BARF- Bones and raw foods

Gremlin and Hobo enjoying their chicken mince

please be sure to scroll down because I do write updates and the most up to date update will be at the bottom and I do change the diet slightly as I go along. BARF links now have a separate page, click here to get to the links page.

As I wrote in "Ferret care", I now feed BARF to the ferrets. I started on 14/10/00, I went and got a whole minced chicken (including the bones of course) from the butchers and when I got back, I took the dry food off the kids and put bowls with the ground chicken down for them. They say that it's best to change animals over cold turkey, not slowly introduce the raw food. Have a look at Ferret care where I started writing about the BARF and how I got started.

Some of the kids were not impressed at all. I have a few meat eaters who were really happy but Rose and Jasmine looked at me like I wanted to poison them. So I hand fed them for a few meals until they started eating on their own. Barney and Spike who are with Rose and Jasmine are meat eaters and of course ate the mince without problems!

But the big group were more of a problem. I hand fed everybody for the first few meals until I saw some eat by themselves. Bella and Dana and Fox and Reno soon ate by themselves but the other 6 didn't want to.

Well, I was hand feeding Jilly, Mason and Igor before the BARF so I continued feeding them. But Baby didn't want to eat by herself so because she was pretty thin, I continued hand feeding her as she didn't have much weight that she could loose if she didn't eat. Jack didn't eat, either, so I kept feeding him because of the very suspected insulinoma, I didn't dare let him go without food for long so I fed him for about 2 weeks. But when I stopped feeding him to see if he'd eat by himself, he didn't want to eat at all! I will keep trying to get him to eat by himself but have to be careful. And I had to hand feed Tom as well because 2 days after starting BARF, he developed an abscess on his chin! He went off his food and I had to feed him and I fed him for 2 weeks until the abscess was healed. But of course he'd got used to being fed so didn't want to eat by himself. I stopped feeding him for a while to see if he'd eat but he didn't so I fed him again. A week later I stopped feeding him again and after 24 hours without food he finally ate! He's been eating fine since.

Mason is another story. He loved the meat so much, he started piling weight on! He put on about 450g during the 6 weeks he was on the meat. He was 2.125kg before which is a lot but now he is 2.55kg and he is obese. He used to get up the stairs no problem but had stopped climbing up the stairs lately. He also breathed funny like he was out of breath and had trouble breathing. So I had to somehow cut his food to make him loose weight. I only fed him twice a day rather than 3 times but he didn't loose weight. Then I fed him 3 times a day but restricted the amount he ate. I used to feed him until he was full but obviously that was too much so now I fed him much smaller quantities. And then I just stopped feeding him yesterday. I just put him in front of the food dish and he has actually been eating by himself! I've been feeding him mush for 1 1/2 years and now it looks like I won't have to feed him anymore. He had problems picking up the kibble but was fine licking mush so I thought he must be able to lick minced meat... And he can eat it but of course it takes longer and is more work for him! But maybe this way he'll loose weight...

So right now I'm hand feeding Jilly, Igor, Baby and Jack. I will see if Baby will eat on her own soon, she's put on a lovely amount of weight. And I'll continue trying to get Jack to eat. Jilly is eating liquidised mince at the moment as she didn't like the bone fragments in the mince but she has such a good appetite that I will try feeding her mince again. And I will continue feeding Igor as he is pretty sick.

The ferrets' behaviour also changed. For about 3-4 weeks they became very quiet. The group of 4 was acting normal and very active and putting on muscle weight and their bodies toned nicely and even Rose put on weight and has the prefect body now! But the big group went quiet. I think they went badly through detox as they'd been on kibble longer and were older than the group of 4. They only seemed to play when I let them out of the room at night. They used to play at night and I'd hear them when I woke up during the night but they went dead quiet. I wasn't too worried because I knew about detox. And they've been getting a lot better the last 1-2 weeks. Tom is acting like he used to, he's up a lot again and playing like mad and chasing me. Reno and Fox are wrestling again. They used to wrestle all the time but then went quiet as well but they have just started wrestling again. I see the ferrets up more again so they must be feeling better. Jilly is sooo much better on her meat diet, no more low sugars and she is feeling so much better, she actually plays and runs around better and has a cuddle on my lap after I feed her, she never used to do that and she cleans her face while she's on my lap as well which is new, all in all she's acting like she feels a whole lot better, like she is a new ferret. Jack hasn't had any more low sugars, either, and looks a lot better.

