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Dry Ferret foods for use with Fennec foxes... Your thoughts?

For species less common than reds and arctics.

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Dry Ferret foods for use with Fennec foxes... Your thoughts?

Postby dmarksvr » Wed Dec 25, 2013 8:48 am

So I mentioned that I'm feeding my Fennec ferret food usually in an older thread I dredged up :) ...I just wanted to get other peoples thoughts on this. Maybe I missed something in my research like some prey items having some special nutrient that wouldn't be provided in a dry ferret food?... something.

My reasoning for going with ferret food other then the convenience since I had 2 ferrets already, was based on researching wild fox/canid nutritional requirements and basically being led to believe by what I read that they'd do better with a higher protein diet then what was in most of the cat/dog foods I was told to feed them. Note: Some high quality ferret foods are repackaged in the same formula for cats. I lean towards the belief that a base diet similar to what a cat would eat is likely better for a fox, even a fennec then the diet for a domestic dog unless it is a very high quality/high protein dog food.

It seems actually that a lot of the stuff that is in most ferret foods (especially lower quality ones) that might be hard on their digestion, namely vegetable matter is actually stuff a fennec would benefit from or at least tolerate more then a ferret might.[b] But the higher quality food is still the higher quality food for either animal in most cases probably.


I don't remember finding anything magical in various prey items suggested for fennecs like insects that wasn't likely to be in a decent quality ferret food. Though I do feed insects (superworms/dehydrated crickets) occasionally just to be safe and the rare pinky mouse or something.

My main concern has been fat and fiber content. Good ferret foods are high in fat, potentially to high for a fennec but diets based on many cat/dog foods potentially to low in protein without insects, fish, lizards or mice to make up the difference. Zupreem was typically the ferret food she got, but I think I'm going to switch to an even better ferret food with a lower fiber content.

From what I researched over the years it seems like as long as they aren't over fed or getting a lot of fat from other sources (like insects) you should fall somewhere in the 15-20% fat range probably and that should be fine (with 25% fat pushing it a bit much?). So I compensated a bit for raising the protein/fat content of her base dry food diet by cutting back on insects since the dry ferret food I was feeding was higher in fat/protein then the wet/dry cat and dog foods I'd been using the first year. With veggies being the only source of moist food for most part this should be good for her dental health in the long run too.

Actually Echo was getting obese on the more typical fennec diet and after switching fell to a much more healthy looking weight. In fact it seems over the years a lot of pics I see of captive fennecs they are either to thin looking or to fat, but on this diet of Ferret food and a table spoon or 2 of veggies she generally maintains what looks to be a healthy weight without being to fat/thin. The veggies I feed the most are green beans, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, and a few carrots and some corn, the last 2 being the ones I feed the least of. If she looks to be getting a little to fat I just cut back the portion size for awhile, or occasionally skip a day feeding her. Also how often she is out and active (she has her own room) makes difference. The more free/play time she gets the less likely we are to have to cut back her portions.

On rare occasions she gets some form of table scrap, usually something meat or veggie like the pickle off a hamburger or a piece of bun with a little bit of meat and condiment on it, and every once in awhile a few cashews/pecans or some popcorn (This is all rare and in small amounts though, rare treats basically).

Anyways this seems to be working very well as she looks and acts healthy, and I haven't found any magical nutrient that I'm leaving out, but like I said maybe I missed something so if anyone has a reason why this is a bad idea I'm willing to listen, but other then that I just thought I'd share what seems to be working well for me and maybe get some thoughts. She's 5 1/2 and had 0 health issues other then a claw that she caught on something and broke awhile back.

This pic is about as thin as she's ever been and this was when she was transitioning from kit to adult. She's more robust now and rarely chubby looking but with the current diet she tends more towards starting to get chubby then ever getting to thin, so I think fat wise the diet doesn't need any more of that and she needs more activity and/or smaller portions when that happens. I don't have a scale so I'm not sure on exact weight but I'd say she's in the 3 pound range always. (More pics in signature Flickr galleries)
Image

Here is one of her as an adult stretched out mid jump (I think this was taken when she was around here most typical weight)...
Image

So basically she is on a dry ferret food/tablespoon or 2 of veggies diet, with insects and other stuff being relegated more to treat status rather then a main component of the base diet. I wonder if a high quality ferret food might not be better then many options for other fox species also.
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Re: Dry Ferret foods for use with Fennec foxes... Your thoug

