Hairballs? Eat an Egg!
Author: Erinn Whitmore
I know many ferret owners use pumpkin as a natural way to clean out the bowels from any possible indigestibles, during shedding seasons, etc, and as a bit of “roughage” and fiber to bind stools. Pumpkin is certainly an easy fix for many of these issues and seems relatively benign in terms of acceptance and affect on a carnivore’s diet.
But many people, myself included, are wary of using such a high fiber item continuously and with any regularity simply because carnivores are not intended to eat fiber. Eating fiber when their digestive tracts are not intended to digest and utilize fiber can potentially cause trouble, though, and should be approached with caution. Carnivores do not have the guts to frequently digest plant matter, and even a soluble fiber source such as pumpkin must have some effect on motility and strength of the bowel.
What is a ferret owner to do, then? There are occasions, especially during shedding seasons, when ferret guardians worry about the amount of fur and other indigestibles that their beloveds ingest. However, there is good news for carnivore lovers!
That good news is EGGS!!
Egg yolk lecithin is a wonderful alternative to plain canned pumpkin for this purpose! Hairballs (trichobezoars) form in the stomach and digestive tract when large amounts of hair combine with fat molecules. The fat binds the hair together to form larger and larger clumps, and it begins to “attract” any further ingested hair, growing the trichobezoar and making the problem worse. However, egg yolk lecithin works to counteract this process. Lecithin, specifically egg yolk lecithin, works to emulsify fat particles in the diet, making them slip away and breaking up any progressing hairballs. With no fat particles to bind the hair together, the hair can then pass through the digestive tract reasonably easily. Egg yolks also contain a high amount of choline, a necessary nutrient. Choline is a precursor to a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which, among other necessary cellular functions, helps to improve gastrointestinal motility – making the passing of hair, fur, and other indigestibles easier on the bowel. The combination of emulsification and choline is a double-whammy effect to potential hairballs!
This revelation comes as a sigh of relief to many of us raw-feeders who are not supremely comfortable with feeding pumpkin or other fiber items on a regular basis. Eggs are certainly nutritious powerfoods for carnivores, and include many benefits: they contain a complete protein, many nutrients including Vitamin A, a range of B Vitamins, iron, CoQ10, and if from free-range birds, a high concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids. Eggs are a wonderful addition to a raw diet and many of us already include eggs in the diet fairly regularly.
To benefit from the hairball remedy of egg yolk lecithin, you can simply feed two to three yolks (or whole eggs) mixed into food or as a treat per week. Egg yolk lecithin is also sold as a supplement in capsules if desired, and again the capsule contents can be emptied into food, soup, or fed as a treat.
Just as any raw-feeder will tell you – nature provides all that an animal needs, it is just a matter of wrapping our human minds around those truths. Here is another example of something new I have learned recently in regards to nutrition, and have utilized instead of fiber for my carnivore friends with surprising results!
I thank my friend, Save Samoa, for bringing this gem of nutritional advice to my attention, and hope that the information can help many others kick the pumpkin habit for good!!!
Oh, that incredible, edible egg.