Can Ferrets Eat Dog Food?

Can ferrets eat dog food

Ferrets are creatures that have, over the years, eaten a very specific diet that they can't stray away from if they want to get all of their essential nutrients. Because some ferret owners also have dogs, the question may arise: Can ferrets eat dog food? Being able to feed both your dog and your ferret the same food could save a lot of time, money, and hassle, so it makes sense why that question is asked.

However, due to a ferret's specialized digestive system, you should not feed your ferret dog food. Tiny amounts of dog food won't hurt ferrets, but using a dog food as a staple of your ferret's diet could result in serious problems from malnutrition to intestinal distress.

What Do Ferrets Eat In The Wild?

To better understand what ferrets should and shouldn't eat, it helps to know what they would eat naturally in the wild. Ferrets have been domesticated for around 2,500 years, but for thousands of years before that, they roamed free and hunted for their food. Over time, their digestive systems became fine-tuned to efficiently and successfully process the food that they would frequently eat.

This is why it's so important to match your ferret's diet to the their natural diet -- it's what their bodies have been optimized for!

Ferrets are classified as obligate carnivores. As opposed to standard carnivores which are animals that eat meat but can eat plant matter, obligate carnivores absolutely need to eat meat in order to get essential nutrients. On top of this, obligate carnivores can only eat meat. Ferrets could technically eat plant matter, but they wouldn't be able to properly digest and process it.

As far as what animals are eaten by ferrets, it varies quite a bit. In the wild, ferrets would eat basically anything that they could successfully hunt. Some of the most commonly-eaten animals are insects, rabbits, birds, rats, and even snakes. Although all of these animals are different, their meat provides ferrets with massive amounts of essential nutrients.

Why Can't Ferrets Eat Dog Food?

Ferrets can technically eat dog food in small amounts, but regular feeding could cause a few issues. Therefore, it's much better to find a ferret-specific food to feed your ferret, as they work to closely resemble a ferret's natural diet.

The first reason why ferrets can't eat dog food is because dogs and ferrets are essentially different animals. Pet food is designed to provide that specific pet with the specific nutrients that they need, and every animal needs different nutrients. While ferrets are obligate carnivores that can only eat meat, dogs are omnivores, eating both plants and meat.

Because of this, dog food is often crafted with a mixture of plants and protein with added carbohydrates, meaning that ferrets can't digest many of the ingredients in the food. This can result in indigestion and intestinal distress - conditions that can cause serious harm to ferrets. Ferrets need ingredients that can be digested and passed very quickly due to their short digestive tracts, and carbohydrates and fiber aren't quick to digest.

Additionally, dog food doesn't meet the dietary needs of a ferret. Ferrets need food with a very high concentration of protein, moderate levels of fat, and low fiber. Most dog foods are lower in protein concentration with higher levels of fiber. This means that ferrets won't get the nutrients that they need, resulting in malnutrition.

So, dog food isn't inherently dangerous in small amounts, but it doesn't have ingredients that can be digested and processed by ferrets. Because of this, dog food shouldn't be fed to ferrets in most cases.

Is There A Good Dog Food For Ferrets?

The answer to this question is no, not really. There are dog foods that are better than others for ferrets, but there's none that stand out as entirely healthy. To keep your ferret safe and healthy, it's best to avoid dog food altogether.

It can help to know what a better dog food looks like, though, in case a ferret got into some food or has been fed dog food in the past. One of the safer dog foods is Wild Frontier, specifically this one. This food has a protein and fat composition that is slightly too low, but its fiber content is good and has a large focus on pure protein sources.

However, the food does have a good amount of carbohydrates and foods that ferrets can't process properly. This means that this food is not safe for ferrets, just like all other dog foods. If a ferret got into this food and had a few pieces, that wouldn't cause any harm. It's the long-term feeding that starts to cause issues.

What Does A Good Ferret Food Look Like?

If you're wondering what food you should be getting your ferret if you can't feed them dog food, the process of finding a food isn't too difficult. There are a lot more quality ferret food manufacturers than there were several years ago, so there are quite a few options.

Some foods are better than others, but as long as they meet the requirements listed below, they should be great for most ferrets.

  • Protein concentration around 40-60%
  • Fat concentration around 18-22%
  • Fiber concentration around 3-5%
  • The first ingredient (at least) should be chicken, turkey, or duck
  • ​A lack of grains, fruits, and vegetables (especially peas as they cause complications)

If the ferret food that you choose is lacking in any of the nutritional areas listed above, that's not a big problem. Ferrets' diets should consist of several different foods, all working towards providing ferrets with the nutrients that they need.

Best Foods For Your Ferret

If you're still unsure what food to get your ferret, we've constructed a very helpful post listing out the 5 best ferret food options. For simplicity's sake, the top two foods of that post will be listed below. Both of these foods would make for an excellent addition to your ferret's diet.

OUR RECOMMENDATION

Wysong Epigen 90 Digestive Support

This is one of the most popular and high-quality ferret kibbles available today.

The food contains 62% protein and 16% fat which is a very healthy composition.

The ingredients of this food are very high quality and the overall taste and texture is fantastic for ferrets.

OUR RECOMMENDATION

Wysong Ferret Archetype Raw Food

This is a bit of a different food from standard kibble, but it's just as nutritious and helpful.

It does have a slightly lower protein and fat content, so it should be used as a supplement to a quality kibble.

Ferret owners frequently state that it results in a thicker coat and overall more energy.