Postby Ash » Wed Dec 25, 2013 3:16 pm

Very interesting! I really enjoyed reading your post and hearing your insights. I'm always interested in hearing what people feed and what works for them. It sounds like a good alternative diet than what most people feed here. I'm glad you've also been very careful with researching what works and what doesn't--that's the best way to formulate diets.
3 red fox, 4 iguanas, nile monitor, BW tegu, sailfin dragon, leachie gecko, 6 snakes, 2 salamanders, tarantula
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Re: Dry Ferret foods for use with Fennec foxes... Your thoug

Postby TamanduaGirl » Wed Dec 25, 2013 5:27 pm

What brand are you feeding and what are the actual nutrient values. Dogs and cats have much different dietary needs and foxes have their own. This makes captive feeding a bit of a challenge. You need to know what the cal/phos ratio and amount is that is needed for a fox diet and match that. If you feed a dog cat food it's not just a difference of there being more fat and protein, though too much fat is bad one fox here got fat depositis in her eyes but they went away with a low fat diet. There's lots of important differences. Cat food has the wrong cal/phos for a dog this can cause a long list of health problems over time. Cat food also has too much retinol this causes it's own issues like spinal problems.

So what you need to do is know what all the main values are in the food and match them up to what a fox, particularly a fennec fox actually needs. Only then will you really know if the food meets those needs or not.

Some info but you may need to buy them
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19341956

This would give you a way to test if the retinol is okay. I get Pua's retinol tested occasionally and compare to a study on tamandua levels. This article appears to give you fennec levels. It's not as good as having wild levels to compare too though.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/ar ... 9188902246

There's a lot more info on red foxes needed diet but of course they still wont be the same as fennec since they live differently in the wild but this has a lot of info. I used to have a digital copy myself but lost it http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=030903325X
Here's a bit you can see for free on cal/phos for red fox http://books.google.com/books?id=MlnRGo ... ox&f=false
That is interesting really as it mentions a sign of deficiency is walking in the pasturns and I remember a person or two had that issue with their fox kits from a pet store I think but they "grew out of it" probably then from a better home diet than the store/breeder gave.

Anyway that lists a cal/phos rang of 1/1 to 1.7/1

Scrolling up on that same link it goes into vitamins requirements. or Vitamin A it says 100IU of retinol or 600IU of carotines, that is per gram of body weight. 200IU can shows signs of making them ill. Roughly about 450 grams per pound so a 2 pound fennec is 900grams so 90,000Iu per day. 1 IU retinol = 0.3 mcg. So 27 grams per day in the diet for a 2 pound fox if going by the red fox levels. You'd need to compare how much is in the food now and how much is currently fed per day to know how much she is getting.

Anyway there's some info to start. If you want to explor efurther.
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Re: Dry Ferret foods for use with Fennec foxes... Your thoug

Postby dmarksvr » Thu Dec 26, 2013 4:28 am

TamanduaGirl wrote:What brand are you feeding and what are the actual nutrient values. Dogs and cats have much different dietary needs and foxes have their own. This makes captive feeding a bit of a challenge. You need to know what the cal/phos ratio and amount is that is needed for a fox diet and match that. If you feed a dog cat food it's not just a difference of there being more fat and protein, though too much fat is bad one fox here got fat depositis in her eyes but they went away with a low fat diet. There's lots of important differences. Cat food has the wrong cal/phos for a dog this can cause a long list of health problems over time. Cat food also has too much retinol this causes it's own issues like spinal problems.

So what you need to do is know what all the main values are in the food and match them up to what a fox, particularly a fennec fox actually needs. Only then will you really know if the food meets those needs or not.

Some info but you may need to buy them
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19341956

This would give you a way to test if the retinol is okay. I get Pua's retinol tested occasionally and compare to a study on tamandua levels. This article appears to give you fennec levels. It's not as good as having wild levels to compare too though.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/ar ... 9188902246

There's a lot more info on red foxes needed diet but of course they still wont be the same as fennec since they live differently in the wild but this has a lot of info. I used to have a digital copy myself but lost it http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=030903325X
Here's a bit you can see for free on cal/phos for red fox http://books.google.com/books?id=MlnRGo ... ox&f=false
That is interesting really as it mentions a sign of deficiency is walking in the pasturns and I remember a person or two had that issue with their fox kits from a pet store I think but they "grew out of it" probably then from a better home diet than the store/breeder gave.

