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Ferrets/One ferret has gained weight while the other has lost weight

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QUESTION: I changed ferret food brands lately and my female ferret took to the change andi have noticed a huge difference in the way her coat looks/feels and her nails have gotten stronger. She has gained weight and being winter here she is beginning to look rather hefty to me. How is a good way to tell if my ferret is at the right weight or if she is over weight? (she is also 3yrs, i donít know if age effects their weight)
Also during this time my male ferret (who is 10 months old) has seemed to have a loss of appetite and is beginning to look skinny to me. I thought that perhaps he wasnít taking to the new brand of food so i made change back for him however the only time i really see him eat is when I set a separate bowl aside next to me and watch him eat. I have been giving him FerretVite in hopes to put on some weight but i have not noticed a difference yet. When he does eat he eats so fast that it almost sounds like he is gagging himself and it really concerns me. He bowl movements seem regular but i worry the only time he eats is when i watch him. I am concerned because my female has gained her winter weight and got a nice fluffy coat, however he has lost weight and fur mass, he has no bald spots or patches missing i just feel like his coat should be thicker like hers. He is a bit wheezy and coughs sometimes and has been seen by a vet for that reason, i was told he is a little congested and has allegories to smoke and dust. could that turned into a cold? Please shed some light on what is going on with them and what i can do to improve the situation.

ANSWER: Hi Elizabeth:

Sounds like your little girl is normal in taking to the new food and having a nice winter coat, weight gain, etc.  At age 3, she will be a bit less active than even a 2-year old. If her activity level decreases greatly or she stops eating, losing weight, etc., then I would worry.

Your little guy. tho, I am concerned about. At 10 months old, he is just reaching adulthood. He should be very active, which may keep him a bit thinner, but his coat should still have changed for the better (if the food you changed to actually IS a better food - see link below for food chart). It is funny that he likes to eat next to you!  I have never heard of that, but maybe he needs a bit of one on one time with you, so do that if he needs it - it's just a few minutes a couple times a day and hopefully he will pick up the habit and eat on his own.

Since he obviously has a somewhat compromised respiratory system, it is especially important that you protect him from anyone who smokes....be sure that anyone who smokes does it OUTSIDE, as to a non-smoker or someone who is sensitive to smoke (I am, so I know firsthand), even a little smoke can take away any appetite, make one feel sick, cause difficulty breathing, etc. So, even if it is you who is the smoker, be sure to do it outside and wash your hands before handling the ferrets.  

Does your little guy like the new food?  IF it's a better food, maybe he just needs to be introduced to it more slowly. Some ferrets need to change over very slowly, even with a one to ten ratio (one part new food, ten parts old food), then each time you refill the bowl, increase the ratio, i.e., two parts new food, eight parts old food, then three parts new food, seven parts old, etc., etc...until the ferret is changed over to the new food.

FERRETONE:  Is meant ONLY to be a small extra vitamin to be given in very small amounts - UP TO 1/2 TSP per week to be safe. There are some non water-soluble vitamins in it that can actually make the ferret SICK if they are overdosed with them....can even kill them, so please lay off the Ferretone or ANY supplements and use them only in very small amounts.

There are other supplements I want to warn you about also - Ferretvite - for one is very high in sugar and sugar is ALWAYS bad for ferrets.  It is vital that you learn to read the ingredients label an ALL things your ferret eats/drinks. Ferrets are OBLIGATE CARNIVORES, which means they should be eating ONLY meat and meat byproducts. In choosing foods, you want at least the first four ingredients to be MEAT, then things like byproducts, meal, etc should come afterwards, and TAURINE is good for ferrets too, so should be in their food. If you are feeding a good food, your ferret should not need supplements, actually.  And there is NO supplement as good as a good food.

Here is a great website that shows you what really good foods are for ferrets:

       http://moredooks.herobo.com/search.php?chart=ferret

As far as treats go - I would only recommend N-Bone Ferret Chew Treats, which are basically chicken broth and gelatin.  Most other treats need to be strictly limited (Ferretone) or absolutely not given (anything with sugar in it, which is very hard to find). It has been found that ferrets who have sugar, even in a treat, is likely to get Insulinoma (cancer of the pancreas) later in life (any time from age 1-yr and more common the older they get).  

