Posted: January 1, 2009, 5 a.m. EST
Q: I have a 2-year-old male ferret. His fur is very dry, and he seems too thin for his age. He is smaller than our other male that is about six months younger. He eats normally, and I give him ferret-specific supplements several times a week. He is not losing any fur, but it is very coarse. What is the average weight a 2-year-old ferret should be? How can I help him gain weight and soften his fur? Should I be worried about any disease?
A: A great thing about ferrets is that they are almost never too fat or too thin, usually they are just right with body size. A 2-year-old male ferret that is neutered is going to weigh about 1 kilogram; females are slightly smaller at about .90 kilograms. Some ferrets will have a coarser hair coat than others, but it should not be dry as you describe. So, when I add up what you have told me — a poor body condition, poor hair coat and small size — the first thing I think of is a dietary condition.
Make sure your ferret is receiving a high-quality food designed for ferrets. These foods are extremely nutritious and do not need supplements. If you are feeding a high-quality ferret food and your ferret is showing these signs, then a trip to your veterinarian is in order. It may be that a gastrointestinal tract ailment is preventing nutrients from being absorbed. Therefore, your ferret looks malnourished even though you are feeding a proper diet.
Conditions that could cause poor nutrient absorption include inflammation, infection, congenital disease and even neoplasia. If this is just a dietary condition, your ferret should start looking better within days or weeks of starting the new diet.