“A pineapple a day keeps worries away. Stay calm and eat berries”. These are just a few cliches that remind us of the benefits of eating fruits. If you're a new ferret owner, you would probably love for your little pets to enjoy the same goodness, right? But before you hand them a piece of blueberry, let’s try and answer the magic question first – can ferrets eat fruits?
We all know that fruits contain tons of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and strong antioxidants. This helps us fight infection. It also helps reduce the risk of getting cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Having a regular serving of fruits as part of your diet helps you achieve a happier and healthier life. But does it have the same effect on ferrets?
Unfortunately, it doesn't. While people may enjoy the benefits of eating fruits, ferrets do not. Keep on reading and find out why.
Why Can’t My Ferrets Eat Fruits?
A very small serving of fruit once a week will not cause serious complications and is sometimes necessary. Aside from offering this as a treat, there are cases wherein your ferret may need some of the vitamins found in fruits (like in cases of scurvy) to treat or correct a nutritional deficiency. But generally speaking, fruits should not be a part of a ferret’s diet for the following reasons.
- Fruits are high in sugar and contain complex carbohydrates. These are nutrients that a ferret’s digestive system cannot process. Ingesting large amounts can cause accumulation of unused carbohydrates in your pet's system. This may cause your ferrets to suffer intestinal diseases.
- When ingested, the high carbohydrate content of certain fruits may also increase your ferret's blood glucose level. This leads to insulinoma, which is a rare type of cancer.
- Fruits also contain plant-based proteins that are unnecessary for ferrets. Accumulation of these in your pet’s system may cause the formation of urinary tract stones. These are Calcium Oxalate deposits that are painful and life-threatening for your ferrets.
- The high-fiber content of fruits is beneficial to humans but causes gall bladder disease on ferrets.
- Ferrets are creatures with small teeth. They lack grinding molars and cannot chew very well. The sugar content of fruits can damage their teeth. Your ferrets may also find it difficult to chew on some fruits and some of it may injure their oral mucosa. Food that is not well ground may also block their airways and cause choking.
- Some fruits are acidic and may cause stomach upset and diarrhea. If left untreated, this may result in malnutrition, dehydration, and even death. Examples of acidic fruits include lemon, oranges, grapefruits, and limes.
Fruits as Occasional Treat or Reward
Keep in mind that ferrets can’t absorb plant-based protein and carbohydrates. If you feed them a banana, it will have the same form when excreted. The amount of fruit you give to your ferrets will not improve its lack of nutritional value. Moreover, feeding them with large amounts of fruits can be harmful to your pet.
Generally, ferrets are safe from any serious harm as long as fruit feeding is kept in moderation. As a treat, you may give them a small serving (about half a teaspoon) of apple, banana, or berries. One other ferret favorite will be raisins. They love it.
It's important to remove the skins of fruits and cut it in thin slices before feeding it to your ferrets. This is to avoid having some pieces stuck in your ferret’s esophagus and cause blockage.
Overall, a ferret’s digestive system may be able to tolerate fruits, but only in very small amounts. They may have it once a week, and feeding should be closely supervised. When used exclusively as a once a week treat, fruits can be an alternative to commercial food. It can even save your pet from the chemicals and preservatives found in some poor-quality commercial treats.
What to Look Out For
When giving fruits as treats to your ferrets, keep an eye for any danger signs. Make note of any noticeable change in their excrement. Seedy poops can be a sign of indigestion. Watery stools are a sign of diarrhea. Observe changes in their moods and behaviors. Lethargy and inactivity are signs of possible sickness. Feeding should be stopped when any of these changes arise. If the problem persists, then it may be time to have a trip to the vet.
Going back to the question as to whether your ferrets can eat fruits, the answer is yes. A bite or two every week won't hurt and has to be under close supervision. Again, fruits can pass as a treat, but you should never make it a regular part of your ferret’s diet. As obligate carnivores, they need a specific diet to meet their nutritional needs. After all, the right food along with a lot of love will go a long way in keeping them happy and healthy.