Hand-Rearing Ferrets

This is from Wombaroo Food Products.
ph (08) 8391 1713 www.wombaroo.com.au

Since this is an Australian Product, it may not be available everywhere, but the information is valuable nonetheless.

Products mentioned in this:
Wombaroo Dog Milk Replacer
Cosy Heat Pad
Impact Colostrum Supplement
Teats –
P and C
Bottle

 

About Ferret Milk:

Different species of mammals produce milks of different composition in order to nourish their young:

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Ferret milk is characterised by relatively high solids content, elevated fat levels and low amounts of lactose. Ferret milk has about twice the energy per litre than that of ordinary cow’s milk. The high amount of lactose and low energy value of cow’s milk make it unsuitable for hand rearing ferrets.

 

However, due to limited demand, it is not commercially practical to produce a milk replacer specifically for ferrets. We therefore recommend to use Wombaroo Dog Milk Replacer as a suitable substitute. As can be seen in the table above, ferret milk is similar to dog milk in composition and energy. In terms of other nutrients, it is likely that ferret milk contains significant quantities of the sulphonic acid taurine. This is prominent in the milk of carnivorous species (eg cats 359mg/L and dogs 326mg/L) but not in cow’s milk (8mg/L)3. Taurine is required for healthy development of brain, eye and heart function and is an essential nutrient for cats. Lactating females usually obtain the taurine from the meat component of their diet. No specific research has yet been undertaken in the taurine content of ferret milk, however, being an obligate carnivore it is prudent to include taurine in the milk for rearing ferrets. Wombaroo Dog Milk Replacer contains a minimum of 500mg/L taurine which, based on other carnivores, is likely to be sufficient to prevent deficiency in ferrets.
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Hand Rearing:

Success in hand-rearing young ferrets (kits) greatly improves if they receive colostrum at birth. Kits that don’t get colostrum from the mother should be fed Impact Colostrum Supplement in the first 48 hours of life. Commence feeding Wombaroo Dog Milk Replacer from 12 hours of age onwards, after the initial feeds of colostrum. Keep young kits in a clean, draught-free environment at about 30°C. Supplemental heat may be provided by using a Cosy Heat Pad. Older kits (14+ days) can be maintained at about 25°C.

 

 

Making up Milk:

Add 20g of powder to 75ml of preboiled warm water (makes approximately 90ml of milk). Add about half the water to the powder first and mix to a paste. Then make up with the remaining water and mix thoroughly. Other volumes of milk can be made up by scaling up or down the above quantities. Avoid making up very small quantities of milk as this becomes inaccurate to measure out and difficult to mix. Prepared milk can be stored in a refrigerator for a day or frozen for up to 2 weeks. Small quantities can be frozen in ice cubes trays, so that the required daily feed volumes can easily be thawed out. Do not re-freeze thawed milk.

 

 

Feeding:

Warm milk to about 35o C. Feed from a syringe or bottle with teat, a Wombaroo “C” or “P” type teat is recommended. Feed every 2 hours for the first week, reducing this to every 3 hours by the end of the second week. Stimulate kits to defecate and urinate after each feed for upto 3 weeks. Feeding can be reduced to 4 hourly intervals at this time. Encourage kits to lap from a shallow bowl once their eyes open (4 to 5 weeks). To avoid dehydration during periods of hot weather provide drinks of pre-boiled water between feeds. Always offer kits drinking water once they become mobile.

 

Consult your veterinarian or experienced carer for particular advice about hand rearing ferrets.

 

Growth:

Body weight of ferret kits should increase by about 3 to 15g per day, depending on age. It is important to weigh kits regularly with an accurate set of scales to verify weight gains and determine the volume of milk to feed. Overfeeding milk can cause diarrhoea so feed the suggested volumes in our tables.

 

 

Guide to Feeding growth rates may vary according to sex, with females being smaller. Always feed according to the body weight.
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References:
Schoknecht, P. A., Cranford, J. A., and Akers, R. M. (1985). Variability in milk composition of the domestic ferret (Mustela putorius). Comp. Biochem. Physiol. A 81, 589-591.
Oftedal, I.T.& S.J.Iverson. (1995). Comparative analysis of non-human milks. In “Handbook of Milk Composition”. Academic Press Hayes, K.C and Sturman, J.A. (1981).
Taurine in Metabolism. Ann. Rev. Nutr.1:401-25. Sturman, J.A, Gargano, A.D., Messing, J.M.& Imaki, H. (1986).
Feline maternal taurine deficiency: effect on mother and offspring. J Nutr.116(4):655-67.
Peters, R. H. (1993). “The Ecological Implications of Body Size”. Cambridge University Press
Lewington, J.H. (2000). Ferret Husbandry, Medicine & Surgery. Butterworth-Heinemann Publishers.
Quesenberry, K.E. and Carpenter, J.W. 2004. Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents Clinical Medicene and Surgery. 2nd Ed. Saunders Press.
Keeble, E. and Meredith, A. (editors). 2009. BSAVA Manual of Rodents and Ferrets. British Small Animal Veterinary Association.