I've seen the most dramatic changes in the group of 4. They are all lean and muscly. Rose has the most beautiful coat, I've seen really good coats on dry food but have never encountered anything like Rose's coat! I've never seen a body like hers and Jasmine's in a jill. Rose has always been on the thin side and I rather have a bit of weight on the ferrets in case they get sick, at least they have some body weight that they can loose if they get sick and don't eat for a while. But Rose never put on any weight but has done so since the meat! And I can't get over her silky, soft, thick, shiny, beautiful coat, every time I pick her up I am amazed again! Jasmine is in excellent condition and Barney and Spike are my Schwarzenegger ferrets! Barney has started eating loads during the last week. They all used to eat twice a day after they had their run. I left food in their cage but they wouldn't really eat in-between. But now Barney eats all the time! He's put on a huge amount of muscle. He's changing coats as well so maybe that's his winter weight that he is putting on right now. They're all moulting now so pretty late this year... But Barney and Spike are solid, not much fat but loads of muscle! And they're energetic as well and I have seen a change in Spike, he's got more energy now, he used to go to sleep in our bedroom about an hour after I let him out while Rose, Jasmine and Barney still played. But now he's keeping up with the other 3! :-)

Supplements

I put some supplements into the meat, I add an egg yolk to one meal a day, usually in the morning. But sometimes we run out of eggs so they don't get it every day but I try to add one every day. I add an oil supplement to every meal. Right now I am using up my Z-Megamore from Companion's Choice. I also have flax seed oil and fish oil. They all contain Omega 3 oils which are a good idea to supplement. I also still have some 8in1 ferret vitamins, it's liquid and in a bottle, you're supposed to add it to water. Thing is I throw the water morning and night and that way they'd only get traces of the vitamins so I'm adding some drops to every meal. I do the same with my guinea pig, for years I've put the 8in1 drops on their food... So they get oil and vitamin drops with every meal. I add Vitamin C usually once a day. I use Ester C which is a buffered form of Vitamin C, you can also use calcium ascorbate or sodium ascorbate. They're more gentle on the tummy. I have Kelp tablets, a lot of people add them to their BARF diet, I add them now and again when I remember. I also have taurine tablets even though I read that you do not need to supplement taurine if you feed a meat diet as the animals will get enough taurine naturally but I do add taurine every now and again. I have biotin tablets which I add sometimes, they're supposed to help with the coat and I think it might be a good idea to add them when the ferrets are changing coats. Somebody told me to use biotin when ferrets get rat tails in summer as well... I bought multi vitamin tablets for pets which I will use when I run out of the 8in1 drops.

I will write more updates as I go along but I'm sure happy with the BARF diet! It is twice as expensive as feeding kibble but it's worth it when you see such changes in animals. And I hope to have healthier ferrets and I hope not to see as much cancer as I have done so far. Especially not insulinoma. I didn't get good results with the kibble, Angel was 3 when she died of an aggressive cancer, Jilly and Jack have insulinoma and Igor has abdominal cancer. I blame the kibble for the insulinoma but have also repeatedly read that cancer does not do well on a carbohydrate free diet. It grows fine when it gets carbohydrates but can't do much if anything with protein and fat... I guess I'll have to wait a few years to see results...

Update 20/12/00

I've had some problems with the ferrets, I found a lot of loose stools in the toilets and was wondering what may have caused this diarrhoea... I gave the ferrets acidophilus supplement every day, I even gave them charcoal in case they had some bug- nothing helped. Then I thought maybe there's too much fat in the chicken so I took some of the skin and fat off the chicken before mincing/ grinding them to see if it would make a difference. It did! After only one day there were hardly any loose stools, I was surprised just how much fat came off the chicken as well so that's another lesson learnt. I add oils as well so all in all there was just too much fat!

