(c) Ferret Info UK

Feeding Sick Ferrets

Occassionally a ferret may become sick and refuse to eat his/her normal food, when this happens seek advice of your vet to find out why this has occurred.

Such problems can arise due to blockages in the stomach, kidney problems etc. not just stomach upsets. Its essential to find out quickly why this has happened as this will help not only with the course of treatment needed for the problem, but also in terms of what foods to try to feed them (for example ferrets with Kidney disease need to go on a low protein, low phosphorous diet). In times of such illness prevention of dehydration is more important initially than feeding your ferret.

Below you will find details of commercially available foods that can be used to feed a sick ferret, recipes to make your own Duk Soup, and also advice on how to syringe feed food and medication to a poorly ferret.

Commercial supplement foods for feeding poorly ferrets

The following are some of the foods that many rescues and ferret owners have in their house for such emergencies, or some vets may prescribe, though there is no guarantee your ferret will eat these when s/he is not feeling well, sometimes you may have to resort to syringe feeding. You can also make your own liquid supplement often referred to as Duk Soup, see below.

Royal Canin Convalescence Support (50g Instant Powder Sachets)

Mix 1-2 heaped teaspoon to app 15ml warm water to produce a thin creamy liquid soup that can be served in a bowl, off a spoon or syringe fed to a poorly ferret. Very palatable and despite being made from milk protein is easily digested and well liked by many ferrets. Feed 4-5 times a day if this is all the ferret is eating.

ANALYTICAL CONSTITUENTS: Protein: 42% - Fat content: 24% - Crude ash: 7% - Crude fibres: 3% - Metabolisable energy: 4430 kcal/kg.

COMPOSITION: milk proteins, vegetable oils (soya), barley malt, minerals, egg yolk powder, vegetable fibres, fructo-oligo-saccharides, marigold extract (source of lutein), L-carnitine, Vitamin A supplement, Vitamin D3 supplement, E1 (Iron), E2 (Iodine), E4 (Copper), E5 (Manganese), E6 (Zinc), E8 (Selenium), Lecithin, Choline, Folic acid, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Pyridoxine , taurine

Available as single sachets from vets or in bulk (10x50g) direct online via sites such as Pet Drugs Online, MedicAnimal, VetUK, PetSupermarket (app £2.30 a 50g sachet, so very affordable).


Lafeber's Emeraid Exotic Carnivore

Mix 2 small scoops to app 15ml warm water to produce a thin creamy liquid soup that can be served in a bowl, off a spoon or syringe fed to a poorly ferret. Very palatable is easily digested and well liked by many ferrets. Feed 4-5 times a day if this is all the ferret is eating.

ANALYTICAL CONSTITUENTS: Protein: 37.8% - Fat content: 33.95% - Crude fibres: 4.46% - Metabolisable energy: 5142 kcal/kg.

COMPOSITION: Soy protein hydrolyzed, canola oil, corn oil, corn syrup solids, cellulose, defatted wheat germ, glutamine, ground limestone, dicalcium phosphate, DL-methionine, potassium chloride, magnesium sulfate, L-lysine, cysteine, taurine, tryptophan, vitamin A supplement, vitamin E supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, menadione sodium bisulfite complex, ethoxyquin, copper sulfate, manganese oxide, zinc oxide citric acid, mixed tocopherols, niacin supplement, calcium dipantothenate, riboflavin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, biotin, ascorbic acid, sodium selenite.

Available through online vet stores (app £11 a 100g sachet) such as Hyperdrug


Oxbow Carnivore Care

Mix 1-2 heaped teaspoons to app 15ml warm water to produce a thin liquid soup that can be served in a bowl, off a spoon or syringe fed to a poorly ferret. Very palatable is easily digested and well liked by many ferrets. Feed 4-5 times a day if this is all the ferret is eating. Accurate daily feeding dosage can be found here >

ANALYTICAL CONSTITUENTS: Protein: 45% - Fat content: 32% - Crude fibres: 3% - Metabolisable energy: 5142 kcal/kg.

COMPOSITION: Dried Whole Egg, Poultry Meal, Fish Oil, Tricalcium Phosphate, Silicone Dioxide, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Biotin, Taurine, Hydrolyzed Yeast, Sodium Benzoate, L-carnitine, L-Ascorbyl-2- Monophosphate (Vitamin C), Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Riboflavin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Pyroxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement.

Available in 100g sachets from vets or online through VetUK (app £11 a 100g sachet)

Oxbow carnivore care

Home made ferret 'Duk Soup'

Duk Soup / Duck Soup is a catch-all name for any special food used for supplemental feeding of a sick ferret. None have duck as an ingredient! The term was coined years ago when a ferret named "Lucki Duck" was fed just such a mix to help him over an illness. Since then many rescues and owners have developed their own recipes, some have lots of ingredients others are simple but just as effective. This is great for building up weight on ferrets too.

