Can ferrets eat dog food?

Ferrets are highly inquisitive pets. They enjoy exploring every corner of the house and are likely to feed on whatever snack they find lying around. If you happen to own a ferret, chances are you may have caught them digging into your dog’s food bowl. But question is, can ferrets eat dog food?

Much of this concern stems from the fact that dog food is the most accessible pet food in the household. Dogs can get to it, cats can get to it, and so can ferrets. Your little kits can easily get a bite of leftover canine treats and get hooked on it.

Knowing whether eating canine food is safe for their pets is important for ferret owners. First of all, regular dog food is usually cheaper and easier to find than standard ferret food. For pet owners, this is a more convenient option and a more cost-effective way of feeding their kits. However, the practice of including dog food in your ferret’s diet may not be a good option. Below are some of the reasons why.

Why Can't Ferrets Eat Dog Food?

Dogs are omnivores. Like humans, they get nourishment and survive from eating a wide array of food. They can absorb protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber from different food sources. Ferrets are obligate carnivores.

Their small digestive systems are only built to absorb protein that comes with the meat they eat. While they may snack on whatever food they can find, they won't be able to process or absorb nutrients that come from non-animal sources.

  • Ferrets have short and small digestive tracts. They are capable of processing food in very little amounts. Feeding them with dog food instead of meat or ferret food may result in insufficient nutrient absorption. This can be detrimental to your ferret’s health.
  • Dogs and Ferrets have different nutritional requirements. Being obligate carnivores, ferrets need much higher levels of protein and amino acid in their diet. They also need plenty of Taurine for good eyesight. These dietary requirements can be met with an all-meat diet or commercial ferret food.
  • Dog food nutrients are not only inappropriate for ferrets. Those found in the market contain high levels of sugar, starch, carbohydrates, and fiber. Ingestion of these can cause serious health concerns for your ferrets. This may include diarrhea, cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and in some cases, death.
  • Ferrets have small mouths and oral cavities. Regular dog foods are usually too large and difficult for ferrets to chew. This can make chewing difficult and can even injure their teeth and oral mucosa.

How Do Your Keep Your Ferrets From Eating Dog Food?

Because ferrets are naughty and inquisitive by nature, they can wander about and hide or steal a few kibbles from your doggie's food bowl. While the very little amount may not cause serious concerns, repeated ingestion of dog food can have serious ill effects on your ferret's health.

  • As a responsible pet owner, it’s your job to ensure that your dog’s food is kept away from your ferret’s reach.
  • After each meal, check and ensure that your pet doggie’s food bowl is cleared of any remaining food debris. This includes checking the floors and surrounding areas from where your dog feeds.
  • Dog food packages should be properly disposed, and should not be left where the ferrets can discover or dig. If you aren’t extra careful, you might just discover your naughty kits snacking on your dog’s treats.
  • When feeding your pooches, try to secure your ferret in a comfortable cage or keep him away in another part of the house until the dogs are done feeding.

Is There Any Dog Food Brand Acceptable For Ferrets?

In general, even the best quality dog foods in the market are not suitable to meet your ferrets’ dietary requirements. Currently, none contains high enough protein and amino acids necessary for a healthy ferret diet. And as mentioned above, regular canine food contains a lot of starch, carbohydrate, sugar, and extenders which can have disastrous effects on your ferret's health. It’s ok to give them a kibble as a form of treat once in a while, but keep in mind that there is no dog food good enough for a ferret.


Having a pet is somewhat the same as having a child in the household. Like children, your pets rarely know how to classify food as being healthy or not.

Therefore, it's your job as a responsible pet owner to ensure that unhealthy food is kept away from your ferret's reach. While a kibble or two may do no harm, it is best to keep dog food out of your little pet’s diet. After all, the key to a happy and healthy ferret is by giving them nutritious and ferret-friendly food.

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