We may earn a commission if you click on a link, but at no extra cost to you. Read our disclosure policy for information.
Can ferrets eat dog food?
Do you have a ferret at home or have decided to get one as a pet?
You wonder whether they can eat what you feed your dog or sneak into the dog’s bowl, the food might harm your adorable ferret.
Well, these are good and understandable concerns because owning and feeding multiple pets can sometimes be a handful, from trying to separate your pets during feeding time or some pets sneaking and hiding snacks that aren’t for them.
Also, buying dog food might be way more comfortable than going out and looking for ferret food at the store.
Table of Contents
- Can Ferrets Eat Dog Food?
- 1. Ferrets Vs. Dogs
- 2. Why is Dog Food Bad for Your Ferret
- Here are some reasons why it wouldn’t be a good idea to feed your ferret with dog food.
- 3. Side Effects and Risks of Feeding Ferrets with Dog Food
- 4. Proper Diet for Ferrets
- 5. What to Do Instead
- Final Thoughts
Can Ferrets Eat Dog Food?
Most ferrets like to eat dog food, but just because they enjoy the food doesn’t mean it is safe.
Every animal, including human beings, has nutritional requirements specific to them; ferrets are not different.
While one or two pieces of dog food might not hurt or harm your ferret, it is important to note their different nutritional needs and that what might be safe for your dog can be a risk to your ferret.
You don’t want to risk your favorite pet, and this is why you are asking if your ferret can eat dog food, as it is better to be safe than sorry.
Well, you came to the right place as this article helps you answer that specific question to find out what is healthy and safe to feed your beautiful and furry friend.
Let’s get started!
1. Ferrets Vs. Dogs
Feeding your ferret with dog food occasionally might not be a risk for your pet, but regular times may cause adverse health issues.
As much as ferrets and dogs are among favorite human pets and share different similarities, they are very different when it comes to their diet requirements.
Each animal has specific nutrients that they require in their diet for health, growth, and development; this applies to your dog and ferret.
Ferrets and dogs also have different structures in their physiology, and this makes it essential to feed each with meals that they can process, which can also improve their well-being rather than place them at risk.
While dogs are considered omnivores and can eat anything and everything they come across, ferrets are more like cats; they are strict obligate carnivores.
What do I mean by this?
On the one hand, dogs are more like humans and eat and digest different foods to keep them healthy and robust for growth and development.
On the other hand, ferrets have a different and unique digestive structure that makes it difficult for them to eat and digest different food types.
Their digestive system lacks enzymes that help in the digestion of other food sources like carbohydrates.
It’s easier for them to digest meat than other types of food products.
So, as much as your ferret may enjoy a few pieces of your dog’s food, its small body isn’t meant for processing and extracting the different types of nutrients in dog food.
Your dog’s food isn’t beneficial to your ferret, for it doesn’t meet your nutritional requirement.
Therefore, it can cause more harm than good.
It can bring about serious health issues for your ferret and possibly cause death.
2. Why is Dog Food Bad for Your Ferret
As discussed above, ferrets and dogs have different nutritional needs; therefore, what works and might be healthy for your dog is not beneficial for your long and lithe friend.
Why is this so?
Here are some reasons why it wouldn’t be a good idea to feed your ferret with dog food.
Different Nutritional Needs
Feeding your ferret dog food will result in incomplete nutrients, which in turn can cause illness.
Dog food contains different proportions of food content that your ferret may not necessarily need.
Dog food doesn’t provide enough proteins needed by ferrets.
It provides high amounts of carbohydrates, which are very hard for ferrets to digest.
Dog food contains plant-based proteins with high fiber that isn’t good for your ferret, for they are carnivores, and they get their protein from animal-based products.
How about those essential amino acids that are building blocks for proteins for our tiny friend?
Ferrets require enough amino acids, such as taurine, methionine, and cysteine.
Taurine is vital for the proper functioning of your ferret’s eyes and heart; dog food has an insufficient taurine provision, which can cause adverse negative health issues.
Methionine and cysteine are also crucial in your ferret’s diet, and dog food, mostly made from plants, doesn’t contain them in abundance. Their deficiency can also cause illness that can be fatal to your ferret.
Your adorable ferret has a higher metabolism rate than your dog; hence it will require more fats not available in your dog’s food.
The fats are essential to your ferret as they help in the storage of vital vitamins required for the prevention of conditions such as a weak immune system and anemia.
Therefore, dog food isn’t advisable for your ferret because it doesn’t provide a balanced diet with proper nutrients, resulting in making your ferret sick.
What happens after your ferret eats dog food?
Ferrets, compared to dogs, are smaller.
Their small body size means that a ferret has a shorter and simple digestive tract while that of a dog is longer because of its bigger body size.
It also means your ferret will use a few hours to process food and get rid of your dog’s waste.
The two pets have completely different digestive systems, so what a dog can digest, a ferret will have a hard time.
The digestive tract of a ferret is only capable of digesting meat properly.
