My Ferret is Skinny: Causes and Solutions

Ferrets are very active animals and they need a diet that is high in quality protein and fat. They burn loads of calories throughout the day. The bodies of ferrets are naturally rather long and slim, and so they appear thin even when they are not. A ferret is in good shape if you cannot see its backbone or ribs by searching him. Ferrets are actually not supposed to be obese in the first place.

My ferret is skinny. Causes and solution? Your ferret might be malnourished or not getting the right amount of protein. It may be suffering from an underlying sickness as glaucoma or insulinoma. The best way to fatten up your ferret is to first visit the vet to identify the problem.

A ferret is in good shape if you cannot see its backbone or ribs by searching him. Ferrets are actually not supposed to be obese in the first place. Keep reading the rest of the article if you would like to learn more interesting facts!

General Overview

Ferrets actually have two kinds of body shapes. One is the bulldog shape. The ferrets having the bulldog shape are naturally chunkier and a little bit muscular.

The other body shape is known as the Whippet. Ferrets having the whippet body shape are naturally skinny, no matter how much you feed them or try to do to help them.

Then, there are ferrets that have a mixed body shape. Their body is in between the bulldog and the whippet shape. This shape is not very common among ferrets, but some still do have this in-between shape.

Shedding winter pounds

There are many ferrets out there who fatten up in the winter and then shed those pounds in the summer. Their body acts like they are still in the wild. Food is scarce in winter and the ferrets also need body insulation. Hence they begin to store food in their bodies in the winter.

In the summer they need to stay cool and there is loads of food available, so they lose weight. This behavior is very common among ferrets and is totally normal. As long as your ferret is eating appropriately and getting the exercise it needs, you really do not need to worry. If you are still concerned, then visiting your vet will not hurt. It will help put your mind at ease

Ferrets can lose up to 30 percent of their body weight in the summer after the winter season. If your ferret is losing weight, then there is a chance that it might just be losing the winter pounds.

You should try to feel its ribs; if there is a layer of fat of the ribs of your fuzzy friend, it is fine and healthy.

The pound shedding behavior has more to do with the photoperiod than the seasons or the temperature themselves. Ferrets shed their pounds due to the photoperiod.

The ferrets gain weight on the shortest day of the year as it has less sunlight and then shed the pounds on the longest day of the year when there is an ample amount of sunshine. This whole process is actually gauged by the pineal gland present in the brain of your fuzzy friend.

Artificial light may also affect this process. But even during the shedding times, the ferret should not end up looking bone thin.

Fat reduction in ferrets

The dramatic weight loss also depends on the gender of your ferrets. The male ferrets tend to shed the pounds in the summer and then gain them again in the winter. The female ferrets gain fat around the mating time as they prepare their bodies to carry life.

Here are some diseases and conditions which might affect your ferret’s weight

Bacterial diseases

These kinds of diseases in ferrets can be easily diagnosed and then treated by using antibiotics. Below are some of the most common bacterial diseases in ferrets.

Chronic Colitis

This disease leads to the buildup of an infection in the colon of the ferret and causes diarrhea. The bacteria that cause this disease and diarrhea are known as Desulfovibrio and Campylobacter respectively.

This disease is much more common among ferrets that are below the age of one year. The main symptoms of this disease are mucus with blood, diarrhea, and dehydration, loss of appetite, drastic weight loss and churning caused by pain in the abdomen.

It is very important to diagnose this disease as soon as possible as the disease leads to chronic dehydration. The ferrets are such small animals that dehydration ends up killing them and they lose a lot of weight. This disease can last for a very long time and can even make the colon and the rectum prolapse in the most severe cases.

Lyme disease or Borreliosis

This is a very infectious disease that develops due to the bacterium which is known as Borrelia burgdorferi. The disease is actually caused by the ticks, and if it is not treated immediately, it could progress and take a chronic form.

The best way to treat this disease is by using antibiotics. If the disease has progressed and has become chronic, then the use of antibiotics will be prolonged and if the disease is at its last stages then even antibiotics will not help. Most of such cases occur during the summer months.

