Skunks in nature aren't exactly picky about what they'll eat. The nocturnal creatures are opportunistic diners who routinely munch on fish, plants, insects and beyond. When they're kept as exotic pets, however, they require balanced and well-rounded diets that don't include a lot of fat. Since pet skunks often overeat, obesity is a common problem.
Domesticated skunks aren't legal as pets in all states. Be sure to check the regulations where you live before you get a pet skunk.
Skunk Diet Basics
Diets high in protein are beneficial for pet skunks. Skunks generally do well when they're fed lean proteins such as fish or chicken, cooked grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. Leafy greens in particular make good veggies for skunks. Good vegetables and fruits to feed skunks include:
Apart from fish and chicken, insects, fish, eggs and beans are all great protein sources for them, as well. As far as carbohydrates go, skunks flourish when they're fed:
- Whole grain bread
- Sweet potatoes
Skunks who reside in captivity in zoo environments are often fed commercial insectivore, omnivore or carnivore diets. A number of different brands manufacture these foods for animals such as skunks. Some owners buy these commercial foods in bulk and freeze them.
Dog food is often part of skunk diets. Dry dog food in small portions can stop tartar accumulation in skunks and help them to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Note that processed foods in general are a no-no for skunks; they don't digest them easily. It's important to feed your pet skunk fresh foods.
Pet Skunks and Obesity
Be careful with the portions you feed your pet skunk, as skunks are vulnerable to obesity when they live in captivity. You can help keep your skunk's weight under control by making sure he gets sufficient exercise. Pet skunks often lead sedentary lifestyles. If your pet skunk eats too much and becomes overweight or obese, that could lead to medical conditions such as fatty liver disease. Keep your skunk healthy and happy for years and years by making sure he doesn't overeat and develop a weight problem.
Carnitine and Taurine Needs
Skunks are vulnerable to heart disease. Heart problems in skunks sometimes are triggered by insufficient amounts of carnitine or the amino acid taurine in their diets. Strong taurine sources include insects, fish, eggs, oatmeal, yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese. Although carnitine is in the majority of meats, beef has especially high levels of it. If you're concerned about the possibility of heart disease due to insufficient carnitine or amino acid in your skunk's food, speak to your exotic animal veterinarian about dietary adjustments. She may recommend L-carnitine or taurine supplementation.
Sufficient calcium is a vital for a proper pet skunk diet. Skunks who don't consume adequate amounts of calcium are susceptible to metabolic bone disease. If a skunk has an extreme deficiency in calcium, he may develop thin and feeble bones that break easily. If a skunk consumes excessive meat and at the same time doesn't get enough calcium, he has high odds of experiencing bone fractures. You can help protect your pet skunk from getting a calcium deficiency by regularly giving him foods that possess the mineral. Examples include:
- Dark leafy greens
- Green snap beans
- Cottage cheese.
If you speak to an exotic veterinarian, she may suggest a calcium supplement for your pet.
Seek the Advice of an Exotic Veterinarian
Plan your pet's daily diet with the assistance of an exotic veterinarian who has ample experience working with skunks. She can help you to decide whether or not to feed your pet fresh foods, commercial foods or a combination of both. Don't feed your pet skunk any food unless you have the "OK" from your vet. Many seemingly innocuous foods are actually hazardous to skunks. Examples of foods that are not suitable for skunks include:
- Sunflower seeds
Avoid feeding your skunk foods that are formulated for cats. The protein levels in cat foods are excessive for skunks and could bring on kidney and liver troubles.
- The Center For Avian & Exotic Medicine: Spaying or Neutering Your Pet Skunk
- National Geographic: Skunk
- Exotic Pets Vet: The Pet Skunk
- Oregon Veterinary Medical Association: Obesity in Exotic Animals
- Skunk Haven: Nutrition and Diet
- PBS Nature: Do Skunks Make Good Pets?
- SmallAnimalChannel.com: The One Skunk Health Issue You Can’t Ignore
- Avian Exotic Animal Clinic of Indianapolis: Care of Skunks
- Skunk Haven: Foods