Commercial Ferret Treats: Why They’re Not Always a Good Choice

by amy brockman · 0 comments ===> Tags: , , , ,

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It’s a sad but true fact — many treats manufactured specifically for ferrets are not a healthy choice to be fed to ferrets! And in fact, some are outright dangerous.

This news often comes as a surprise to new ferret owners. Why would any company which markets to ferret owners do this? Profit, what else?

Ferret treats made with colorful bits of dried fruit and vegetables look so appealing, who can resist? They’re much prettier and more appetizing than boring, brown meat-based treats. And how about those “yogurt covered” treats? They certainly appeal to OUR sweet tooth?

As long as there are pet owners unaware of the dangers who will buy their product, the manufacturer will continue to make and sell whatever sells.

Why do ferrets need treats?

Do ferrets need treats? Assuming they are being fed an appropriate high-quality ferret food, then no, they don’t need treats. Fed in small amounts, treats can come in handy when training ferrets, but otherwise are not necessary.

Treats, it has been said, is really about what the pet owner needs. We need to pamper them and make them feel loved and special. I personally “need” to see the look of joy on their little faces and I “need” to feel how much they love and need me when they run, dancing and smiling all the way, to greet me. Nevermind the fact this happens most consistently when I’m rattling their favorite treat bag. 🙂 It’s still feels like love to me.

What is so unhealthy about treats?

Many commercial ferret treats contain large amounts of fruits and vegetables. Ferrets are obligate carnivores. Carnivore means they eat meat. Obligate means they eat ONLY meat. Their bodies can’t absorb anything else. Everything else passes through undidgested. Large chunks of fruits and vegetables which fail to digest can cause blockages requiring surgery to clear.

High sugar content is another problem with many commercial ferret treats. Ferrets are prone to insulinoma, a disease which produces tumors on the pancrease and creates many health problems. Research is still being done, but initial research seems to indicate that diet may play a role in the development of this disease.

All fruits and vegetables contain fructose, a natural sugar. In addition, many ferret treats are “yogurt coated” or “sugar frosted” to add extra appeal. These type products are high in processed white sugar or high fructose corn syrup and have no place in a healthy ferret’s diet.

Raisins which are not yogurt or sugar coated are also no longer recommended. Years ago they were the favored treat for ferrets, until researchers somewhere discovered it was probably not a very good idea. Being a fruit, they contain a lot of naturally occurring sugar. They also fail to dissolve after being eaten and can cause blockages.

Rawhide treats while high in animal protein and low in sugar are not a good option because they do not break down easily in the stomach and can cause a blockage.

What makes a healthy treat?

The list above looks lengthy, but never fear, there are plenty of healthy treats from which to choose in the list below. Most of the recommended treats are high in animal protein. They should also dissolve easily and quickly once eaten so there less risk of a blockage.

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