IF you give Ferretone, which I do, I limit it and if you mix it half and half with virgin olive oil, you can actually give twice the amount without having to worry about overdosing in non-water soluble vitamins (Vit A and Vit D specifically), plus Omega vitamins.  The olive oil is also good for their coats, but again, just a small amount - same as the Ferretone.  Do watch carefully for Ferretone that gets old.....watch for any yellowish gunk in the bottom of the bottle (I take Ferretone out of the original bottle and put it into a clear bottle with a pointy top like they use to give a perm, etc. (get a new, unused bottle from a beauty supply store) and toss it out, wash the bottle with hot, soapy water, rinse well and refill half and half with Ferretone and Olive Oil.  Keep the unused portion of Ferretone in the refrigerator until it is time to refill the clear bottle....keep the lid on the clear pointy tip bottle..(2-oz bottle is perfect) and out of reach of ferrets, as they are famous for chasing down the Ferretone and not only accessing the Ferretone, but it is the lid and soft plastic bottle that will be dangerous, as any soft plastic or rubber is to a ferret.

The best way I can think of to put a little weight on your little boy ferret is to give him some warm "soupy" Hill's A/D (a canned food you get at the vet). Warm just above lukewarm in a little custard cup in the microwave, add water and stir until gravy thickness. Dip your finger into the warm soup, then touch inside your ferrets mouth(behind the canine teeth - the long ones) so they must taste it. Once they taste it a few times, they will probably continue to lick it off your fingers for a while, then may even want to eat it out of the bowl themselves. If not, continue to allow them to lick it off your fingers (that['s what my ferret does). Do ask your vet about this supplement tho - it's basically chicken. Cover any unused food in the can and refrigerate. There is enough in a can to feed the ferret about six times (use about a tablespoonful or a bit more with about a teaspoonful of water (that's a guess) - some ferrets just won't eat it if it is thick...thin it down if they don't want it at first, then thicken it to gravy consistency next time you give it.  Feed this 2-3 times a day OR just once a day as a supplement, but be sure he is not eating ONLY the warm A/D...which is common...;so watch he is still eating hard food.

Also, if he was eating the old food better than the new one, be sure the old food is available to him, then SLOWLY change him over to the new food.....maybe even slower than recommended above.

I would like to invite you to join our Facebook ferret group called THUNDERING FERRET PAWS, which has all kinds of information available to ferret owners, old and new. We share stories, pictures, ask and answer questions and just help each other. Would love to have you join us there!

Hope your little guy gets some weight on....please start with a vet visit, discuss his weight, have the vet examine him, maybe do a blood test to be sure nothing is wrong like ruling out an intestinal blockage (which will cause them to lose weight and die); hopefully he will also give you some A/D to help him get weight up and healthier coat.

Hope this information helps you.; Please join us on the Facebook group for additional information all ferret owners should be aware of. Check out our "Files" at the top of the page (click on the white arrow pointing right and it will take you to the FILES).

Sincerely,

Jacquie Rodgers
May God protect those precious little ones who cannot speak for themselves.



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: He is still really active and playful, I have not noticed him becoming sluggish during play time, he is really excited to have play time and is very vocal about it! He did have a nice fluffy full coat the last time I took him to the vet for his breathing problems but since then he has loss his fullness and his fur almost feels brittle to me. (which is why I changed food brands, because my females coat was brittle and so were her nails, both have improved for her since the change).

I am a smoker, and I do smoke outside because I know how sensitive he is, and how tiny his lungs are compared to mine. I actually have a special jacket that I wear and take off so that when I pick him up he doesnít smell it on me, I have not however thought about washing my hands afterwards. I will try doing that from now on because although I am a smoker I know when I eat I find the mixture of cigarette smoke and food will lose my appetite.

I was worried that my female is becoming jealous of him (which seems weird to me because they have always gotten along great, and have been together since he was just 2 months old) because it appears to me whenever he approaches the bowl she runs over and starts to eat, there are 2 bowls in the cage and instead of moving to the other he will just sit and watch her eat, but once she leaves he does not resume eating. That is why I put the bowl next to me, if she is being a bully I have not seen that when I am home with them. Last night I cleaned the cage and all the accessories and decided to try a different approach to see if this will help with his eating issues. I left one food bowl in the cage and took the other to a different location, hoping if she does not see him at one she wonít rush over to take over.

I did not know that I could overdose my ferrets with the FerretVite, however I do know that it should be used sparely because of the ingredients that are bad for them, and I really pray that the amount I have given him hasnít affected his health or made him ill to the point where he wasnít interested in eating. I will reframe from giving him that from now on.