Anyway that lists a cal/phos rang of 1/1 to 1.7/1

Scrolling up on that same link it goes into vitamins requirements. or Vitamin A it says 100IU of retinol or 600IU of carotines, that is per gram of body weight. 200IU can shows signs of making them ill. Roughly about 450 grams per pound so a 2 pound fennec is 900grams so 90,000Iu per day. 1 IU retinol = 0.3 mcg. So 27 grams per day in the diet for a 2 pound fox if going by the red fox levels. You'd need to compare how much is in the food now and how much is currently fed per day to know how much she is getting.

Anyway there's some info to start. If you want to explor efurther.


Thanks I've scanned some of that but I'll dive into it more later. Basically though I've been relying on the assumption that the better ferret food makers have done their homework and supplied the nutrients in decent proportions/ratios for a carnivore. For instance a 1/1 or higher cal/phos ratio is common since phosphorus can interfere with calcium uptake or vise versa. We see this even in reptile/amphibians and vitaman A, and its various forms and how well animals cope with them (possible toxicity, or issues from deficiency)so it is also an issue not only for mammals but for reptile/amphibians too. In fact I think there is a study that say smokers who have high levels of vit A intake can have cancer rates increased up to 35%! (I smoke so I've tried to cut down on vit A intake). Fear of issues resulting from vit A, or certain forms of it is one reason why I limit how much/often I feed carrots to Echo especially since other veggies and the dry food contain various forms of vitamin A. (Oh and she has an air purifier in her room since I smoke in the rest of the house).

I'm guessing that a well made carnivore dry food is supplying most of what she needs and she'll get the rest from the other veggies and probably doesn't need regular portions of carrots.

The 2 zupreem varieties for ferrets were what I used mostly for my ferrets and Echo till the ferrets passed away at ages 7 and 8 (not bad for ferrets). I would use the wild harvest 8 and 1 brand from walmart occasionally when money was tight or I didn't want the make the run into Tulsa to go to petco/petsmart or it was to late at night (I've worked nights mostly the last 8 years). It's a pretty crappy ferret food since it isn't as meat based as it should be and not as high in fat as I should be for ferrets, but for a Fennec it didn't look to bad except the ingredients weren't the highest quality so I would often save some of that more for Echo and feed the ferrets the zupreem if I had it.

It out shined most of the cat foods in protein/fat ratio you'd find at wal-mart or your local grocery store, maybe even petco/petsmart, and the non meat ingredients were stuff that a Fennec would likely be fine with or at least tolerate well. So in short the crappy ferret food actually looked like it was a better fennec food then it was a ferret food. I just wish the meat ingredients were higher quality. Occasionally since the ferrets passed and I've been between jobs I've resorted to purina brand dry cat food with 30% protein and like 13% fat ratio. I'm not really comfortable feeding that long term but seems ok and less horrible for feeding a fox then it might be for a ferret for short periods when I'm broke, and I continued to supplement it with veggies. I should be starting a new job soon so she's going to start eating really really good and for as long as possible ;)

The Zupreem ferret foods compare favorably to or beat most of the other ferret foods on the shelves at my local petco/petsmarts so that's what I usually tried to buy, and my research suggested that a fennec would tolerate the higher protein fine (along with any veggie/fruit or starch matter), so it became the fat/fiber that was my biggest concern. I didn't realize though that there are even better foods out there for ferrets and possibly by extension Fennecs or foxes in general since I hadn't researched it in awhile. And then I recently discovered this ferret food chart...
http://moredooks.herobo.com/search.php?chart=ferret

Zupreem kinda falls in the middle of the above chart, and the higher tier stuff I think is less common if you aren't ordering online. I was aware of weysong years ago but the zupreem was one of the best foods I was aware of and could easily get locally (and afford) at that time but now that I've found this chart and should soon be in a better position to afford brands like innova Evo and Go! fit + with their low fiber content and the fact they contain at least 75% animal parts to better replicate a true carnivore raw meat diet I think I'll be switching to and mixing those 2 brands together and then continuing to add the couple tablespoons of veggies to Echos diet. Then possibly adding some Orijen Cat Regional Red because of its unique protein sources, but due to It's higher fiber content I may just skip that. The other 2 look like they'll provide plenty of protein sources and adding the other would probably be more a novelty then a real improvement to the diet.