Therefore, it can’t digest dog food, which has high carbohydrates, sugars, and fiber content.
Your ferret requires using a lot of energy to digest food contents other than proteins.
The energy wasted can be used for other functions such as breaking down of proteins that they need.
How do you make sure your little energetic pet gets enough calories?
Well, for starters, avoid dog food.
Ferrets have a high metabolism rate, and they need to feed at least twice a day; this isn’t inclusive of snacks that they need after at least four hours.
Yes, they have quite an appetite, and that’s how you make sure they get enough calories.
As we have seen, dog food does not have the nutritional benefits required by your ferret, therefore giving your ferret dog food and as many times as required will result in health issues that can be detrimental to your pet.
Size of Food
Ferrets are cute and energetic.
They are also tiny, with tiny legs, small teeth, and eyes.
Therefore, dog food is bigger and harder hence makes it very hard for ferrets to chew and swallow.
Dog food can also have sharp edges that can hurt the small teeth and mouth of your ferret.
3. Side Effects and Risks of Feeding Ferrets with Dog Food
If you consider whether to provide your ferret with dog food and wonder what the risks might be, you came to the right place.
Ferrets can have serious side effects and become ill if fed with dog food; worst of all, they can die.
So, what are the risks that dog food can cause to your ferret?
Urinary Tract Stones
Dog food can lead to urinary tract stones because of its plant-based proteins.
When broken down, plant-based proteins create products that, when grouped, can form stones in their urinary tract.
These stones are painful, and they make your ferret have trouble urinating or urinate excessively.
Other symptoms include cloudy or bloody urine, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
If you detect these symptoms, get an urgent diagnosis and treatment for your ferret from your vet.
The treatment will involve a simple surgery to remove the urinary tract stone, and your ferret will be safe and healthy.
Dog food contains a high content of complex carbohydrates and fibers, which are hard for your ferret to digest.
The high content of carbohydrates results in excess glucose in your ferret’s blood, causing the development of insulinoma.
Also, because they lack the cecum, which produces bacteria responsible for breaking down carbohydrates, the excess carbohydrates may cause severe intestinal issues.
The symptoms of insulinoma may include mild or severe seizures, excessive salivation, weakness in their back legs, and lethargy.
If your ferret experiences, these symptoms pay a visit to your doctor for early diagnosis and treatment.
Ferrets are intelligent pets, and they know when they are not getting sufficient nutrition from your dog’s food diet, this makes them increase the quantity of the food they eat.
Excessive food can cause adverse health effects and can cause obesity in your ferret.
You can control obesity by providing exercise, and a healthy diet meant for your ferrets.
As we have already discussed, ferrets require adequate amino acids to live, and taurine is one of those vital amino acids which are essential in the good functioning of the heart and eyes.
Dog food, however, doesn’t contain taurine.
Lack of taurine may lead to your ferret developing a health condition referred to as dilated cardiomyopathy.
It is a life-threatening disease that can cause congestive heart failure.
The symptoms may include fluid building up in the chest and abdomen, elevated respiratory rate, lethargy, coughing, and loss of appetite and weight.
Therefore, these symptoms are tough to detect, making it very hard for your vet to diagnose and treat.
The improper nutritional value provided by dogs can be a disaster for your ferret.
Dog food lacks essential vitamins, which are crucial in protecting your ferret’s body from adverse health conditions.
These conditions include a weak immune system, anemia, stunted growth, night blindness, lack of coordination, and clotting disorder.
That is not what you want for your furry and cute friend.
You do not want them to get diseases and health issues that you could have easily avoided.
Therefore, be vigilant and carefully examine what you feed to your ferret to avoid health issues that may cause you another trip to your vet.
4. Proper Diet for Ferrets
You want to keep your ferret happy, healthy, and safe to enjoy its natural life span.
As we have seen, dog food is not going to cut it.
So, what is suitable for your tiny friend, and what should you keep away?
Best Food for Your Ferret
Your ferret requires a diet with a high content of proteins, low amounts of fiber, and enough calorie content for its fast metabolism.
You can get ferret food ready at the pet store or cook some at home.
Commercial Ferret Food
Unlike before, where there was no available commercial ferret food, and ferrets depended on dog and cat food, now there are readily available ferret pallets.
These pallets meet your pet’s nutritional requirements and have a stamp of approval by expert veterinarians.
Yes, you can get them from your local pet store!
Ferrets pallet food can either be dry or moist.
Dry pelleted food is advised by vets to be more suitable because it lasts longer and helps to keep the ferret teeth clean.
Feeding your ferret with moist pallet food can be a little more expensive because if not eaten within 45 minutes, it should be disposed of as it develops bacteria that can cause your pet’s problems.
Ferrets also require access to clean water, especially if they are on a dry pallet diet.
The water they require should be at least three times the amount of food you give them.
Therefore, get a small bowl for your ferret, and since they can be playful at times, clip it to avoid spillage.
If you visit your pet store to get your pallet food, don’t just buy the food without checking its nutritional contents.