I made him some Duk soup last night in hopes that he would get something in his belly, he did not like the taste and I had to force a few bites down. I did notice that if I put a few pieces of food on the floor, or on a blanket that he will gobble it up. He also seems to picking the newer brand over the older (which I picked because the list of ingredients were more attractive than the one I had been buying), I set a bowl of each in the cage so that he had the option to which he could eat. My female will eat either one.

Thank you for letting me know the Ferrettone goes bad! I have no idea it was perishable or that I needed to keep it refrigerated. I do have some (which I will have to look for the yellowish gunk at the bottom) however he doesnít not seem to care for it at all, which is strange because it is like crack to my female.

Thank you very much for the advice, and I will contact my vet to see if they have some Hillís A/D or if they know where I can get some. I am hoping he is just in a funk and will start to pack it on in the next week, if I do not see a different for the good by Wednesday he will be going to the Vet.

Answer
Hi Elizabeth,

Sounds like you have the situation under control as far as Ferretne and I am  certain your kids will do fine. Obviously you are a good ferret mommy.  Good idea to wash hands before handling them anyway, actually, as our hands carry so many germs.  I am not a smoker, but always wash my hands before touching a ferret.

Hopefully your vet will see the obvious need for some A/D in the cabinet. I keep a few cans at all times...for anytime my ferret is not eatimg well, feels skinny, starts sneezing (they get colds) and sometimes just for a treat.  It is what Ai use for Duk soup, as I feel folks who have degrees in nutrition can probably come up with a better recipe than I can :-)  just my opinion tho.  Everyone has their own Duk soup recipe, I guess.  I know these big companies DO have professional nutritionists devise the most effective, healthiest recipe possible for the animal their food is for.  I trust companies like Totally Ferret , Wysong, etc...the top brands, BUT I do have concerns about companies like Kaytee, who use basically the same recipe for almost all their pets....just different labels basically. So, it really depends on the company if I trust them to have competent nutritionists.  A/D is made by Hills, which is basically Science Diet peoople and they have been around for a long time. Altho they don't have any of the top ferret kibble foods, I think they are spread too widely, BUT when it comes to something like post surgical/recovery food for "carnivores" in general, I trust them, PLUS...and this is the biggie for me....I have personally watched this stuff literally save my kids lives.  I will, however, say that A/D is NOT recommended for a full time food, as it is just too high in fat.  I rescued one ferret who would eat nothing but A/D his whole life (had him on it as he clung to life when I first got him, then would not switch over when he was better), and he was an absolute butterball....but it did save his life initially.

As many ferrets as I have had, and all on the best foods available, best care I could give...there are some things these guys get genetically, and fur softness / stiffness is one of those things to a great extent.  My first ferret, whom I learned on, and did everything wrong till I inew better, was the SOFTEST ferret I ever had!  And I guarantee it had nothing to do with food (Purina Kitten Chow!!), and because he was with me 24/7, I bathed him in baby shampoo every day of his life....another thing 'they' say is a no-no.  I still bathe my ferret a LOT, daily when he is shedding because I would rather clog up the sink pipes than his intestines and fur pulls out (I call it 'plucking him'') so easily after a good scrub with Zjohnsons & Johnsons Zbaby Shampoo, rinse well in very warm water and just start gently pulling out small handsfull under the very warm water.  It's that 'squeaky clean' thing that loosens and releases the fur without any discomfort to the ferret.  I can comletely pluck (shed) my ferret in three days of very warm baths and plucking...usually it takes weeks to finish shedding, but this really works; uses a lot of water, but it works.

Anyway, you might want to try that (I noticed today that Dusty is starting to shed (I was wearing a navy blue shirt and his white fur really showed up).  A little 'wrong time of the year' to be shedding, but somebody tell his body that!  LOL  We live in the desert, so I think he gets his seasons all confused.  We probably keep the air conditioner cooler in summer and furnace warmer in winter, so maybe it is we who are goofy!  LOL  Anyway, he is due for a few plucking baths.

Best of luck to you and your kids. Especially your little guy....itmis never good when theymlose weight, so do watch him carefully. I am strongly against *forcing* them to eat, strong encouragement can't hurt. Just be sure he doesn't choke.

