Toxicity From Raisins in Ferrets

By Tammy Quinn Mckillip

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Ferrets are natural carnivores (meat-eaters), but just like us, they will eat pretty much anything that tastes good if given the opportunity. A particular favorite non-meat delicacy for some ferrets is raisins--dried or fresh--and although they are packed with vitamin C and make a healthy snack for humans, raisins are at best "junk food" for ferrets, and can even be toxic to your pet.

Moderate Treats

Keep your pet healthy and happy by providing sweet "treats" in moderation. Raisins and other dried fruits are high in carbohydrates and can cause intestinal blockages in ferrets, whose digestive systems are too short to adequately process what is mostly roughage. Blocked intestines can cause kidney damage, which may lead to death. If your ferret loves fruit, cut a raisin into fourths, and offer the juicy bits throughout the day. Limit your pet to no more than two raisins a day, or consider feeding your ferret kibble that is flavored with raisin juice.

Best Ferret Diet

Feed your ferret a diet made up of high-quality animal fats and proteins to ensure it receives the nutrition it needs. Because ferrets lack an intestinal cecum, they cannot digest vegetable and fruits properly and will gain no nutritional value from ingesting these foods, as much as they may enjoy them. Their intestinal tracts are short, which means they have less time than most omnivores to draw nutrients from the foods they eat. Choose a food source that contains a minimum of 34 percent protein and 20 percent fat. Check the packaging to be sure that at least three of the first six ingredients are animal proteins or fats. Food that is formulated specifically for ferrets or high-quality kitten foods are readily available at your local pet store and will provide your ferret with the nutrition it needs to thrive.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Limit the amount of raisins or other nutrient-lacking "treats" in your ferret's diet to reduce the potential for nutritional deficiency-related diseases, including kidney and renal disorders, retinal atrophy, cataracts, cardiomyopathy, lymphosarcoma, insulinoma or pancreatic cancer. Call the vet immediately if your ferret exhibits signs of illness, which may include: reduced appetite, less water consumption, reduced muscle tone, lethargy, cloudy or discharge-filled eyes, changes in sleeping habits, unusual aggression or unsteady gait. Short of prevention, early detection of nutritional toxicity or deficiency-related illness is the best hope for your ferret's survival.

Protecting Your Ferret from Harmful Food Toxins

Guard against accidental toxin exposure by keeping your ferret out of garbage cans, kitchen sinks and other places where it could ingest harmful substances and foods that may be nutritionally toxic. These include the artificial sweetener, Xylitol, chocolate, caffeine, grapes, raisins, Macadamia nuts, zinc, tobacco products, cleaning products, some tree barks and house plants, medicines, pesticides and gardening products. Keep your ferret contained, or closely monitor its whereabouts to ensure its safety when running loose in the home.

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