Posted: February 1, 2011, 5 a.m. EST
Q: I have two ferrets that are losing weight. I give them a ferret-specific diet and constantly keep food in their bowl and give fresh, clean water daily. They get treats and vitamins. They have playtime an hour in the morning while I clean their cage. I don’t use harsh cleaners, because I have allergies and certain chemicals upset my sinus and allergies. Instead I use vinegar and water to get rid of urine stains. What should I do to stop my ferrets’ weight loss? They eat a lot, and drink and eat the treats. They have firm stools.
A: It is unusual to have one ferret lose weight, but to have two ferrets in the same household do so is highly uncommon. Of course, the best advice is for you to visit your veterinarian and have both of your ferrets checked to make sure that they are healthy.
But until you can get to your veterinarian’s office, here are some things to consider.
1. Ferrets naturally lose weight later in the spring and summer and then start putting weight back on in the fall. This will happen despite a good diet.
2. Check the ingredients in the ferret-specific diet. Not all ferret-specific diets are created equal, and I would only recommend those brands of the highest quality. A poor-quality, ferret-specific diet is just as bad as feeding a nonferret-specific diet. Look at the ingredient list to be certain both protein and fat are found in high percentages.
3. Other reasons for weight loss can be gastrointestinal diseases that are affecting both ferrets. However, because both ferrets have normal activity and normal stools, this becomes less likely.
4. If your ferrets go outdoors, it is possible they may have picked up a gastrointestinal parasite that leads to food malabsorption.
Because you are describing such an uncommon problem, it would be a great benefit to your veterinarian to bring to him or her a copy of the food label from the food you feed and a stool sample from your ferrets.
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