Please note that while we fully support a natural lifestyle, “NATURAL” does NOT mean “SAFE!” There are many things in nature that are quite toxic (arsenic and cyanide are both natural substances for example), and in turn many medications are derived from natural sources (i.e. penicillin is originally derived from mold, and digoxin, a heart medication, is derived from the Foxglove flower).
Supplements should be treated the same as medications, and in the medical world medications and supplements are grouped together as “medications.” Supplements should only be used if there is a specific need for them, and when used should be done so at the lowest effective “dose,” and only as long as is truly necessary.
Supplements DO NOT replace appropriate veterinary care and veterinary prescribed medications. Please consult your veterinarian if you are having ANY health/medical concerns regarding your ferret. Please also consult with your vet regarding the safety of any supplements with other medications that your ferret may be taking.
Pancreatin is an enzymatic supplement that may be used in ferrets with IBD to help pre-digest proteins prior to feeding. Partially breaking down the meat with the enzymes may serve to denature (break apart) the particular protein that your ferret is reacting to and more importantly, it can help to make proteins easier to absorb and digest. This can be very helpful in ferrets in an active flare up as the inflammation will reduce their ability to properly absorb nutrients from their food.
Pancreatin is best used by applying the powder to the food 30 min to 1 hour prior to feeding, as this enables the enzymes time to begin the breakdown process. Apply 1/8-1/4 capsule per meal.
NOW Foods Pancreatin capsules are a commonly used brand
Slippery Elm Bark:
Slippery Elm Bark Syrup works similarly to Carafate – it is a “tummy coater” that can be used in IBD, gastric or intestinal ulcers, and gastitis. Slippery Elm creates a protective coat over the stomach and intestines, enabling the intestinal lining time to heal. It also has soothing properties and can be extremely helpful in an active IBD flare up. However, use Slippery Elm sparingly as the tummy-coating action will also interfere with proper nutrient absorption which can lead to an increased risk of nutrition deficiencies if it is used too frequently. It can also reduce absorption of medications and should be discussed with your vet prior to using.
Best used in Syrup form – see our page on how to make Slippery Elm Syrup. Alternatively, apply 1/4-1/2 capsule per meal.
Nature’s Way Slippery Elm Bark Capsules are a commonly brand used
Reishi is a mushroom that is thought to have strong antioxidant effects that may help fight inflammation. It can help to reduce inflammation and upset in a flare-up.
Apply 1/4 capsule per day per ferret.
New Chapter LifeSheild Reishi Capsules are the most popular brand used by ferret owners.
Wysong Call of the Wild (COTW):
COTW is a multivitamin supplement designed by Wysong that contains many vitamins and micronutrients. While it is often recommended as an organ replacement, it does contain some plant-based ingredients and should not be used to replace actual organ and heart meat in your ferret’s raw diet. However, COTW is a great supplement to have on hand, particularly if you have a ferret who suffers from IBD or food allergies. COTW can provide a nutrient boost when your ferret is having an active flare up. During a flare up, the inflammation can reduce nutrient absorption in the gut and COTW may help to “fill in the gaps” by making meals more nutrient dense. In addition, COTW contains probiotics, which may help to re-balance the natural gut flora and improve absorption.
Additionally, COTW can be used as a vitamin supplement during a protein trial if you have a temoprary period during which your ferret is not getting organ meats. Pet G.O. Powder (see below) is the preferable organ supplement however. Use only as needed as it is possible to overdose on many vitamins.
Note: COTW supplement is NOT needed for a healthy ferret on a well balanced raw diet. Also, while there are some fruit/veggie ingredients, MEAT products are the first few – fruits and veggies don’t come until lower on the list. The amount in the powder is not negligible but is relatively small. Additionally, you are only giving a small amount of the supplement so the actual amount of fruit/veg matter ingested is very small – significantly smaller than what is found in any kibble, and many FD products.
Pet G.O. Powder:
Pet G.O. Powder is an organ concentrate designed to serve as a replacement supplement for diets lacking in proper organ variety. This powder can be very useful if you are conducting a protein trial and have a period in which you are unable to offer your ferret organ meat. It is vital that a raw diet be properly balanced to avoid nutrient deficiencies. While it is best to get organs back into the rotation as soon as possible, Pet G.O. powder will help to ensure that your ferret is still getting the important nutrients that he needs during the trial. It can also be used to supplement a diet that has organs, but lacks a good variety of organs. For example if your ferret is only eating chicken livers, it would be advisable to add Pet G.O. powder to their diet. Use Pet G.O. Use only as needed as it is possible to overdose on many vitamins.
Apply 1/4-1/2tsp per day per ferret.
My Pets Friend Pet G.O. Powder is a commonly used brand.
Probiotic bacteria, or the natural gut flora, are important for maintaining gastrointestinal health and function. Anything that throws the intestines off-balances (inflammation from an IBD flare up, a bacterial overgrowth, antibiotics) can contribute to an upset GI tract in your ferret. Supplementing with a probiotic powder during a flare up or illness, or after a course of antibiotics may help in resetting the natural gut balance and restoring proper function. There are many brands of pet probiotic powders available. Read labels carefully and try to stick with brands that are designed for carnivores (cat supplements), have minimal plant-based ingredients, and have minimal additives and preservatives. Many individuals use probios as a regular supplement but this is not necessary if you have a healthy ferret. While daily probiotic powders will not hurt your ferret, all supplements should be considered medications and be used only as needed.
Dosage may vary by the brand and formula, but typically ½ capsule per day is sufficient.
Kefir and Plain, Unsweetened Greek Yogurt:
Many use Kefir as a source of live probiotics. As with powdered probiotics, using kefir during an upset or after a course of antibiotics may help to reset the gut flora. It is important to find plain, unsweetened, unflavored Kefir. Unlike probiotic powders, kefir should NOT be given as a daily supplement and is reserved for use only when it is truly needed. That said, because of the live nature of the bacteria cultures found in kefir, many find this to be a much more effective supplement than the powdered form of probiotics.
Note: Plain, unsweetened greek yogurt may also be used as a source of live probiotics. However, yogurt is more likely to cause a lactose-related GI upset than kefir.