Posted: May 23, 2008, 7 p.m. EDT
Ferret Nutrition Question #6
LG: The cosmetics of size, shape and smell of stools is a goal of commercial foods, but not something that necessarily has anything to do with health. It should be noted that in nature, where animals are subsisting on a variety of raw food sources, there is no uniformity of stools. The best way to judge health is by observing the ferret itself.
MM: Not necessarily. It depends on the reason. High-protein diets tend to make the food a little more stinky because proteins are digested by the bacteria that are left over in the large intestine and that are in your stool. They will continue to act upon those proteins that are in the stool. Nothing is ever 100 percent digestible in a ferret, so those proteins would tend to have more bacteria digesting them and causing more of the sulfite gases that cause odor. Whereas extra carbohydrates in the stool would not give you the same effect, they’re much more benign in the stool and they cause less odor. So, generally, carnivore-based stools are always much smellier than carbohydrate-based stools.
PR: The very best thing to do is use an amino acid supplement that actually deals with the blood urea internally that causes the stool and the urine to have less odor. There’s the myths out there that fish causes ferrets to have more odor. The fact is ferret’s stools are smelly. They have to go through the waste stream and the only way to really do that is to use a separate thing that deals with the odor and is an internal urea product.
SW: Ferrets are odiferous to begin with. A diet should help minimize this. Excessive odor from either the animal or its feces should be looked at closely to determine if the diet is either lacking a key ingredient or has too much of something.
TW: Yes. Most ferrets do not like the taste or smell of fish, so if you’re feeding a diet that’s fairly high in fish — if it’s second or third on the label — you’ll generally have feces that has a stronger odor. I’m not saying that fish is bad. Fish is good; we have it in all of our diets, but in quite a bit of a lower level. You have to go back and look at what you’re feeding the ferret. If the ferret still has a strong odor after two to three weeks, the odor comes through the oil. A ferret should not stink. A ferret has a musk odor; a healthy ferret has a slight musk odor. It doesn’t stink if it’s eating the proper food. I hate to use this old cliché, but it’s true: You are what you eat.
GS: Most “stinky droppings” are the result of feeding a diet that contains fish oil or other fish products. Pet owners should choose a diet that contains no fish meal; this will help to reduce the odor.
JF: Again, I do not think it is a ferret issue, but personal.
KJ: Stool appearance is a signal as to how any pet is doing. Color, consistency, frequency and smell are all clues to whether you have a good dietary fit.
KS: There are no specific health issues directly associated with increased fecal odor, but it certainly is an issue many ferret owners are concerned with. Providing a diet with higher digestibility helps reduce fecal odor. Yucca schidigera extract contained in better quality diets also aids in absorbing fecal odor.
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Meet The Panelists
Each ferret-food manufacturer representative is identified by his or her initials.
LG: Lucas Gillis, supervisor, office manager at Wysong Corp.
MM: Michael Massey, president of Pretty Bird International Inc.
PR: Peter Reid, president of Marshall Pet Products Inc.
SW: Stefan Wawrzynski, operations director for Brisky Pet Products.
TW: Tom Willard, Ph.D., president of Totally Ferret/Performance Foods Inc.
GS: Gail Shepherd, senior marketing manager at ZuPreem, a division of Premium Nutritional Products Inc.
JF: Jack Fallenstein, owner of Triple F Farms Inc.
KJ: Ken Johnson, national accounts manager at D & D Commodities Ltd.
KS: Kathy Schneider, technical services manager for Central Avian & Small Animal, a division of Kaytee Products Inc.