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The domestic ferret (Mustela putorious furo) is a strict carnivore, also referred to as an obligate carnivore. Its dentition and gastrointestinal tract are adapted to a carnivorous diet. Its ancestor, the European polecat (Mustela putorius), feeds on birds and other small vertebrates. Domesticated ferrets have been fed mink feeds, cat foods, and now mostly subsist on commercial ferret diets formulated specifically to meet their needs.
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Background – To survey macronutrients and two micronutrients (copper and zinc) in commercial ferret diets to investigate dietary factors that may influence copper-associated hepatopathy in ferrets. Methods – Proximate analysis and copper and zinc concentrations of 12 commercially-available dry adult maintenance ferret diets. Medians were calculated on a dry matter and metabolizable energy basis and compared to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutrient profiles for cats and the National Research Council (NRC) recommendations for mink. Results – Calculated metabolizable energy of diets ranged from 3,830 to 4,305 kcal/kg dry matter (DM). Crude protein ranged from 89.1-151.4 g/1000 kcal, nitrogen-free extract ranged from 13.9-124.7 g/1000 kcal, and crude fat ranged from 29.6-52.4 g/1000 kcal. The median copper concentration was 9.0 mg/1000 kcal and 37.8mg/kg DM, 7 times the AAFCO minimum for cats and 6.3 times the recommendation for mink. Median zinc concentration was 64.2 mg/1000 kcal and 243.1mg/kg DM, 3.4 times the AAFCO minimum for cats and 3.7 times the NRC recommendation for mink. The median zinc to copper ratio was 6.7. Conclusions and Clinical Relevance - There is considerable variation in micro- and macronutrient composition among tested commercial ferret diets. High copper concentrations in ferret diets may contribute to copper-associated hepatopathy in ferrets.
Chapter
In this section, species are listed and grouped according to similar gastrointestinal tract anatomy and physiology and the type of foods they consume. For each species, elements and their associated clinical signs caused by deficiency, toxicity, or exposure are listed.
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Ferrets have become a common companion animal. But no data are available on the French population of ferrets. The goal of the survey was to characterise this population, including demographic characteristics, husbandry, reported medical care and feeding habits. Complete data were available for 1205 pet ferrets in 709 households. Most ferrets (86·1 %) lived indoors, 1 % received only artificial lighting, and 47 % chewed their cage. For 60 % of the ferrets, body weight was higher in winter and lower in summer. Neutered ferrets (58·5 % of males and 62·9 % of females) appeared lighter than intact ferrets of comparable age. A majority (52·4 %) of ferrets received a mix of commercial foods and fresh foods, but 28·6 % were offered no commercial foods. Data were analysed using several multivariable logistic regression models including age, sex, castration, food type and artificial lighting developed for four clinical outcome (lethargy and/or insulinoma, dental problems, diarrhoea and/or bird-seed stools and alopecia). Predictors of four clinical outcomes (lethargy, dental disease, diarrhoea and alopecia) were examined using multivariable logistic regression, with age, sex, neuter status, food type and artificial lighting as the exposure variables. Aged ferrets were more likely to have lethargy, insulinoma, dental problems and alopecia. Ferrets with artificial lighting were more likely to show alopecia. Additionally, ferrets fed commercial food only or a mixed diet (both commercial food and fresh food) were more likely to have lethargy, insulinoma, dental problems, diarrhoea and/or bird-seed stools compared with ferrets fed fresh food only. We also found a significant association between neutering and alopecia. It is to our knowledge the first description of the French population of the ferret as a companion animal.
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Endocrine neoplasia is the most common tumor type in domestic ferrets, especially in middle-aged to older ferrets. Islet cell tumors and adrenocortical tumors constitute the major types of endocrine neoplasms. Insulinoma is a tumor that produces and releases excessive amounts of insulin. Evaluation of fasted blood glucose levels provides a quick diagnostic assessment for the detection of insulinomas. Use of glucocorticoids, diazoxide, and diet modification are some of the medical treatment options for insulinomas. Adrenocortical neoplasia in ferrets usually overproduces one or more sex hormones. Sex hormones which can result in progressive alopecia, vulvar swelling in females, and prostagomegaly in males. Abdominal ultrasonography and sex hormone assays can be used to diagnose adrenocortical neoplasms. Drugs such as leuprolide acetate, deslorelin acetate, and the hormone melatonin can be used to treat adrenocortical neoplasms in ferrets when surgery is not an option.
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Ferrets are an increasingly popular pet in the United States. They are active, gregarious pets that delight their owners with playful antics. One of the issues that ferret owners and veterinarians have had to deal with is their shortened life span. Although literature cites the life span of the ferret as 8 to 10 years, most veterinarians see ferrets as "old" at as early as 3 years of age. Most information on senior ferrets has focused on neoplastic diseases. This article discusses husbandry and nutritional issues of the aging ferret, more commonly seen geriatric diseases, and diagnostic and treatment options.