When I first started BARF, I got my chicken from a local butcher. They minced it for me so it was easy for me. But one day we went to the butchers to pick up minced chicken that I'd ordered but they hadn't done it and one lad picked up a load of chicken thighs and wings and went to the back and told us it wouldn't be long. So we suspected that they gave us chicken parts instead of whole chickens that I wanted. The mince was also very bony... Next time we went to the butchers, I saw one little chicken in the window and it was very expensive so Pete said we could get chicken from the supermarket and he'd mince it for me. So we did that and Pete minced it with his Kenwood Chef which has a mincer attachment. He smashed the bones and first put the chicken through a rough mince and then put the rough mince through again and did it with the fine mesh. He did that for one or two lots of chicken. Maybe 10kg all in all. Then we went out and bought another 10kg worth of chicken and a few minutes after he started mincing, his Kenwood Chef broke, the gears on it went... Luckily I had a hand mincer so Pete did the 10kg of chicken with that... We looked for a new mincer immediately and in the end Pete's mother ordered a mincer for us. It arrived last Monday. We went out and bought some chicken because Pete was eager to try out the new mincer. It worked sooo well! I couldn't believe how quick and effortless it did the chicken. It has a very fine mesh so it grinds the meat and bones really fine which is brilliant for my fussy eaters! :-) You can get the mincer from Nisbets, it's advertised for £499.32 inc VAT in their January - April 2001 catalogue but if you feed ground BARF and are in the UK or Europe, it's well worth saving up for! The power is 600W but Pete said it's immensely powerful for 600W. The mincer is not on Nisbets web pages but you can order it by phoning the sales hotline on 01454 855555.

I've done a page for the mincer, if you want to have a look at it, click here.

Update 05/02/01

I still take the skin off the chicken before mincing. I changed the supplements slightly. When I prepare the meals, I add a whole egg in the morning, I add some flaxseed oil and cod liver oil and liquid ferret vitamins from 8in1, I add half a 500mg capsule of Ester Vitamin C and some prozyme powder which is an enzyme powder. It's made a lot of difference, I still saw the odd loose stool but now the poops are just fine! :-)

At night I add some Z-Megamore oil, it's made by Companion's Choice. I add the prozyme again and a vitamin and mineral powder called Vitracel ZM.

I got the prozyme from my vets, I searched the Internet a while ago to see if there was a company that sold prozyme in the UK and there was one so I phoned them but they would give me *no* information, like the price etc. They will only talk to vets. So I thought rather than getting my vets to phone them, I will ask my vets whether they can get hold of an enzyme supplement and they found prozyme in their catalogues and also the vitamin and mineral supplement called Vitracel ZM that the company made and my vets ordered those and they were there the next day or two days later and I saw that they were from the company that Iíd found on the Internet and they are called Vetoquinol. The number of this company is 01869-355001 in case anybody wants their vets to order some. In America, prozyme is widely available from many online stores.

I've also ground up some Taurine tablets with some Whiskas Kitamins tablets and dried eggshells, I used the coffee grinder for that and the kids get a teaspoon full of the mix every 2-3 days (instead of the liquid ferret vitamins or the vitamin/ mineral powder depending in which meal they get their taurine powder mix). There is taurine in meat but if you don't feed heart on a regular basis then it's best to add some taurine.

Bobby enjoying chunks of chicken

Update 16/04/01

Right, another update. I have stopped buying fresh chicken, the price went up too much because of the foot and mouth crisis but I think it's just supermarkets or chicken suppliers taking advantage, I don't think there's a need for the price increase, we have lots of meat in the supermarket and other meats are not any more expensive. But up to £2.50 per kg of chicken? Nope! So we had a look in the frozen food section and the frozen chickens are a lot cheaper! Sort of £1.20 per kg! plus they have giblets which is brilliant. The giblets don't all have the same contents though, some are only necks, others have the stomach as well and liver and heart. If I don't get many livers I add some extra liver and I bought beef heart and lamb heart so I add some of that as well but I grind the heart separately and add some to the meals. Am not adding many supplements at all now, I think they must get pretty much all they need from the chicken and organs. They are full of vitamins and minerals...

