My Ferret is Skinny – Causes of Skininess in Ferrets

http://www.amazon.com/ref=as_li_ss_tl?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&linkCode=ur2&tag=myferretpet-20&linkId=FZICFQ75IIK6MN4CFerrets are naturally lengthy and slim. If your ferret is thin, but you can’t see his ribs or back bone by just searching him, he’s probably fine. Ferrets aren’t supposed to be fat.

Ferrets have two primary characteristic shapes:

  • Bulldog.  This is what most pet owners refer to as a “bulldog” shape.  These ferrets are naturally chunkier and much more muscular.
  • Whippet. The other shape common in ferrets is a “whippet” shape.  No matter how much they eat, and despite everything you do to help them, they will always naturally be “whippet” skinny.
  • Mixed. Some ferrets are “between” the bulldog and whippet shape – not skinny yet not stocky either. It is unusual in ferrets, but, some ferrets take on this “in-between” shape.

If you’re concerned that your ferret is underweight, see if he will take to “duck soup”, its a good fattening product to feed.

Shedding Winter Pounds

I had an albino ferret who was very skinny, but when winter came, he’d fatten up, and then again in summer he’d be as slim as a rake. So in winter, your ferret will build some fat to safeguard him through the cold. As long as your ferret is still eating normally, and is getting his normal exercise, you shouldn’t be too worried about weight loss. But if you are really concerned, maybe a quick check up with your neighborhood vet will ease your mind.

Ferrets tend to gain body weight in wintertime, and next lose it the next summertime. They can lose up to 40% of their body body weight after the winter season. If your ferret is losing weight, he may have just lost his winter season fat and seems thinner than normal. In either case, you should be able to feel his ribs, but there should be a small covering of excess fat over them.

But make no mistake, the temperature isn’t what determines fat loss in ferrets.  Ferrets molt (shed) pounds because of the photoperiod.  In simple terms, the longest day of the season (with more sunshine) while the shortest (less sunshine) is typically when ferrets molt.  This will be gauged by the pineal gland within the ferrets brain.    Artificial light may have an affect on this also.  But even during molting times, they shouldn’t loose enough weight to look bone thin.

Fat reduction in Ferrets

In terms of body weight loss, most of my male ferrets ended up losing 1/2 of a pound in the summer months.  Scooter weighed 4 1/2 pounds in the winter months, and was 4 lbs by the summer time.  My various other males lost less than that.  So, even though they can lose up to 40 percent body mass, 40% is really unrealistic.

Insulinoma

One of many primary factors that cause weight loss as they age is ‘Insulinoma’. Insulinoma’s are cancerous tumors and cells on the ferrets pancreas that causes it to have insulin issues, causing low glucose.  One of the primary things you find is the ferret is loosing fat.  I’m sure money can be a problem however, if you notice excessive weight loss or lethargy in your ferrets, it is important to get him to a vet that’s knowledgable in ferrets.

I’d have the vet do a CBC (full blood matter) and obtain a serum glucose (examining his sugar level). As ferrets get older (generally over 3), these issues are extremely common. At the very least, I would get a sugar test, as Insulinoma is easily treated with prednisone.  I’ve had a lot of insulinomics through the last 14 years which have lead great lives on medication.  Additionally, prednisone is inexpensive.

As for surgery for Insulinomics.  We have already been down that road with my insulinomics and truthfully, those that we opted not to get the surgical procedure done with faired much better.  The thing is that surgery does not cure insulinoma and in my ‘experience’ it does not buy higher quality of life. Most of the ferrets still ended up on prednisone, and of course that surgery can be dangerous.  We understand that there are a number of people who lost their ferrets after pancreatic surgery.

The 2 ferrets that we did opt for pancreatic surgery existed about 1 1/2 years ‘post’ surgery and went back on prednisone within a week of surgery.  The various other 6 ferrets lived or are nonetheless living, 3 plus years utilizing simply the prednisone, NO surgical procedure,  and changing their particular diet plan with increased high protein and fat ‘soup concoctions.’

Just How Much Should Ferrets Weigh?

Some ferrets are naturally thin. We have one chubby ferret and a thin ferret. Ask yourself this: has your ferret always been thin, or have you noticed that she’s dropping body weight recently? Have actually you had your skinny ferret examined by a ferret knowledgeable vet in order to make sure her petite-ness isn’t cause by some underlying condition?

Female ferrets can be a little smaller – as small as 3/4 of a pound. we had one (her name was Zoey) that just weighed 1.5 pounds. She was a small little runt and could actually fit *under* doors, but her fat was normal for her. As long as everything else appears fine and she hasn’t  been shedding fat, it’s most likely just what’s normal for her. If you are really concerned though, seek the advice of your vet and see what he/she says.

Too Skinny Ferrets

Of course, if her ribs are easily seen, then yeah, she’s too skinny. Skinny ferrets can be unhealthy ferrets, and if you’re properly feeding them with quality food, they should never be “bone-skinny”. If the ferret is badly under weight, then they are likely to have a health issue. Ferrets, particularly if they are 5+ yrs old, are susceptible to specific ferret types of cancer, and should be immediately seen by a ferret knowledgeable veterinarian in cases of extreme weight loss.

Bone-skinny ferrets are almost certainly dehydrated, at least. You know your ferret best. If you start to notice anything out of the ordinary, please just take your ferret to a veterinarian.

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