pet foods are grain-based and contain some level of wheat, corn, oats, rice or another grain. While it’s OK to feed your ferret a good-quality dry food even if it contains some grain, all grains will pass right through your ferret and end up in his litter box. Look for foods low in grain and high in protein. Don’t add to the bulk in his intestines by giving him any kind of grain products, such as bits of cereal, or he may end up with digestive problems.
- The American Ferret Association: Frequently Asked Questions
- Lakeroad Ferret Farm Rescue/Shelter: Ferret Q&A
- The Humane Society of the United States: Ferret Feeding
- A Practical Guide to Ferret Care; Deborah Jeans
- The Everything Ferret Complete Guide to the Ferret; Mahri Shelton
- Ferrets for Dummies; Kim Schilling
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: FDA Is Warning Pet Owners on the Dangers of Xylitol Ingestion in Dogs and Ferrets
- Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images