Right, but I've been having problems... All ferrets developed bad tartar and red inflamed gums and had a disgusting smelly breath... :-( Hobo and Gremlin who I rescued beginning of February had been brought up on raw meat and had lovely clean teeth. But 2 months here and they had tartar plus a thin red line on the gums around the teeth... I got really upset, I'm feeding them BARF to give them a good diet, I'm putting a lot effort and money into it but the result is bad mouths and teeth??? I was really at the end and wrote to the Ferret Health List and Bob Church answered my mail and explained exactly why the tartar develops. If I get his permission I will add his post to this page. I can't really explain it well but the calcium and dissolved minerals in the ground meat react with the saliva and get stuck to the teeth. Made worse if bone is added and also water and if the mush isn't acidic enough. And what it comes down to is that the ferrets (and dogs and cats) need to chew as well. So there's 2 choices for me: feed kibble as well or get the ferrets used to eating chunks of meat and bone... I have put them on kibble for now, they weren't keen on it at all... Some ate it fine, some are just about eating enough to survive... But the ones who are fussy are the ones who can do with loosing weight anyway... I cleaned their teeth with forceps and started them on a course of antibiotics. The mouths are looking better already. When we go shopping next, I will buy another chicken and cut it up into chunks, meat and bones and everything... And then I will offer the chunks to the ferrets and see if they will eat it if they don't have anything else to eat... If they totally don't want to eat chunks then I'll have to feed kibble for a few days and then BARF for a few days... Even though I'm not happy about the kibble, I'd rather feed chunks for a few days and mince for a few days...

I did try some meat chunks, cut a chicken breast into chunks... *None* of mine ate it, but Hobo and Gremlin ate them like I'd starved them for days or like they thought "she finally gives us proper food". They were brought up on meat chunks and mince, I guess the meat chunks did the teeth cleaning... I've never seen chunks of meat disappear so quick...

So the bottom line of all this: if you raw feed ferrets, don't just feed mince. Try and feed mince without adding water, mine don't like it without water though... And try and get the ferrets to eat chunks of meat and bone or something like day old chicks- or kibble as a last resort...

Update 09/05/01

I did try chunks again and Bobby my new rescue loves chunks and loves crunching on the bones and I usually feed the chunks in the bathroom where there's lino flooring and the ferrets can't hide and stash the chunks. It's only Hobo, Bobby and Barney who love them, Gremlin eats a few but not many and nobody else touched chunks of meat and bone... But it's lovely to watch those who do eat the chunks! :-)

Hobo and Bobby enjoying chunks of chicken

I'm not feeding much kibble but the teeth are pretty good now. Some of the ferrets refuse to eat kibble, Baby won't and Jack will not eat enough. I didn't continue feeding Jack his meat when I first put them on kibble and he obviously didn't eat enough and got a very bad low sugar because of his insulinoma so I carried on feeding him his meat. Baby doesn't want to eat kibble so she gets meat when the others get kibble and of course Jilly and Mason don't eat kibble so they are still on meat at all times. Tom is not eating the kibble well, he has lost weight and when they get kibble, he only eats enough to survive... And when he gets back on meat, he's scoffing it... When I first started BARF, I had so many problems getting the ferrets to eat it and now they prefer meat to kibble! When I feed the 4 their meat when the others are on kibble, the others will pester me for meat! When I feed them meat again, they wolf it down and look so happy! :-) Never thought they'd love meat so much. :-)

Those are the 3 boys who love the chunks, Hobo, Barney and Bobby. Gremlin eats a few bits of meat but not as much as the boys. This picture was taken about a week before Barney suddenly, without a warning, died of cancer...