I'm reasonably confident that on the Omnivore side of things Echo has been getting most of what she needs, but as I continue to research even with the Zupreem as the base I'm not so sure now she has been getting as high a Carnivore component in the diet as needed for optimal health.

To be fair though I was told by the breeder years ago when I got Echo to feed a "high quality" dog food like in the 20%+ protein range and some friskies cat food or something and bugs and veggies... I went with sheba actually because it was better. But then I'm looking at these dog and cat foods and researching online years ago, reading some study that had dogs on higher quality dry foods living years longer then and I'm like "OMG this stuff I'm feeding Echo is horrible! It isn't even good for dogs or cats! The stuff I feed my ferrets is better!"

So the ferret food being more suited to a mostly carnivore animal like a fennec (even if they are technically omnivorous), and the ingredient quality being much better for the most part, as were the protein levels (Fat/fiber were the concerns as previously stated), seemed to be a real step up from what the breeder recommended. To be fair that breeder had raised and sold lots of fennecs on the diet she recommended to me so obviously it was adequate since as far as I knew peoples fennecs from her weren't dropping like flies, but after researching it myself it just seemed like there was a much better solution and that she had maybe over looked some things. Really all I did was increase the quality of the dry food base part of the diet so that it had a nutritional value more suited to a carnivore a long with better quality source ingredients, then cut down on the insects to compensate for the higher protein/fat levels in that new dry food base (Basically kinda playing it safe since the breeder had been successful raising fennecs for years despite my reservations about the dietary recommendations being optimal) and then kept the veggies in the diet like I had been told since that jived with what I had learned on my own.

So the story went like this...
1. The breeders diet (adequate, but seemed like room for improvement)
2. My version with the ferret food as a base rather then crappy brand name or even somewhat higher dog/cat foods with horrible ingredient sources or at least being bit low in the protein area.
3. The new diet I'm going to try will basically be the same as above, but we are bumping up to the even higher quality ferret foods that are based on 75%+ animal parts to meet the carnivore side of the fennec's diet while cutting fiber intake, while keeping the regular veggies she gets (which add fiber to the diet anyways).

So while I don't know if this is the best diet yet found for for captive Fennecs, it should be a significant step up from the breeder recommendations (which worked ok I guess for her and the foxes she bred/sold), and my modified version of her suggestion using ferret food instead of cat/dog food. I will still continue to offer bugs and/or the occasional pinky mouse as treats just to be safe though.

Basically I think using the high quality ferret foods, added veggies and bug/pinky mouse treats will result in something that is the next best thing to cutting up a bunch of raw meats and then adding veggies and bugs/lizards/mice to the mix.

Oh here is a paper on using the ferret as basis for vit A metabolism in carnivores...
http://jn.nutrition.org/content/132/6/1787S.long

And here kinda talks about why a food labeled/percieved to be for cats or ferrets can work for other animals...
http://moredooks.herobo.com/ferretnutri ... ?p=catfood

Here are the 2 foods (chosen for high rating and low fiber content) I'm most looking at switching to and mixing for Echo's new diet..
1. http://www.petcurean.com/for-cats/go/fi ... urkey-duck
I'm assuming the calc/phos ratio was researched by them and is decent since I can't find the exact levels but it is considered to be a high quality food.

2. http://www.evopet.com/products/1671
Note the calc/phos levels (and that their ferret formula is identical to their cat formula)...
Calcium 2.59 %
Phosphorous 1.67 %

Note: Both contain Probiotics which will be a new feature of her diet and should benefit health or at the very least it won't harm her any.
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Re: Dry Ferret foods for use with Fennec foxes... Your thoug

Postby TamanduaGirl » Thu Dec 26, 2013 5:08 am

Your diet does sound pretty good. I'm just offering info so you can check if it needs improving. I've made many changed to my anteater diet as well over the years. I started with what the most successful zoo was using, which was better than others but was still bad after more research.

