Posted: December 1, 2010, 5 a.m. EST
Q: My ferret Satay was an only ferret when I first got her. She weighed around 640 grams and grew out to 700 grams in the first months that I owned her. I picked up a stray (and sometimes temperamental) ferret whom I’ve named Chai. He is a boofhead and weights whopping 1.3 kilograms. Both of my fuzzies have healthy appetites. They eat a mix of high-protein, high-fat kitten kibble (I tried them on a ferret-specific food, but it did odd things to their stools, they became sticky, gooey and greenish) and get the occasional bits of chicken and other lovely treats.
Even though they eat well, Satay has dropped to around 540 grams. She doesn’t feel underweight, but she looks much more whippetlike than previously. She still plays and carries on like a lunatic — she can flip Chai and drag him around the room as well. She’s the more vocal of my two ferrets, and she dooks a lot as she explores and rushes around my room. I just worry that she is too small. Are there diseases that can cause weight loss that I should be getting her tested for?
A: Typically, male ferrets weigh more than female ferrets, even if they are neutered. A female ferret that weighs 700 grams is on the lighter side but still considered normal. But 540 grams is low unless she is a very petite female. So, before you decide that she may be sick, I would speak to your veterinarian. For her size, maybe 540 grams is normal.
If your veterinarian believes she should be heavier, then there are some tests that you may want to consider running. The easiest way to look at this is:
1. Is she eating enough to take in enough calories? Is her diet sufficient in calories?
2. If the diet is appropriate and she is eating, then she is not assimilating the calories she is taking in. Therefore, her stool should look abnormal with undigested or poorly digested food material and the volume of feces should be abnormally large compared to other ferrets.
Once you and your veterinarian decide which of these two situations your ferret has, then testing can be tailored to determine either why she is not eating enough or why she is not assimilating the calories she is eating.
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