Hobo, Barney and Bobby enjoying chunks of chicken

Update 18/05/01

I talked to my friend Karen and we were talking about our ferrets and their mince and Karen asked me how I feed them and I said I more or less feed them individually and it takes me about 1 hour to feed all. So she tells me she now feeds her ferrets on newspaper! She puts 6 dollops of meat on newspaper, puts all ferrets in front of their dollop and they eat and it is really quick feeding them this way, sort of 5 minutes. So Karen told me to feed like this and I was amazed that mine ate from newspaper. I still have to hand feed 5 or 6 ferrets but the others eat off paper all at the same time even though I have to watch them so they don't walk off during their feed or one finishes and goes over to somebody else and starts eating their meat... Here's some pics:



Update 26/08/01

I bought some frozen mice a while ago (June/ July), they cost £20.00 for 50. So not cheap! And the ferrets only chewed off the heads... Reno and Fox ate some, Bella and Tom and I think Dana had a little nibble but that was it. I then gave some to the small group and they just thought that mice were a great toy and played tug of war with them, Bobby was the only one who tried to eat a mouse and he gave it a really good chew all over and I donít think there was an intact bone in the mouse but the skin stayed intact... So he didnít do very good eating the mouse... So I was left to pick up the headless mice and throw them... I might try quail next and if they donít eat them (the quail are expensive, too...) then theyíll just get day old chicks but I need a bigger freezer if I want to get those...

Iíve got *all* ferrets eating off the newspaper now (since the beginning of August). I had to hand feed Jilly, Jack, Baby and Rose. But then Jilly and Jack started eating the other ferretsí portions after I had fed them so I thought they might as well eat on their own then. I guess the prednisolone is making them hungry... So now Jack is eating with such speed, itís weird thinking he wouldnít eat before and now he eats quicker than the others! Jilly eats slowly but enjoys every minute of it! :-) Baby and Rose are hard to get to eat, I have to hold them by their heap of mince and then Baby eventually gets into it and eats it fine but Rose is still being a pain! Maybe Iíll just have to continue feeding her by hand...

I don't feed kibble at all now, the only way I can keep the ferrets' teeth clean is to clean them myself. I use dusters and rub their teeth with a soft duster every morning and then I give them some CET enzymatic toothpaste. That keeps the teeth sort of clean, if there is some build-up then I use my forceps and clip the tartar off. Jack is the only one with really bad teeth at the moment so he'll go for a dental soon. I have not had a dental done on him because he isn't well and the gums are healthy, it's just a thick build-up of tartar on some of the teeth...

I don't add too many supplements now, I feed about 500g of minced/ ground chicken morning and night, in the morning I add 2 1000mg fish oil capsules, 1 400IU vitamin E capsule, 250mg Ester vitamin C, and some 8in1 ferret vita-sol liquid vitamins. At night I usually add a vitamin and mineral powder but sometimes I add nothing, some nights I may add a spoon of cod liver oil. And I add 1 whole egg (egg white and yolk) a day when I have eggs in the house which is not very often at the moment... The ferrets' coats have changed again during the last few months, not like they have grown new coats but the coats got better, very thick and soft and just different again. The fish oil must be very good.

All the ferrets have good weights now as well. I got Mason down to 1.5-1.6kg (he used to be up to 2.4kg!!!) and it's a really healthy weight for him and he shows it with all his energy and playfulness. The girls are all heavy between 900g and 1kg. They all have little tummies but firm bodies. Bella was hard to get to eat. When all ferrets started eating well when I started feeding them off newspaper, Bella was still a picky eater. I had to feed her separately and put down little dollops, she wouldn't entertain the idea of eating a big dollop so I had to put a little meat down for her and then keep adding more as she finished her little heaps of meat. Now she is a greedy little pig! And her big tummy is proof for it. I put down a big dollop of food and she eats it and when she finishes she wants more or tries to eat Dana's or Baby's food!

Update 01/12/01

All ferrets have moulted in October/ November and all have the most amazing, soft and silky coats. Very thick. The only ones that haven't moulted, yet, are Bella and Willow which is strange really. Jack hasn't moulted but he's on prednisolone so that explains it. But I'm surprised that all the other ferrets moulted within a month...