You can give veggies all you like none of them have retinol. Caratinoids are what is in vegetable matter(like beta caratine). These caratinoids the body(at least in most mammals, cats are one that doesn't) can convert to retinol so are listed as vitamin A based on how much retinol your body can make from it but there is no retinol in them. The body(in mammals I can't say for reptiles) wont convert caratinoids to Retinol if it doesn't need it so there is no risk of retinol over dose with veggies. So you really only need to worry about retinol it's self. Not all carnivores are created the same in their needs.

My species is anteaters(technically carnivore as insects are animal flesh too) and they have an opposite type ratio. Their wild diet consists of about 4phos to 1 cal. A 1/1 diet would be quite high in Ca for them. More calcium is not always better. Even in a more normal species like a fox you should aim for about in the range if you have one. Red from the one study above is cal/phos rang of 1/1 to 1.7/1 now 2/1 would be okay but if you're like 4/1 could be a bit excessive.

Really it sounds pretty good but one thing I've noticed is that high quality foods like Evo tend to be sky high in retinol(due to the extra organ meats, I guess). You may want to check the retinol level before switching.
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Re: Dry Ferret foods for use with Fennec foxes... Your thoug

Postby dmarksvr » Thu Dec 26, 2013 6:23 am

TamanduaGirl wrote:Your diet does sound pretty good. I'm just offering info so you can check if it needs improving. I've made many changed to my anteater diet as well over the years. I started with what the most successful zoo was using, which was better than others but was still bad after more research.

You can give veggies all you like none of them have retinol. Caratinoids are what is in vegetable matter(like beta caratine). These caratinoids the body(at least in most mammals, cats are one that doesn't) can convert to retinol so are listed as vitamin A based on how much retinol your body can make from it but there is no retinol in them. The body(in mammals I can't say for reptiles) wont convert caratinoids to Retinol if it doesn't need it so there is no risk of retinol over dose with veggies. So you really only need to worry about retinol it's self. Not all carnivores are created the same in their needs.

My species is anteaters(technically carnivore as insects are animal flesh too) and they have an opposite type ratio. Their wild diet consists of about 4phos to 1 cal. A 1/1 diet would be quite high in Ca for them. More calcium is not always better. Even in a more normal species like a fox you should aim for about in the range if you have one. Red from the one study above is cal/phos rang of 1/1 to 1.7/1 now 2/1 would be okay but if you're like 4/1 could be a bit excessive.

Really it sounds pretty good but one thing I've noticed is that high quality foods like Evo tend to be sky high in retinol(due to the extra organ meats, I guess). You may want to check the retinol level before switching.


Thanks, it's appreciated ;) ...How do you determine retinol levels? I know it is related to vit A, which can be stored in liver but I'm not seeing that listed specifically on the evo page any where. Are you calculating it based on the meat content and/or Vit A IU/ Now you've got me paranoid about retinol ;)

I'm continuing to read. I found these articles...

http://jn.nutrition.org/content/35/6/62 ... 79788df9e9

http://jn.nutrition.org/content/24/2/97 ... 79788df9e9

I also found these charts in a preview to an article...
Image
Image

They give me the impression I'm at least on the right track given the minimums. At some point I'll have to figure out how much I'm feeding on average by weight and crunch the numbers to get the vit A IU. I just kinda eye ball it usually and if she starts loosing weight give her more or if she gets chubby cut back. My assumption/guess especially since she isn't being bred is that between the veggies and the dry food she's probably getting adequate vit A (especially with getting a few carrots regularly) but not to much. As I said though I haven't been precisely measuring her portions or done the calculations so it's really a "guestimate" ;) Given her tendancy to get a little chubby more often then skinny my guess is that in general I'm overfeeding a bit and could probably cut her portions back a bit. What I do a lot of times is if she has some food left over from the night before, I just don't feed her that day. She has to make it on what she has until the next day and that seems help keep her weight stable. I don't think she suffers to much for it. In the wild its usually feast or famine and we aren't even close to famine in this house ;)
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Re: Dry Ferret foods for use with Fennec foxes... Your thoug

Postby TamanduaGirl » Tue Feb 04, 2014 8:17 pm

I could have sworn i replied to this but you can just ask the company how much retinol is in the food not counting carotines. I've done that before and they will either tell you or may say they don't have that info. I beleive most of the vitamin A in Evo is actually retinol. They add a vitamin A supplement(which would be retinol) along with their being a lot of organ meats.

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