The following is inexpensive, easy to make and the ingredients are simple to find (just need a blender)...

1) Take 5 chicken wings and boil in water till the meat and skin is falling off the bone.

2) While that is cooking (or after) take 1 small mug of kibble (e.g. Supreme Science), put in a bowl and pour on boiling water
(if you do it at the end you can use the boiled water from the chicken, and leave to soak in, top up with more water as
necessary until it becomes porridge like when you mix it).

3) Strip the flesh and skin from the bones (I bin the bones and grissle, as the grissley bits turn into lumps that block syringes
if you put that in) pop into blender add water from the chicken pan and blend to a fine smooth paste then add the
moistened kibble and reblend, add more water if necessary - you are looking to make a fine houmous like paste.

4) Pour into ice cube trays or small pots, cool and freeze. Will keep in fridge for 3 days.

Thats your very basic "Duk Soup" base.

5) Defrost before using, put 1-2 heaped teaspoons/1-2 ice cubes into a bowl for a single ferret serving. Add hot water to mix
to a thin liquid soup that is warm. You can add 1 teaspoon of RCC, Hills A/D, or some Lactol for some extra nutrients for
ferrets needing a real boost. Drizzle a little ferret oil ontop to serve.

NOTE - can also add 1 teaspoon of egg yolk, or some cats milk etc for variation. With anaemic ferrets it can help to add some blended raw chicken liver just before serving for a couple of days (app 1 teaspoonful). Alternatively the base (chicken and kibble mix) can simply be mixed with hot water and served warm with nothing else addded.

Syringe feeding a ferret

Nasty tasting liquid medication

Some medication such as oral liquid Metronidazole (Flagyl, Norazole) or Enroflaxin (Baytril) tastes absolutely awful and cannot be hidden in any foods, so is best syringed direct into the ferrets mouth. This can be achieved by firmly scruffing the ferret and placing the syringe at the back of the jaw, often the scruffing will cause the ferret to yawn making it easier to squirt the liquid into the mouth, DON'T point the syringe to the back of the throat as this may cause the liquid to enter the wind pipe, instead point the syringe towards the side/front of the mouth and express the liquid into the mouth, then duck as you may find your ferret will spit. Note, there are palatable tablet forms of Enroflaxin such as XeDen which are less stressful to give than liquid baytril.

Having some ferret oil in a saucer that is immediately available for the ferret to lick after the med is given can help calm the ferret after being given the meds and get the nasty taste out of their mouth. Do not be alarmed if your ferret foams or starts pawing at its mouth after taking these medications, this does sometimes happen and the ferret oil after can help. These are nasty tasting meds but can work well with some ailments so its worth persevering if you can, but of it is too difficult do speak to your vet to see if there is an alternative medication you can be prescribed instead.

Some ferrets will take these meds if a little ribena is mixed in to the liquid (not advised for insulinomic ferrets or long term use).

Other medication

Some medications must/can be served with foods, others should be given before food or other medications so always check with your vet what is the case with the medication they are prescribing. Similarly some tablets can be crushed to powder whereas others have to be given whole so again check with your vet.

There are many different antibiotics available, some more palatable than others. Synulox PAL comes as a liquid and is strawberry flavoured and can be hidden in ferret oil, cat milk or duk soup. Similarly the tablet alternatives such as Noroclav can be crushed and mixed with oil/milk/soup.

Metacam, prescribed as a pain killer, can be hidden in ferret oil, cat milk or soup.

Zantac/Ranitidine may be prescribed as a stomach protectorant as liquid syrup or in tablet form (which can be crushed) and this can be served mixed in oil/cat milk, soup. As it does have a peppermint taste some ferrets can taste it in small amounts of oil.

Antepsin (carafate) may also be prescribed as a stomach protectorant BUT this should be administered at least 1 hour before food or any other medication, so has to be syringed.

Some tablets may be able to be given whole to some raw meat eating ferrets if wrapped in a small layer of minced beef (but do watch out for them spitting out the tablet).

With ferrets that refuse to accept medication hidden in any foods, then sometimes the only way to orally administer the meds is via syringe, with tablets this may have to be by crushing the portion of tablet to a fine powder and popping the powder into the syringe (by removing the plunger) then when the plunger is back in drawing up some tepid water into the syringe and shaking to mix the powder and water. Again check with your vets if this is OK to do with that medication.

Remember - Always seek the advice of a good ferret vet if your ferret appears poorly, ferrets hide illness well so by the time they show something is wrong by not eating, appearing lethargic etc it can be very serious and need urgent attention.