I also finally bought a box of day old chicks, half the freezer is occupied by them and another quarter by the chicken mince... I feed 4 chicks a day now. I give one to Willow and Bella, one to Rose's group and 2 to Jack's group. One night I gave everybody turkey chunks, then I put a chick in with Willow and Bella and later on they got their mince. I fed Willow and Bella and while they ate I searched their cage for the chick and it was completely gone! Willow is such a greedy little pig, meat chunks, a whole chick and a portion of mince! Rose's group ate their chick one night and the next night the didn't... I give one chick to Jack's group while they're in a cage while the other 2 groups get out and Mason will eat half a chick and then Fox eats the other half. They get the other chick after their mince for during the night, it's gone in the morning. Fox and Reno eat chunks of meat, also Bobby, Hobo and Gremlin, I'm glad that most ferrets will either eat some chunks or chicks so that'll help keep the teeth clean. I think Fox needs a dental though, the little teeth next to the upper canines (not the incisors) might have to come out, it looks like they have holes in at the top and the food just sticks to there and I can't get the tartar off...

Update 20/04/02

I'm still feeding chicks (if I don't forget). Willow and Tara eat one each, Hobo, Gremlin and Bobby eat 2, Jasmine will run off with a chick and carry it around but I don't think she eats it... Fox and Mason eat one each and eventually Reno joined in, the 3 of them eat the 2 chicks, I may have to give them 3 though soon.

I've given chunks of meat and bone at night for a few weeks now. I noticed that Tara and Willow got lazy, not eating their whole chicks and not bothering with chunks when they knew they would get minced chicken as well which is much easier to eat. plus I saw that their teeth were getting a bit dirty, I cleaned everybody's teeth every day except for Willow's and Tara's. So I thought right, you'll now get chunks at night, I know you can and will eat them so it's chunks at night from now on. I either get wings and legs and cut them up with a meat clever or I get tiny 900g (2lb) chickens and cut them up. The ferrets love crunching the bones, especially Willow. :-) Of course not all ferrets like the chunks, the only ones eating them are Willow and Tara, Hobo, Bobby and Gremlin, and Fox and Reno. They only get chunks at night to keep their teeth clean, Bella, Rose and Jasmine, and Baby, Dana and Mason still get the minced/ ground chicken at night and I still have to clean their teeth once a day. The ferrets who eat chunks all have lovely clean and sparkling white teeth! :-)

Update 22/12/02

I thought it was time for another update. I still feed minced chicken in the morning to all ferrets. When we mince chickens, we usually add some beef and some lamb's heart and liver. For added vitamins and to add some red meat to the diet. When I prepare the food in the morning, I add an egg and 2 capsules of fish oil and a Vitamin E capsule and about 250mg of Ester Vitamin C. At night I still feed chunks and Dana, Fox, Reno, Hobo, Gremlin, Bobby, Willow, Tara and Riley eat them. I have to feed mince to Bella, Baby, Rose and Jasmine at night as those 4 won't eat chunks... I also have to clean their teeth morning and night but the ferrets who eat chunks have lovely white teeth. I now chop up fresh chickens and fresh chicken wings for chunks.

Update 19/02/05

Okay, a very overdue update! ;-) Several people have written to me and asked how the rawfeeding was going and whether it had lived up to my expectations. I was also asked to update the web site. My excuse is that I had ferrets sick/ dying almost non-stop for the last year. It really took it out of me and I barely managed to write updates on my ferrets, let alone rawfeeding. But here I am.

