Q: My 2-year-old, female ferret has always been a little on the heavy side, especially in the winter months. This year, she seems to be putting on quite a bit more weight than usual. If I had to guesstimate, I would say about a half pound to a pound over the last three weeks. I know that the ferret metabolism is fast and any sudden change could be fatal if not checked, and I have read about adrenal gland disease causing weight gain. What causes of ferret weight gain do you know of? Do you think something is wrong with my ferret?
A: Acute weight gain, over a period of a few weeks, is unusual in ferrets, even in the fall. We expect pet ferrets to put on some weight in early fall and to slowly lose it over the next few months, but usually the weight gain is subtle and minimal, unlike what you are describing.
Has your ferret’s food changed? Or is it possible that even if you are using the same food that the manufacturer changed the formula and there are more calories in the food? If there has been no change in the food or its quality, has your ferret been receiving less exercise? Is she routinely less active now than she was before the weight gain? If the answer to all of these questions is no, then it becomes more difficult to determine the cause of the weight gain.
Ferrets are not usually afflicted with hormone conditions that lower the metabolic rate and subsequently cause weight gain. Adrenal gland disease may cause many changes in ferrets, but weight gain is rarely part of that disease syndrome.
Again, the first thing might be to determine if your ferret is getting too many calories. Your veterinarian can calculate the caloric needs of your ferret based on her weight, her activity and her stage of life and then, using the information from the food label, give you an idea of how much to feed your ferret so she remains at a healthy weight.