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What Not to Feed a Ferret—Ferret Food Can Harm Your Ferret

what not to feed a ferretWhat Not to Feed a Ferret

For some reason, as ferret parents and pet parents in general, we often take pet food for granted. We assume that if something is sold as ferret food, it must be healthy for ferrets.

We know that not all human food is good for us, even though it is sold as “food”.  We have learned that many types of foods can, and often do, cause serious health problems. Some of these unhealthy “food” items are easy to recognize, such as potato chips, soda, candy… but some foods and ingredients are not so obvious. Canned and packaged foods, for example, are often loaded with sugar, salt, fat and chemicals.

So what about pet foods? If we know that human food manufacturers do not always have our health in mind, how can we assume that pet food manufacturers have our pets’ health in mind? We can’t, and we shouldn’t. Read on to learn what not to feed a ferret.

What Not to Feed a Ferret

Ferrets in particular, have very specific dietary needs. It is especially important to know what is in the food you feed your ferret. “Ferret food” is not necessarily ferret food.

As ferret parents, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves on the nutritional requirements of ferrets and to provide our ferrets with a healthy diet.

There is an extensive list of foods and ingredients that can harm your ferret–the general categories are:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Starches
  • Sugars

Ferrets are incapable of digesting carbohydrates, which are found in fruits, veggies and starches. Sugars are especially dangerous to ferrets. Consuming sugar can lead to Insulinoma–an often life-threatening disease extremely common in ferrets over 2 years of age. In minute quantities, sugars and other carbohydrates probably won’t do any serious harm, but if fed on a regular basis, then a ferret is at risk for disease and intestinal blockage.

While some ferret foods have been discontinued for known or unknown reasons, there are an increasing number of manufacturers that sell ferret food and ferret treats. Several ferret foods I have come across include ingredients that can harm your ferret–especially if given to your ferret frequently. Low-cost brands are often of poor quality and/or include ingredients that are unhealthy for ferrets. However, a higher price tag does not guarantee that the food is healthy for ferrets. Below are a few of the ferret food brands and ferret treats to avoid.

what not to feed a ferret

Ferret Food Can Harm Your Ferret

Brown’s Tropical Carnival Daily Diet Ferret Food

Ingredients:  Poultry Meal, Fish Meal (Source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Potato Starch, Flaxseed Meal (Source of Omega Fatty Acid), Rice Flour, Dehydrated Ground Apple, Dehydrated Ground Pineapple, Dehydrated Ground Banana, Dehydrated Ground Strawberry, Dehydrated Ground Blueberry, Dehydrated Ground Raspberry, Dehydrated Ground Sweet Potato, Dehydrated Ground Carrot

This “ferret food” should clearly not be given to ferrets! As highlighted, Brown’s Tropical Carnival Daily Diet is full of potentially harmful ingredients–primarily fruit.

Kaytee Fiesta Gourmet Variety Diet

Ingredients:  Poultry Meal, Poultry By-Product Meal, Brewers Rice, Ground Wheat, Dried Egg Product, Poultry Fat, Dehulled Soybean Meal, Soy Oil, Beet Pulp, Fish Meal, Soy Flour, Vegetable Oil (Preserved with Bht), Feeding Oat Meal, Wheat Middlings, Ground Flax Seed, Wheat Germ Meal, Corn Sugar, Brewers Dried Yeast, Salt, Dried Cane Molasses, L-Lysine, Sodium Bentonite, Poultry Digest, Dl-Methionine, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Algae Meal (Source of Omega-3 DHA), Fructooligosaccharide {a carbohydrate which is used as fiber and sweetener}…

This “ferret food” should definitely be avoided as well! As highlighted, Kaytee Fiesta Gourmet Diet also is loaded with potentially harmful ingredients–primarily starches and sugars.

Wild Harvest Ferret Food

Ingredients:   Chicken Meal, Ground Rice, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin E, Beta Carotene and Rosemary), Papaya, Pineapple, Chicken Digest, Raisin Juice, Banana Puree

Wild Harvest Ferret Food also contains several fruits and therefore is included in what not to feed a ferret.

what not to feed a ferret

What Treats Not to Feed a Ferret

As for ferret treats, the two below are examples of treats to avoid.

