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Licking Ferret Has Little Interest In Food

Worried owners ask why a ferret would be tiny, eat only a little and lick a lot.

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: August 1, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT

Q: We just adopted a female ferret from a rescue. She is 4.5 and had her left adrenal gland removed more than a year ago. She has all of her hair back now, but she licks our faces, ears and arms like crazy and makes funny little noises. Is this a good or bad thing? Is there anything special we need to do with her because of her surgery? Also she doesn't seem to want to eat very much, and she is extremely tiny. Is this a concern?
 
A: Occasionally, you hear about a ferret that loves to lick the skin of people. There really is not a good answer as to why ferrets do this, other than they “love” their people. But a possible explanation could be that they are licking because of the “salt” that we have on our skin, especially in the warmer times of the year.

Is it possible that because she does not eat very much that she also is not taking in enough “salt” in her diet? That may be possible. Since you adopted her from a rescue, hopefully, she was examined by a veterinarian before she was released to you. I would talk to the rescue group and ask if the veterinarian commented on how tiny she was.

Some ferrets, especially female ferrets, can be much smaller than the average ferret and that is normal for them. But if you can see her vertebral bones (spine) protruding through the skin or if you can easily see her ribs, then she may be too thin.

The next consideration is her diet. Is she eating a well-balanced, high-quality, ferret-specific food? If not, I would consider starting her on one as soon as possible. Other commercial pet foods meant for dogs and cats, no matter how good the quality is, are not designed for ferrets. If she is being fed a ferret-specific food but is still not eating, then you may want to visit your veterinarian. Possibly she has a dental problem that makes it painful for her to chew, leading to an inability to gain weight.

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