Sincerely,
Jacquie Rodgers

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PLEASE READ ALL BEFORE ASKING QUESTIONS... WHAT I CAN DO: Being a ferret owner for 20 years, I can answer questions re: general care, cage ideas & requirements, healthy foods and snacks, safety issues, ferretproofing play areas, common causes of intestinal blockages, appropriate housing, litterbox training, making bathtime fun, toys, games galore, outdoor trips, "Do`s and Don'ts, traveling w/ferrets by car or RV, safe environmental temperatures & keeping your ferret cool in summer (NOT A FAN!!), setting up a hospital cage, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), helicobacter (ulcers), adrenal disease symptoms & care,intestinal blockages, helping your ferret recover quickly/safely from surgery; common problems of ferret ownership, illnesses; care of sick or injured ferrets, hospice/palliative care, facing & coping with your ferret's death, choices that must be made when a ferret dies, memorializing your pet online and in your daily life. #1 TIP: FIND AN EXOTICS VET BEFORE YOU GET A VET...IF YOU WAIT, YOU MAY FIND YOU HAVE TO DRIVE UP TO 6-HRS TO GET TO A PROPER VET!..if you did not find one first, be WILLING to drive as far as possible for proper care. AND.... #2 TIP: FERRETS ARE EXPENSIVE TO FEED, HOUSE, VET & CARE FOR PROPERLY...IF YOU CANNOT AFFORD ONE/OR NOT READY TO SACRIFICE, PLEASE DON'T GET ONE!! A FERRET IS NOT LIKE HAVING A CAT OR DOG!! THEY REQUIRE MORE TIME, ENERGY, CARE AND MONEY to properly care for them. Prepare to spend up to $8,000-$10,000 OVER A FERRETS LIFETIME (6 to 8 years usually) FOR NECESSITIES & VET CARE. WHAT I CAN`T DO: I can`t take the place of your ferret vet; if your ferret appears sick,PLEASE have your ferret examined by a ferret vet .TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE FOR A SICK FERRET - PLEASE, IF IN DOUBT, GET THEM TO A VET! 24- hours of a ferret not eating/drinking may kill your ferret! NEVER FORCE FEED A SICK..he may choke. Sub-Q or IV fluids from your vet who is not eating WILL help save his life IF he gets it in time.

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I have nursed ferrets through many illnesses, an injury, and a variety of diseases over the years.Ferrets are so very delicate, yet incredibly strong-willed; a well-loved ferret will fight courageously to live if given proper medical care, close monitoring, and especially lots of TLC.& LOVE. A ferret can entertain for hours on end when they know they are the center of attention; and they can make even the grumpiest person laugh. They do require a LOT of time, love and daily care, but the love you give a ferret always comes back to you tenfold OR MORE!! I dedicate the time I spend helping others here to my precious little ones who have gone to the Rainbow Bridge. They taught me how to laugh, to love unconditionally....and how to live each & every day to its fullest, and for that I am forever grateful.

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I read everything I can get my hands on regarding ferrets, I learn from my great Exotics Vet, and my own experience and interactions with other ferret owners. I am writing a book on ferret care (Great Need for a CORRECT one!) never rely on a ferret book OR a website when your ferret is sick. I can help with suggestions to use IN CONJUNCTION with proper care by your exotics specialist vet (ASK when you call for an appointment whether or NOT your vet has EXPERIENCE in working with EXOTICS..if not, move on and continue to seek one. The wrong vet can KILL your ferret. I learned this early when my ferret hurt his front paw jumping off the couch...a vet, NOT EXOTICS SPECIALIST couln't handle ferret properly because he was afraid of the ferret...and ended up xraying THE WRONGBARM, telling me it was not hurt. I took xray & ferret to EXOTICS SPECIALIST VET 3-hrs away & found out the arm WAS BROKEN & wrong arm had been xrayed. THAT is how important it is to have a PROPERLY TRAINED VET FOR YOUR FERRET!

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WANT TO BE A FERRET EXPERT? I serve as the resident "guru" for this category. IF YOU WISH TO VOLUNTEER IN THE FERRET CATEGORY, please email me at thunder.paw.ranch@gmail.com and request an application. All volunteers must complete a general ferret information questionaire to be a volunteer in this category. Thanks for your cooperation :-)

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I try to educate anyone who is interested in ferrets, as I take my ferrets with me in public a lot. There is a lot of MISinformation out there about ferrets that needs to be dispelled with fact, and ferret owners who need to be keep abreast of the latest and best information. FACEBOOK FERRET GROUP (OPEN): THUNDERING FERRET PAWS - Join us as we all share our pictures, stories & experience!! :-)

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