Feeding Sick Ferrets

For ferrets that don't want to drink or eat we gently orally syringe feed 90cc's per pound per day, divided into 3-6+ feedings. If your ferret is drinking or eating a small amount, your ferret should be fed about 60 cc's/pound a day of a recipe. Never force feed a ferret with a blockage.

Your ferret has to eat to live so be gentle but persistent. Ferrets go down quickly so act swiftly and monitor them closely. If you are unable to get them to eat very much at one time, feed more frequently until the needed amount is eaten. It is extremely important that ferrets eat frequently because of their short digestive tract. Food transit time is 3-4 hours.

To determine if your ferret is dehydrated, gently pinch the skin at the back of the neck, similar to scruffing. If the skin goes down slowly then your ferret is dehydrated and may need fluids. Their face may have a pinched look.

For first feedings you may have to entice your ferret to eat by dipping your finger in the recipe and rubbing it in your ferretís mouth. Usually after a couple times they'll realize that it really isnít all that bad. Another factor in feeding ill or weak ferrets is HOW you feed them - your finger, saucer, spoon, or syringe. This is ferret choice, you will have to experiment to find what is best for each individual ferret.

Syringe (no needle) feeding - 3 cc and 12 cc syringes work well. Suck up the recipe in the syringe. Hold the ferret upright. Place tip of syringe in front or side of mouth. Gently dribble the fluid in, a drop at a time. Be careful not to go too quickly or your ferret might inhale the fluid into itís lungs.

Saucer feeding - Place the warm recipe in a saucer. Hold your ferret upright on your lap and hold the saucer allowing the ferret to lap from it. You may have to start them by dipping your finger in recipe and gently smearing it in their mouth.

Spoon feeding - Place warm recipe in saucer. Place ferret on towel on solid surface. Spoon recipe and let ferret lick spoon.

If your ferret refuses all food, try either Ensure Plus (vanilla or strawberry), Sustacal (vanilla), Resource Plus (vanilla), or Deliver 2.0 (must be ordered through pharmacy). These are all human nutritional supplements and may sustain your ferret till they accept other recipes. The key is to find what your ferret will eat when ill. You may also add a tablespoon of heavy whipping cream to their recipe. Some ferrets find this more palatable and the heavy whipping cream is packed with fat calories.

When ferrets have upset tummies they do not want to eat. The syrup (1-3 ccís, 2-4 times daily) from a can of peaches in heavy syrup will help.

During some illnesses your ferret may be so sick he/she wonít want to eat at all. If your vet doesnít recommend withholding food, you must gently force feed until this phase is passed and your ferret starts eating on itís own again. Donít give up. This phase will pass as long as you stay on top of it.

The following recipes may be adapted to your ferrets individual taste. Add clover Honey to any of the recipes (3 cc's) if your ferret likes sweets. Note that simple sugars are absorbed more easily. Start with a small portion of a simple recipe and go from there. Mix and match to find what your ferret likes best. Recipes vary depending on the ferret as do textures. Some ferrets will like the recipe chunky while others will like it more soupy. When syringe feeding you will want it more soupy so it will go through the syringe easily.

Recipes can be stored in sealed containers and refrigerated for up to 48 hours. For longer storage, recipes can be frozen in ice cube trays and placed in freezer bags. Warm individual servings.

Mix all ingredients well. Warm individual servings for about 10-15 seconds in microwave in small container (not in serving dish), mix well with finger to check for hot spots. Serve in separate container. Small coffee saucers work well. Coffee bean grinders work well for grinding kibble.

Hard food is optional in all recipes. Chicken, Lamb, or Turkey & Rice baby food may be substituted for Science Diet A/D. A sprinkle of Garlic Powder (not salt), Nutrical or Ferretvite, and Acidophilus may be added to all recipes. Acidophilus is especially beneficial when antibiotics are being given. Buttermilk or yogurt may be added but may cause diarrhea in some ferrets.

Basic Recipes -

1 can Science Diet A/DOR1 jar meat baby food
1/4 cup Pedialyte1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup water1/4 cup pedialyte or water

Or

Moisten regular hard food with warm water and hand feed.

Enhanced Recipes -

1 can Science Diet A/DOR1 can Science Diet A/D
1/4 cup ground kibbleSprinkle brewers yeast
1/2 cup Pedialyte1/2 cup pedialyte
1/8 tspn brewers yeast1/8 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup Oatmeal baby cereal2 tblsp Linatone or Ferretone
1-2 cups water1 cup water

Or

1 can Resource Vanilla or Ensure Plus or Sustacal
1 can SD A/D or 1 jar baby food
1 cup finely ground hard food (optional - ferret choice)
ľ - Ĺ cup Gerber baby oatmeal cereal
1/8 cup buttermilk or 1 capsule acidophilus

For ferrets whose GI tract is compromised and canít break down foods sufficiently - 1/8 tab Viokase or 1/8 teaspoon Ferretzyme may be added to a batch of recipe.

Specific Recipes

ECE -

From a nutritional stance, a major concern with ECE is the osmotic balance in the gut. Ferrets are carnivores. Ferrets have short digestive tracts and do not digest fiber well. Watch carefully when feeding products that contain Bee Pollen as they may cause an allergic reaction. Our first recipe was formulated with the assistance of Dr. Tom Willard (Totally Ferret).

2 cans Science Diet A/D (Veterinarian)
1 cup finely ground Totally Ferret (or reg kibble)
4-6 cups Pedialyte
3 tablespoons Linatone or Ferretone
1 tablespoon Brewers Yeast
1 Chamomile capsule contents (soothes upset tummies)
1 Slippery Elm Bark capsule contents (coats- if liquid 3 drops/serving)
2-4 Pepto Bismal tablets finely crushed
1/4 cup Buttermilk or 1 capsule Acidophilus (provides good bacteria)
1/6 tablet Viokase (from your vet - Viokase is a combination enzyme that starts breaking down the food before your ferrets eats it)

Insulinoma -

1 can Science Diet A/D or jar baby food
ľ cup Pedialyte
Ĺ - 1 cup bottled or filtered water
1 scoop Baby formula or milk replacer
1/8 teaspoon Brewers Yeast
1 tablespoon lecithin
ľ - Ĺ cup Oatmeal baby cereal

Feed 3-6 times a day in addition to free choice of their regular food. For ferrets with Insulinoma do not feed sugar products. Avoid products ending in "ose" (fructose, glucose, etc) unless your vet advises otherwise. If your ferret has a low blood sugar episode (salivating, pawing mouth, staggering), give 1-3 ccís of honey or karo syrup and contact your vet immediately. If you ferret is unconscious, rub honey or kayo syrup on the gums with a q-tip and contact your vet immediately. Never force feed a ferret that is not conscious.

Additions to serving:

For diarrhea or nausea add 3 drops of slippery elm bark tincture (non-alcohol) to each serving. This will also help with ulcers.

For ferrets with lymphosarcoma you can add 5 drops Vit C with bioflavoniods liquid and 5 drops of Pau Dí Arco (herb) tincture twice a day to the basic recipe.

Other recipes can be formulated for specific conditions.

Ferret Family Services
Domestic Ferret Information and Education
PO Box 186
Manhattan KS 66505-0186
(785) 456-8FFS(8337)

sprite@ksu.edu

This brochure is not intended to take the place of advice from your veterinarian. Whenever you have a ferret that wonít eat, has diarrhea, or is dehydrated - please contact your veterinarian.

Although the treatments described in this pamphlet were developed for ferrets, the basic recipes and treatments may also be applicable to other pets. Please consult with your veterinarian as to it's application and possible modifications.