In a word, NO. You should never give your ferret chocolate because to a ferret, chocolate is what cyanide is to humans. The poison in question turns out to be theobromine, a common ingredient in chocolate.
While theobromine can also be poisonous for humans, we metabolize it much faster than ferrets. Our larger mass means that the same quantity of theobromine will have less of an effect on us than on a considerably smaller ferret.
For perspective, the average ferret weighs about 1.5 lbs. and a normal dose of chocolate is about 50 grams (1.6 oz.). It isn’t too hard to visualize the outcome when an animal tries to eat a tenth of its mass!
In fact, all kinds of sugar and carbohydrates are toxic to ferrets.
Signs of Chocolate Poisoning
If your ferret somehow gets chocolate, look out for the following symptoms of chocolate poisoning:
- Muscle spasms/tremors
- Signs of heart arrhythmia
- Elevated body temperature
- Excessive thirst
- Signs of depression
The takeaway here is that chocolate is toxic for your ferret.
What to Do When Your Ferret Eats Chocolate?
Should your ferret ever ingest chocolate, immediately give it lots of water to flush it out. You can also try to get it to vomit. If it seems fine, then no harm, no foul, but as a precaution, I would go to the Vet and closely monitor it for a couple of days.
Seek Medical Assistance
Ingestion of large quantities of chocolate requires immediate medical attention, so you should rush your pet to the veterinarian. If one is not immediately available, seek help from the nearest animal emergency center.
As your pet is very energetic and eats several small meals a day, think 7-10, it will actually excrete what it eats within 3-4 hours of eating.
However, the veterinarian may perform several procedures to clear your ferret’s digestive system from the ingested chocolate. Enemas and emetics are safe and reliable options.
Preventing Chocolate Poisoning
As the saying goes "Prevention is better than cure."
This ultimately boils down to prevention. Being a responsible ferret owner means you store your chocolate and other confectioneries in a place your pet cannot easily access. Clean up after yourself when you eat sweets and don’t leave any crumbs lying around.
Make sure not to leave any sweets lying around any place your pet frequents. This includes your ferret’s play place.
Remove any hazards before letting your ferret out and always clean up after it is done. Scour those nooks and crannies and remember to look under the bed.
Always check to see if you have any chocolate missing. Ferrets are mischievous creatures and like hiding things. Check if your sock drawer is now home to a chocolate bar and clear it out. Frequently look for such stashes.
Well, What Should My Ferret Eat?
If chocolate and sugary foods are out of the question, you might be wondering what food items you should focus on.
The first thing to know about your ferret’s nutritional needs is that a ferret is what is described as a “true carnivore,” meaning not only does it gets all its nutrients from animal flesh, but it also does not have the necessary biology to digest plants.
You would think that gorging down a steak daily is what Mr. Nibbles needs, but you would be wrong. Surely, you have noticed your pet’s shiny fur coat. Maintaining a healthy coat requires essential vitamins and minerals which your daily steak will not provide.
Ferrets specifically need lots of proteins and fats, but most kitty kibble and dog food are deficient in these aspects. Dietary advice for ferrets says that:
- 30-40% of your ferret’s diet should be protein
- 15-20% of the diet should consist of fat
Ideally, ferret kibble should meet your needs and the various varieties available in stores are sure to satisfy the pickiest pet.
You can read my review on the top 5 kibble for ferrets.
Ferrets naturally don’t eat much fish in their wild habitats. Meat like beef, lamb or chicken is more to their liking. They also eat mice and rats. Remember that your pet is a carnivore and meat is necessary. Do try to incorporate dry food (i.e., pellets) to help it masticate and keep its teeth in shape.
If you are having trouble finding quality ferret food, kitten food will do in a pinch. Just make sure it doesn’t have any carbohydrates (grains, maize, etc.) because ferrets can’t digest them.
In the wild, ferrets hunt for prey and you may want to help by giving them whole (raw) animals. This may seem unappetizing to you but is good for your ferret and keeps it in tip-top shape.
The best feeding practices include giving your pet a variety of food to make sure it gets the diverse nutrients it needs.
Steer Clear of This Stuff
Chocolate isn’t the only thing you need to be careful about. Many everyday food items that your dog or cat may eat without a problem can spell disaster for your ferret:
- Vegetables: As previously mentioned, ferrets can’t process fibrous vegetables, which can cause a bad belly ache or intestinal blockage.
- Alcohol: This may be obvious, but the internet is replete of videos of ferrets doing crazy things under the influence. Please be a responsible ferret owner and never leave your booze out in the open. Not only does this harm the pet, but it also violates the precious bond of trust you share with your pet.
- Irregularly shaped foodstuff: Stick to the round stuff as irregular shapes can damage your pet’s mouth or worse.
- Sugar: Some ferrets like sugary foods, but treats with a high glycemic index will dangerously alter your pet’s blood sugar.
A Word of Advice
Ferret owners may have different opinions on how you should clean your pet, where it should sleep and so forth, but the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that feeding your pet wholesome pet food is the best way to ensure its dietary requirements are met.
We all want our pets to have the best quality of life possible, and a good diet goes a long way in securing a happy and healthy life for Mr. Nibbles.