Home » Oil Supplements: The Hows, Whys, And Huhs?

Oil Supplements: The Hows, Whys, And Huhs?

Do you feed your ferrets any oil or vitamin supplements, such as Ferretone? Do you offer salmon oil or perhaps a different oil instead?

Oils provide ferrets with many essential nutrients, and offer obvious skin and coat benefits. There is nothing quite like a fuzzy so soft and cuddly their fur feels like fleece. But do you know what else lurks in Ferretone?

Sure, ferrets love it. Ferrets love most oily, greasy things as fats are an important energy source for their high metabolisms. And certainly Ferretone comes in handy in a number of training and grooming situations. But is it the best choice for an oil supplement for your ferret?

Ferretone is a commercially-available oil and vitamin supplement made by 8-in-1 Pet Products, and the ingredients are as follows: Soybean oil, cod liver oil, lecithin, wheat germ oil, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, biotin, mono and diglycerides, BHT and propyl paraben (as preservatives).

As obligate carnivores, plant oils, while offering some benefits, aren’t as easily absorbed as animal oils. Ferretone is mostly soybean oil and knowing how prone to endocrine issues ferrets are, I strongly suggest avoiding soy products for ferrets entirely. Soy contains estrogen analogues that have been recently reported to negatively impact human development, and have been linked to early puberty in children, even. It isn’t a far stretch then to assume that genistein, one of the estrogen-mimicking isoflavones in soy, could be partly responsible for the high incidence of adrenal gland disease seen in American ferrets these days.

Beyond the soy issue, Ferretone offers no vitamin or nutrient that isn’t already in your ferret’s diet (especially if you feed a balanced raw diet such as one via my consultation services!) and in fact by feeding too much Ferretone, your ferret could potentially reach toxic levels of many of the nutrients in the product, especially if you feed a raw diet or soup that includes liver! Lastly, Ferretone is preserved with two controversial chemicals, BHT and propyl paraben, that have been linked to several issues including hyperactivity in children and certain cancers. Both are still poorly understood in terms of safety but because parabens have been found in human breast tumor tissue, it is reasonable to be cautious about its use. Again, because it is involved in the endocrine system in some way, my suggestion would be to steer clear simply because there are a lot of unknowns about the product and how safe it truly is, especially on an animal prone to endocrine-related hyperplasia and cancer.

Many pet owners want to provide a source of Omega-3s to their ferrets and this is of course an important nutrient for all life, ferrets included. “Essential fatty acids” (EFAs) is a broad term for those fatty acids that are required in the diet as the body is unable to synthesize them, but the body needs them to perform certain functions. Most people have a general understanding that Omega-6 fatty acids are fairly abundant in foods, whereas the less-abundant Omega-3s are generally supplemented. However, I think it is important to go over the role each EFA has in the body, and sources in which to find each.

Omega-3s: There are a number of fatty acid chains that are considered Omega-3s, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-3s are known to have anti-inflammatory properties and for this can be useful in the treatment of arthritis or other joint pain disorders, irritable bowel disease or syndrome, and various other chronic pain issues. They are also instrumental in mood and mental development, and because of this make a difference in the behavior and social intelligence level of a companion animal, such as a ferret. A study linked supplementing puppies with DHA to increasing their train-ability  which is interesting in that it suggests the willingness to be trained and work with a human is part of a broader social intelligence. Omega-3s may also have benefits that involve cardiovascular function and health. Sources of omega-3s include cold water fish (such as salmon, sardine, mackeral, and halibut) and grass-fed meats and grass-fed eggs.

Omega-6s: Again, there are a number of fatty acid chains that are grouped under Omega-6’s, the most commonly talked about being Linoleic acid and Arachidonic acid. Omega-6s are required in the diet to some degree, but oftentimes not to the degree that they are present in modern processed diets, both for pets and for humans. Kibbled diets, Ferretone, etc contain high levels of Omega-6s in comparison to the amount of Omega-3s that are contained therein. Diets high in Omega-6s have been linked to inflammation, arthritis, certain mental disorders, and certain cancers (including breast and prostate, both endocrine-related.) Foods high in Omega-6s include vegetable oils (except flax, hemp, and chia oils,) as well as many nuts, seeds, factory-farmed meats, poultry, and eggs, and grains.

Ideally, a diet should have an 3:6 ratio of at least 1:4, but as close to 1:1 as possible. Omega-3s are beneficial and counterbalance the negative effects that excess Omega-6s may have over time.