Look for food with the right nutrition and percentages of proteins, fats, amino acids, and fiber.
Remember, you also need to give your ferrets snacks every four hours because of their fast metabolism; therefore, grab some treats at the pet store.
Supplementary Ferret Food
In a case where you have run out of pallet food, or you cannot get any at your local pet store, you can feed your ferret with supplementary cooked meat sources.
The meals have to contain high protein content, which can be beef, fish, or chicken.
Finally, to avoid monotony try to switch up their food.
Ferrets are known to be a bit picky in their diet; therefore, mixing it up can be useful.
What to Avoid
Well, I do not have to tell you to avoid dog food as you have read how risky it can be for your ferret.
Because of the high carbohydrates and fiber content, avoid dog food at all costs.
As a responsible ferret owner, you should avoid any food with a lot of sugar; it can cause insulinomas.
Such food would include sugary treats, chocolate, dairy, vegetables, and fruits.
It would help if you didn’t feed your ferret with frozen food, whether meat or fish.
If you haven’t checked in with your vet, avoid raw meat as it can introduce internal parasites and diseases to your ferret.
Also, keep cooked bones away from your ferret because they can cause severe damage to its digestive tract if they break into small pieces.
Avoid overfeeding your ferret, for it can become overweight.
Knowing the amount of food to give to your ferret considers their age, weight, health status, activity level, and reproductive status.
You can also consult with your vet for an expert opinion.
Finally, if it has crossed your mind, whether it is okay to feed your ferret some cat food, the answer is no.
As much as both ferrets and cats are carnivores and human’s favorite cuddling buddies, you should also avoid feeding your ferret cat food.
5. What to Do Instead
If you are a multiple pet owner, it can be difficult keeping track of what your pets are eating and who is sneaking on whose bowl.
Like we have found out, dog food is not suitable for your ferret and can cause serious health issues.
How do you make sure that you keep your ferret well fed and away from raiding the dog’s bowl?
Will this be possible?
I can tell you for sure it will not be easy.
It will require some work on your part and a few adjustments for your pets.
Are you up for the task?
Well, read on to find out.
Developing a Diet plan
Create a simple diet plan for your ferret.
A diet plan may be crucial in preserving its health and avoiding health issues.
Like we have discussed, ferrets have a fast metabolism that can make them hungry in a few hours.
Therefore, it will require you to feed them every four hours.
The feeding can be a bit much, and you can forget.
To avoid your ferret going to look for any available snacks and those that the dogs may have hidden, have a feeding plan and reminder on your phone.
Ferrets only eat what’s enough for them; hence give them those small snacks to keep them satisfied and away from dog food.
Training your Ferret
Ferrets can be a little naughty.
They can develop the habit of stealing and hiding dog food for later consumption.
Can you train your ferret to keep away from dog food and unlearn this habit?
Well, the answer is yes.
However, training is easier for a baby ferret than an adult ferret.
You can teach baby ferrets from the initial stage, but teaching adult ferrets to unlearn such habits can be challenging.
Separating your Pets
Keeping your pets separated during feeding time is another right way of making sure your ferret doesn’t eat dog food.
You can keep your ferret in a different room while feeding the dog, and when done, you should remove the left-overs of the dog food so your ferret cannot access it.
You can also invest in cages.
Use the dog or ferret cage to keep the ferret in or out.
Feed your dog in the cage or keep the ferret in its cage while feeding the dog.
Remember also to store the dog food away from where your ferrets cannot access it as they are intelligent pets who can go looking for the dog food.
Fix a Meal
If you are in an emergency where you just run out of ferret food or don’t get any at your local pet store, then you can always dig into your fridge and fix your little friend a healthy and tasty meal.
Cook your ferret some fresh meat and make sure to cook it thoroughly to avoid the risk of disease.
A cooked egg is also very nutritious to your furry friend.
Dog food, weather canned, or dry isn’t healthy for your ferret because it’s low in nutritional content and can eventually cause adverse health issues for your ferret.
Try as much as possible to feed your ferret with a balanced diet that meets its specific needs; it should have high protein content and vital minerals, amino acids, and vitamins to prevent diseases.
For your question can Ferrets eat dog food?
Keep in mind that meat-based products are preferred and recommended by vets because they are nutritious.
Your ferret is an obligate carnivore with a sensitive digestive tract that cannot handle other protein sources’ digestion.
Ferrets have a fast metabolism; therefore, it would be advisable for you to come up with a meal plan with the right kinds of food and snacks that your ferret can nibble on to preserve its health.
As a responsible ferret owner, it is your responsibility to make sure you feed your pet with food with the right nutrition content to keep it away from any harm.
Therefore, it’s safe to say you should avoid giving your ferret dog food, keep it away, and store it right where your ferret cannot access it.
If you are concerned about the diet that you should provide for your ferret, consult with your vet to get expert advice.
I hope you enjoyed this article and it was helpful; all the best to you and your furry friend.