N-Bone Ferret Salmon Flavor Chew Treats

Ingredients:  Wheat gluten, corn starch, vegetable glycerin, gelatin, water, corn gluten meal

The first ingredients are starches in this ferret treat–not a treat at all.

Marshall Bandits Ferret Treat

Ingredients:  Chicken Liver, Chicken By-Products (organs only), Chicken Meal, Wheat Flour, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Phosphoric Acid, Salt, Potassium Sorbate and Citric Acid and Mixed Tocopherols and Calcium Propionate and BHA (preservatives), Titanium Dioxide Color, Natural and Artificial Banana Flavor.

This ferret treat contains lots of preservatives and artificial flavors and colors, as well as starch–another example of what not to feed a ferret.

There are much better choices when it comes to healthy ferret food and healthy ferret treats. For information on healthy ferret foods and ferret treats, see What is The Best Ferret Food? Healthy or Not?

Your comments are welcome.

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10 thoughts on “What Not to Feed a Ferret—Ferret Food Can Harm Your Ferret

  1. Ferrets are such wonderful creatures. Unfortunately, because of frequent trips I a not be able to have them, and so I envy people who can keep them.
    The site is amazing with a lot of useful information that you give owners of ferrets.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I am sorry you cannot have a ferret, but please pass this website on to anyone you know that has a ferret!

  2. Can I first say that ferrets are some the cutest animals ever? Secondly, I appreciate the fact that you highlighted harmful ingredients in ferret food brands. It’s sad that some ferrets out there only have access to food that is harming them. And you make a great point about how “human food” isn’t always good for humans! That is the truth and that logic can apply to any animal. Thanks for your knowledge.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Brittany! Unfortunately, many ferret parents are unaware of the foods that can harm ferrets. What is worse is that some ferret food manufactures seem to be unaware as well. I hope that this info on ferret food that can harm ferrets will reach and inform ferret parents.

  3. Other than Ferret foods that you can buy from the pet store. Is there anything at home that is safe for them to eat? Thanks in advance.

    1. Yes, Von. Thanks for your question. There are some good quality ferret foods on the market, but some people feed their ferrets raw or homemade food. Please see my article Ferret Food Recipes, What is the Best Ferret Food and Soft Ferret Food for more info.

  4. Hi Sandra. That is interesting how these manufacturers could still produce these ferret food that aren’t meant for ferret consumption (and get away with it!). Yours are lucky you did the research and thank you for sharing this.

    1. Hi Cindy
      Yes it is amazing what manufactures can sell for ferrets and get away with it. Just like the manufactures of our food!

  5. I have a question…

    When I purchased my first ferret, it was from Petco. I was told by them (and a local pet store) that Marshall’s not only makes food and treats, but also raises most of the ferrets that are sold to pet shops in the PNW, so as a result I’ve been feeding them on a fairly exclusive diet of Marshall’s premium ferret diet. (At this point a couple years down the road I have four very healthy and happy ferrets!) At the time, it seemed to me that the breeders would know best…after reading your article I’m not so sure anymore. I’m concerned about long term effects, and their future health. What’s your advice on that? Do you have any external sources you can point me to that might help me further understand the particular needs of these adorable critters? Something that came from a veterinarian, or something equally qualifying? I’m reading a lot of articles throwing “facts” around, but so far none that actually include any credible references or case studies, e.t.c.

    Any help would be appreciated, thank you.

    1. Thanks for your question, Cliff. Yes, most ferrets in the U.S. come from Marshall’s. It’s sad that they wouldn’t make healthy ferret food and treats in this day in age. I’m happy to hear your ferrets are doing well! I would definitely switch their food to a high protein food, with very low carbs. In terms of “credible” references, I am considered credible. I compile my info from many different sources. If you want a general article written/authorized by a vet, you can check out They have many articles about ferrets.

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