I am very pleased with the results I have had so far. I haven't had any more insulinomic ferrets anymore. Jilly, Jack and Mason, who had been on kibble for a long time, did have insulinoma. They died between October '01 and September '02. So I guess they had already got insulinoma while on kibble. Mason didn't show any clinical symptoms though, not the usual ones. His insulinoma was mistaken for heart disease (after an x-ray...). I think Bella had an insulinoma but definitely no symptoms. So I've seen a reduction in insulinoma. plus the ferrets live longer and are healthier for longer. Before, the majority of ferrets were sick/ dying by the time they were 5 or 6 years old and dead before they were 7. Now I have healthy elderly ferrets, recently I've had ferrets be healthy until the age of 7-8 years. Last year Baby and Fox (and possibly Bella) died of renal failure. I can't think why. The only thing I can think of is that those 3 only ate chicken mince/ ground chicken. No chunks. As a result they had bad teeth. I did clean their teeth morning and night but they still needed dentals every 6 months. I guess there must have been a build-up of bacteria in their mouths and maybe they damaged the kidneys. That's one thing they had in common. So now I'm even more thorough when it comes to their teeth. Anyway, I think the ferrets now live a year longer on average, possibly 2 years longer than before. But what makes a big difference is that they're not sickly anymore. Jilly was sick with insulinoma for 2 1/2 years! Jack was sick for about 1 1/2 years. For the last year, the ferrets were sick for maybe 2 months before dying. I guess renal disease progresses quickly. So the ferrets are definitely healthier for longer. Jilly and Jack were sick at the age of 5, Baby, Dana and Fox were sick by the age of 7-8. That is a big difference. Of course I've also had a few that died young, like Hobo who died of some unknown neurological thing when he was only 5.

I did start feeding dry food (Arden Grange Kitten, James Wellbeloved Ferret Complete, pets At Home own brand) again. I think around March - May 2004. I can't help worry about the ferrets and my main worry is what if I die or worse, both Pete and I die. I have people lined up for this sort of emergency but fact is they probably wouldn't have time to mince/ grind and chunk chickens. Not for over 10 ferrets. So I needed to get the ferrets used to alternative foods. They used to get minced chicken in the morning and chunks at night. So I changed it. Now they get dry food during the day and then at night they either get chicken mince or chicken chunks. Usually they get mince for 2 nights and then chunks for 2 nights. But sometimes they get chunks more often to keep their teeth clean. Also, I have been using a pet mince, it is supposed to be minced chicken necks but the mince looks very pale and is very watery. I just wanted to see if the ferrets will eat it because it would be available to whoever would take the ferrets if I was to die. So I wasn't happy with the mince and since I know the ferrets will happily eat it, I have gone back to mincing our own chickens, at the moment I mix the pet mince with our mince half half. When we mince chickens, I also add lambs heart and liver. Dana was just diagnosed with cardiomyopathy so of course I now blame myself, the ferrets haven't had our mince with heart so I worry it's my fault because she hasn't had enough taurine... The ferrets' teeth in general are very good. They do get a lot of chicken chunks and I will probably eventually be feeding mainly chunks. If I had less ferrets, I would probably only feed chunks.

I hope this update makes sense! I was trying to "analyse" the ferrets' health and see what had changed. I find it difficult to explain stuff and in the end will go on and on when other people could put the information in a few sentences. ;-) But my excuse is the "blonde gene"! I will continue as I am at the moment, not entirely happy with feeding dry food as part of their diet but right now it's the safest bet. But if I was to encounter insulinoma again, the dry food would be thrown out or greatly reduced (like to 1 day a week or so, just to keep them used to it).

Regarding supplements, when I feed mince, I add 2 1000mg fish oil capsules, 2 400IU vitamin E capsules, some 8in1 Vita-Sol, about 3g vitamin C (calcium ascorbate), and some vitamin/ mineral powder. They also get one whole egg per pound of meat. Sometimes I use cod liver oil instead of the fish oil or I put some cod liver oil over the chunks. When I feed mince, I fill up their dishes when they go in the cage for the night. They will eat a lot of mince! But apart from Riley, they all have a good weight. Riley is the only podgy one. When I feed chunks, they also get them in the cage at night. I have 2 groups at the moment, a group of 9 ferrets and a group of 4 (and Ruby on her own). The group of 4 are young and eat more chunks than the group of 9. I.e. the 4 will eat 140g of chunks whereas the group of 9 will only eat 240g. But with this sort of feeding, where they just have meat at night, all ferrets eat it. All ferrets eat mince anyway but I had some who were too lazy to eat chunks. But I have just checked Rose's teeth (she's 5 1/2) and her teeth are lovely and Reno's teeth (he's 6 1/2) are good, too, with just a tiny bit of tartar. Eventually I would like the ferrets to eat bigger bits of chicken, not small(ish) chunks but bigger pieces, i.e. a leg sliced in 2 or 3 pieces which anybody could do if I wasn't around. That is also why I try to feed chunks more often than I feed mince, so they get more and more used to chunks and will accept bigger pieces.