The symptoms of this disease include loss of appetite, kidney problems, neurological, cardiac problems, depression, pain and swelling in the joints and swollen lymph nodes.

Fungal infections

Valley Fever

This disease is actually caused by a kind of fungus that resides in the earth and develops spores. These spores are then carried in the air, the animals inhale them, and it causes infection in their bodies.

Many of the animals that inhale these fungal spores do not end up getting the infection; only a small percentage of animals is affected. This disease is in no way contagious; it cannot be transferred from animals to animal or even animal to human.

This is only caused by the inhalation of the fungal spore. The most common symptoms of Valley Fever include loss of appetite, lethargy, dermal lesions, cough, and thickening of the limbs, weight loss, and chronic respiratory infection. You need to take your ferret to the vet as soon as you see even some of the signs and symptoms’.

The illness is usually mild, but it can get very severe if not treated. Your vet will identify the course of treatment needed and then start giving your ferret antifungal medication. Acting early might just save the life of your ferret.

If the disease is left untreated and it spreads, it will affect all the organs of the ferret and the signs will become even more extreme and the treatment would also be much more aggressive and prolonged. The most common body parts that disease spread to are the brain and the bones.

Brain infections will actually put the life of your fuzzy friend in a lot of danger. On the other hand, if the infection gets to the lungs, then the prognosis is good as a general rule.


Ringworms are produced by fungus are they create dryness, redness, and cramping on the skin of the affected ferret. But the skin does not itch.

The vet will first diagnose the disease by using cultures and once the results are positive he or she will go on and proceed the treatment with products such as ointments, topical anti-fungal an oral anti-fungal.

It is very important that you disinfect the toys, cage, the house and the also treat the animals that have shared space with the infected animal. This disease can also be transferred to humans.

How to make your ferret gain weight

If you want to fatten up your ferret then you need to understand that there are two rules that you need to follow. You need to decrease your fuzzy friend’s daily calorie expenditure and increase your ferret’s daily calorie intake. In the case of underweight ferrets, you need to help add the calories rather than losing them.

In order to decrease the amount of calorie expenditure, you need to limit the amount of daily exercise that your ferret gets. Keep the ferret in the cage longer than you normally do. Limit the time that the ferret is allowed out of the cage. Also whenever you put the ferret out of the cage, place it in a playpen so there is just limited space where the ferret can run around and burn fewer calories.

Tracking the calories of your ferret will be a little tricky, especially if you do not feed your ferret dry food. The box actually tells you how many calories your ferret is consuming; otherwise, you have no idea.

Generally, ferrets eat about 5 to 10 percent of their body weight per day. The problem with this is that different kinds of food contain different amounts of calories when they are organized on a per weight basis.

You can actually go ahead and increase your ferret’s daily intake by offering more supplements and treats. You need to feed your ferret a diet that is high in protein and fat. The food should be of top-notch quality.

You should never compromise your ferret’s health in order to save a few dollars. The protein that ferret should be given should be derived from meat. You can feed your ferret raw chicken, raw eggs and raw turkey, etc.

Keep your ferret away from vegetables and fruits as ferrets do not have the digestive system to digest fiber. Do not feed your ferret nuts, grains, chocolates, leftover human food, and dairy products.

Remember to keep your ferret hydrated at all times. Your fuzzy friend should have excess to fresh clean water at all hours of the day. Just attach the food dish and the water dish to the cage as ferrets have a habit of throwing things around like toys.

Related questions

Do ferrets need companions? Ferrets are really social animals and they love to have companions. They also need a lot of human interaction and attention. Ferrets also get along with pets such as dogs and cats but it really depends on the temperament of each animal. Never keep ferrets with mice, rats, rabbits, small birds or hamsters as for thousands of years ferrets were used to hunt these animals.

How long do ferrets live? A ferret can live for up to 7 years. It really depends on how healthy the environment of the ferret is and if it is getting all the things it needs to stay happy and illness free.

Photo of author

Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

Leave a Comment