“Ferrets are obligate carnivores and require meat based proteins in order to survive.”
This may be a line that you find quite familiar, unless you’re new and are hearing this for the first time. This line is often followed by “and as such, ferrets are unable to make use of plant products and MUST have a diet of animal tissue.” Let me first explain what an obligate carnivore is so that we have that much covered and why I believe this line is being used in a way that blows it way out of proportion.
A Carnivore is…
A meat eating organism that derives its nutrient and energy requirements from a diet consisting mainly of animal tissue. An obligate carnivore is also a meat eating organism, however what makes it slightly different is the fact that it absolutely needs a diet exclusively of animal tissue in order to survive.
This does NOT mean that the body cannot physically utilize nutrients of plant origin, it is simply that the ferret requires a diet exclusively of animal proteins due to the fact that there are some nutrients that its body is unable to produce in its own power and these essential nutrients cannot be sourced from plant proteins. Many of which are amino acids.
This does not mean that you cannot include plant related supplements or even many holistic and herbal treatments. It does not mean absolutely nothing plant related will not work or be beneficial whatsoever because the ferret is considered “obligate carnivore.” This does not mean you have to view all plant products as a plague and shun anyone who feeds olive oil or other common plant related supplements. A majority of allopathic medicines are created from plant products, but in a concentrated form. They have been documented to be useful, just as various other holistic means not only anecdotally by pet owners, but also by vets themselves who actually treat patients using diet related medicine, herbs, essential oils, homeopathy or other plants products alongside a balanced diet. Plants are incredible things and can create incredibly powerful substances that when used in the correct manner by a trained professional, can be quite useful for the body and can in fact work alongside more conventional allopathic medicines as well!
Providing that the diet is nutritionally adequate and preferably that of a balanced species appropriate raw diet, then it will not be a problem to include any plant related supplements PROVIDING it is not exceeding 5-10% of the overall diet!
The ferrets body can in fact make use of plant related proteins.
Its a body after all, regardless of what it is biologically designed to “consume.” It all comes down to how you go about it and especially considering certain aspects like dilutions and quantities. It is preferably better for the ferret to have the supplement pre-ground up, powder form or oil/liquid form. Some plant products can be a little difficult for the body to “physically” break down, however in a powder or oil/liquid form, it is much easier for the ferret to utilize the nutrients. Oils and liquids often will be readily absorbed into the blood stream and from there on out, will be easily used within the ferret for whatever purpose- As all plants are different, they each work differently within the body. Some may be more effective and some less.
However one thing is certain and that there is so many people in the ferret community spreading construed, potentially leaning on false, information as a scare tactic in regards to plant proteins.
Plant proteins should not be feared.
Feeding a plant related oil will not kill your ferret UNLESS you misuse or disrespect it. Of course, animal oils are considered good, but a nutrient is a nutrient regardless of where it is sourced. As long as it is in an easy to break down form, then the body will be able to readily make use of it. Am I saying to go feed your ferret a vegan diet? Absolutely not! I am not implying anything of that nature, I am just trying to imply that people should be less dogmatic about where your ferret can get nutrients from when it comes to any “additional” diet related supplements and oils. You DO NOT have to avoid a pretty darn good supplement or oil if it contains a plant product, especially if this is designed for ferrets or companion carnivores! As long as it is sourced from high quality products and from a trustworthy place, then I see why not make use of it.