At the moment I only have to hand feed Dana morning and night, she only eats mince. And Gremlin only eats mince at the moment because of her mouth (the canine extraction that went wrong) but she'll eat on her own.

I hope that'll do for an update for now, I should have planned the update a bit more like an essay or something but I think of that afterwards... I hope I have covered the important points, if not, just ask me to write more about a specific aspect. ;-)

Update 05/06/05

I know I just did an update and I have nothing new to say. First I wanted to delete the last update as it is such a mess, I wasn't able to concentrate when I did that update because I was upset about Tara being sick and ferrets dying etc. But I decided to leave it in and just put a different update here, it's a copy of an e-mail I wrote regarding BARF. It's short and says almost all I wrote so longwindedly in my last update... ;-)

"When I first had ferrets (spring '95), I fed them dry food. Most of the ferrets developed insulinoma by the age of 5 or 6. I started raw feeding autumn of 2000 and 2 ferrets who had had dry food for a few years previously did get insulinoma but did not show bad symptoms. But apart from those 2, none of the others got insulinoma, none of the ones who had raw food for most of their lives. It's early days still but I'm not expecting to see much insulinoma anymore. I do feed the ferrets half raw, half kibble. I would feed only raw but am scared that something may happen to me, i.e. I die and then the ferrets won't eat dry food and other people may not necessarily have time to prepare raw food. So I do feed some kibble so they eat it and will eat it in an emergency. I do believe that dry food does "cause" insulinoma and I hope that feeding half raw will keep the insulinoma away. If I see insulinoma again, I will switch the ferrets back to 100% raw. My ferrets now live a bit longer, not much longer as I'd hoped but they are healthier for longer (i.e. get sick when they're 7 or so and not at the age of 5 or so) and are not sick for years on end like they were with the insulinoma."

Update 20/08/06

I'm going over all my web pages at the moment and update or fix them all. I'm still feeding dry food in the day and either mince or chunks at night. When I feed mince, I mix our chicken mince (which has a lot of lambs heart and liver in it) with beef which makes up 1/3 - 1/2 of the mix. I use the expensive lean beef mince. When i prepare the portions for the ferrets, I add one whole egg and 1 or 2 egg yolks. 3 1000mg fish oil capsules, 600IU vitamin E, 2-3g vitamin C. Sometimes I add some vitamin/ mineral powder.

I'm a bit upset because my ferrets are ADV positive so now I'll never find out what effect the raw diet has on their health. I have now had 5 ferrets die of kidney failure and wonder whether the ADV caused it... The ADV is one reason why I have upped the fish oil and vitamin C.

Update 16/02/09

Haven't updated this for so long... Again I still feed dry food in the day and mince or chunks at night. I used to feed a mix of Arden Grange cat and James Wellbeloved ferret complete, I have at the moment changed to a mix of Hills kitten, cat and dental food. All chicken based. They appear to have a much higher meat content. I also bought a bag of Totally Ferret.

I'm not adding so many supplements to the mince anymore. We still add either lambs heart and liver or ox heart and liver to the chicken when we mince it all and when I prepare portions, I still add some beef mince to it. But I only use fish oil and vitamin E now as supplements. Sometimes I go through a phase where I will add some powdered taurine or "Arkvits" but generally I don't use it. I'm not adding vitamin C anymore. I read on one web page that excessive vitamin C can cause renal failure in dogs. My ferrets have had a lot of renal failure. 5 in a relatively short time. So I am blaming the vitamin C even though a lot of people have said that it doesn't affect the kidneys. But I rather want to be safe than sorry.

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