What is Excessive Weight?

Although the weight of a male or female ferret varies, an accumulation of excessive weight that compromises the pet’s normal movements is considered obesity. The heart and lungs will need to work twice as hard in an obese ferret, which will become present when the pet pants or gets tired easily. As in human obesity cases, an excessive gain in weight puts the ferret at risk for developing other health problems, such as arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. 

Excessive weight in ferrets is termed obesity in the world of veterinary medicine and is used to define a pet that has accumulated 20 percent or more above the normal body weight. The average weight of an adult male ferret is about 3 to 5 pounds (1.5-2.5 kg) and adult female ferrets weigh even less at 1.5 to 3 pounds (0.75-1.5kg). 

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Symptoms of Excessive Weight in Ferrets

The most obvious symptom of an excessive weight in ferrets is an accumulation of fat. As ferrets are naturally lean creatures, an accumulation of weight is fairly easy to identify. Physically, the small mammal will have a distended belly that may drag along the ground and the chin may hide a small roll of fat underneath it. The extra weight will put a strain on the ferret’s limbs, making it difficult to move about and straining the joints. The ferret may be reluctant to move, tire easily, and avoid handling from the owner if the obese condition is causing pain to the spine. 

Causes of Excessive Weight in Ferrets

Excessive weight in ferrets is usually the result of consuming calories without the proper amount of physical activity. Ferret foods that contain high levels of fats, sweet and fatty treats, or simply allowing the ferret to free feed are all common causes. However, an excessive weight gain in ferrets can also be a sign of pregnancy in female ferrets and can be a red flag for a primary health condition. Conditions of the thyroid (hypothyroidism) and other hormone related conditions can also cause a ferret to gain weight. 

Diagnosis of Excessive Weight in Ferrets

Following a thorough review of your ferret’s medical history and performing a physical exam, the veterinarian will proceed to perform diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of the problem. Excessive weight can be an indication of other ferret conditions, so a differential diagnosis will be required. The veterinarian will likely request the following diagnostic tests: 

  • A CBC (complete blood cell count): a blood test used to evaluate the number of circulating platelets, red and white blood cells. 
  • A biochemistry profile: a blood test that indicates the functionality of the ferret’s organs and overall internal health. 
  • Urinalysis: an examination of the urine to screen for infection, metabolic conditions and damage to the kidneys. 
  • Ultrasound: an imaging device commonly used to detect pregnancy, but is also used to look at other internal organs. 

Treatment of Excessive Weight in Ferrets

If the excessive weight gain in a ferret is due to a high calorie intake paired with limited physical activity, treatment can be followed at home. The veterinarian will prescribe a different diet choice that is low in fat and will aid the ferret of his/her weight loss journey. Playtime or other physical activities should last about 30 minutes a day to help shed off extra pounds. The ferret’s doctor will establish a weight loss plan with the owner to ensure the proper amount of weight is being lost each week. If too much weight is lost at a time, the liver will become stressed and your ferret could be facing more serious health conditions. 

Recovery of Excessive Weight in Ferrets

The recovery time for an obese ferret greatly depends on the individual ferret, its age, and any underlying health conditions found by the veterinarian. Managing a ferret’s weight takes dedication from the pet owner. Once you have established a daily routine, following a balanced diet and providing at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, managing your ferret’s weight will be simple.