My suggestion would be to include a variety of animal-based oils for your ferrets, either mixed into their food or as a treat. Salmon oil is easily found at most pet supply stores, as well as various other fish oils. Be sure to steer clear of cod liver oil or other fish liver oils as these contain high levels of vitamin A. Vitamin A excess in humans is easily excreted out via urine, but in carnivores, Vitamin A is stored in the liver and kidneys and can build up over time, creating toxicity. Vitamin A is best administered in carefully calculated amounts once weekly, through a liver or other organ meal. Another animal-based oil option that is gaining popularity is emu oil, found in the popular Totally Ferret Vivify. Emu oil has been lauded by natural health enthusiasts as having multiple health benefits including having topical anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and wound-healing benefits. As a dietary supplement, it has been suggested it can assist with inflammation of the bowel due to poor digestion, IBD/IBS, and colitis. It is also a rich source of oleic acid, an Omega-9 fatty acid. Omega-9s are not considered to be EFAs (essential fatty acids,) but having a dietary supply of them is still a wise idea.

As an interesting and perhaps significant note, extra virgin olive oil, which is high in oleic acid, has been shown to prevent and treat infections of helicobactor pylori in humans (a common stomach infection that can cause ulcers.) Ferrets suffer from a similar strain of ulcer-causing helicobactor, h. mustelae, and it is under study whether olive oil has the same effect on ferrets suffering from ulcers and gastritis caused by h. mustelae infection. Emu oil, because it has a high oleic acid content, likely has similar effects.

I understand most ferrents use Ferretone as a treat, tool to keep ferrets still for grooming, nail trimming, and photo ops, as well as to improve skin & coat. When feeding an appropriate diet, the vitamins and minerals contained therein are pretty much overkill, and because Ferretone is soy-based and contains several questionable preservatives, I strongly suggest getting your ferrets onto some healthier oil supplements instead. I personally use EVOO when trimming nails (the ferrets love it, and because it is plant-based, I don’t worry so much if it gets all over me in the process. Personal preference there!) In their meals weekly, they get a variety of other oils, generally fish-based, for omega-3 supplementation. Emu oil, while expensive, is still an occasional inclusion because of its many benefits. I do, however, have one cat who simply cannot tolerate fish, even fish oils, and so for her omega-3 supplementation, I offer flax oil. However, be wary when using flax with your pets, because flax is actually a fairly common allergen in many pets. The Omega-3s in flax are also more difficult to assimilate than animal-based sources, so only use flax as a last resort.

Do you still have questions about oil supplements and what benefits they may have for your ferrets? Leave me a comment or drop me a line at mustelamania@gmail.com!

A drop of EVOO on the tummy and the girls stay busy enough for me to clip their nails.

 

15 Responses to “Oil Supplements: The Hows, Whys, And Huhs?”

  1. TJ Delp says:

    Very informative. I would appreciate your thoughts on coconut oil.

    • Hi TJ and thanks for asking! Coconut oil certainly provides a number of benefits, the major point being that it is a natural source of medium-chain fatty acids, which are an excellent energy source. Coconut oil also has some anti-inflammatory properties due to the high content of lauric acid. Lastly, in humans anyway, coconut oil has been shown to promote healthy blood cholesterol levels by raising HDL levels and lower LDL levels. Whether this effect is significant in carnivores or not is something to be researched more, but the use of virgin coconut oil (NOT hydrogenated coconut oil) as an occasional treat is certainly not a bad thing for ferrets. Mine get it perhaps once a month or so, and enjoy it heartily.

  2. Jami Ripoli says:

    Thank you for addressing this topic. Very helpful.
    You said, “In their meals weekly, they get a variety of other oils, generally fish-based, for omega-3 supplementation.”

    Two questions:
    – What oils specifically?
    and
    – What is an appropriate dosage to give a ferret daily?

  3. Sarah says:

    Hi, you mention EVOO – this being Extra Virgin Olive Oil? I don’t use ferretone as it’s difficult to get but use a locally available mix of soy, wheatgerm, olive & linseed. I have two ferrets who have daily prednisilone crushed in a teaspoon of this oil. If I stopped using this on a daily basis I’d need to find something else. They’re both meat eaters but I tried mixing it in with mince and they wouldn’t eat it, I tried with malt paste but they won’t take a lot of that before they stride off! So, rather than give the oil mix every day as I do, is there something else I could use? Other people have to feed the meds sometimes when I’m away so ease of dosing is important.
    I’m going to get some salmon oil now.

    Thanks very much!

    • Yes, EVOO is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Most plant-based oils are terrible for ferrets – soy is a bad choice because of the estrogen-mimicking phytogens, and wheat and linseed (also known as flaxseed) are common allergens for ferrets. Beyond that, the way most of those cheaper oils (non extra-virgin) are produced is pretty horrifying and leaves many toxins in the oils. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil are the only two plant-based oils I will recommend for ferrets. I use EVOO for nail trimming time, but otherwise they do not get plant-based oils. I use EVCO topically if they have skin issues, but that is rare.

      Is there a reason you are using prednisolone tablets instead of liquid? The liquid is SO much easier to give. I’ve never had a ferret turn it down, in fact my boy Tank who is on it right now loves it and thinks it’s a treat! Giving him his meds is as easy as showing him the syringe, he comes willingly and laps it right up, no restraining needed. The tablets have a terrible taste so it’s no surprise giving them has gotten to this point for you. Check with your vet to get the liquid! Your email address indicates you are in the UK – so I don’t know what the common brand name for PediaPred is over there, if it’s different than here in the US. But it’s worth asking about if you have to go to such lengths to administer.

      Hope this helps!

  4. Sarah says:

    I’ve been doing a little looking into the liquid. It doesn’t look as if it’s easily available, the vet’s practice manager is investigating for me. It certainly would be easier.

    I can’t find PediaPred but possibly the vet will.

    I have EVCO and EVOO (from organic sources so known genuine) and will try the olive tomorrow. They’re not that keen on Coconut – I put it on their tummies as it keeps it runny and they’ll lick some off.

    Thank you!

    • I don’t know how prescriptions work in the UK, but is it possible to get your vet to write a prescription out to a human pharmacy? PediaPred is commonly used in children with autoimmune issues and human pharmacies keep it in stock all the time. It may be called something else, but it is a prednisolone phosphate solution. Here there are generics and the brand name is PediaPred. That’s how I purchase it, my vet faxed over a script to my pharmacy and I pick it up there. It’s cheaper than if I were to get it through a compounding veterinary pharmacy or my own vet, because it’s not something commonly compounded for pets.

      Hope this helps!

      • Sarah says:

        I forwarded your reply to a friend with a ferret rescue and she’ll talk to the vet as she has a very good relationship with them. So hopefully we’ll get hold of that for the future. You should ask PediaPred manufacturers for a discount or something for recommendations!

        I bought about 4pints of cold-pressed, unfiltered virgin olive oil yesterday, and guess what – the spoilt little horrors won’t eat it! They started merrily licking away and after a few seconds realised it wasn’t their usual formula and stopped; I had to mix in some of the usual formula to get them to eat it. I’d hoped not to buy more formula but looks as if I’ll have to, new olive needs introducing more gently – the old one they were fine with. ah well.

        Thanks SO much for all your advice.
        Best wishes

  5. Ferret Troll says:

    My vet suggested Salmon Oil as an anti-inflammatory for a girl I took away from bad Ferrents with an old injury to her back end. I did some research and found that not all Salmon Oils are created equal. Firstly Fish Farm Salmon are missing some essential elements. Secondly Wild Caught Alaskan is the best kind. Thirdly, not all companies goes through a purification process to ensure removal of heavy metals, including mercury, PCBs and other environmental impurities. Fourth, very few companies test for these impurities. This company has it’s testing done by an independent third party I would suggest this product.

    http://www.solgar.com/SolgarProducts/Wild-Alaskan-Full-Spectrum-Omega-Softgels.htm

    Not only does this product fulfill all of the above requirements, it also contains Astaxanthin. Uses per WebMD

    Quote
    Astaxanthin is used for treating Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, stroke, high cholesterol & Macular Degeneration. It is also used for preventing cancer.
    End Quote

    http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-1063-Astaxanthin.aspx?activeIngredientId=1063&activeIngredientName=Astaxanthin&source=1&tabno=2

    As always, talk to your vet & do your research.

    Love Your Fuzzies Today, Who Knows What Tomorrow Will Bring

    The Ferrettroll & The Ferrettroll Crew

    • Trusting one’s source is of course important. The brands I use are all cold-pressed, wild-caught fish oils of pharmaceutical grade, and these are the brands I suggest when asked.

  6. […] Including one whole egg per week as a part of your ferrets’ diet is an excellent idea and an important consideration and component to the diet. Many ferrets take to eating raw eggs quite enthusiastically, and it can be an exciting treat. Varying the animal sources of eggs when possible can offer even more enrichment and nutrients, and many ferret owners especially find the small sized quail eggs to be perfect little ferret treats. Try hitting up local farm stands and farmer’s markets for free-ranging eggs from hens, heirloom breeds, and ducks – all of these provide even more nutrient-dense eggs than the traditional factory-farmed egg! Eggs from free-ranging birds or birds fed a flax seed supplemented diet contain up to five times as much omega-3 content and 39% less archachidonic acid (a form of omega-6 fatty acid) than factory-farmed eggs. That is an incredible comparison and yet another important reason why eggs should be considered as a regular part of the diet! For more information on omega-3 supplementation and why it’s important, read through this post. […]

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