Can Ferrets Eat Dog Food?

ferret inside a steel bucket looking up

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have run out of your ferret’s normal food, you might be tempted to offer something made for other animals. Like dog food? It’s nutritious and a good temporary substitute, right? Well, the answer may surprise you.

Ferrets should not eat dog food. While a very small amount may be harmless, feeding your ferret dog food could cause digestive issues. Furthermore, dog food does not have the nutritional value that a ferret needs. 

However, if you do want to mix up your ferret’s diet, there are some other things that you could offer that may be far more suitable for your furry friend.

Why Can’t Ferrets Eat Dog Food?

Dog food is designed to meet the nutritional needs of our canine companions, and most good-quality brands do this exceptionally well. However, ferrets have a very different set of dietary needs and so dog food is not suitable for them.

For starters, dog food is not high enough in protein and certain fats which are essential for the health of your ferret. Moreover, most dog food products contain vegetables that your ferret will find very difficult to break down in its digestive system. If this is allowed to happen over the long term, it could cause serious health problems for your pet.

One of the main issues is the various soy, wheat, and corn ingredients that are found in dog food. Your ferret cannot digest these and they could serve as a way of blocking the digestive tract.

What’s more, owners who choose to feed their ferret exclusively on dog food will notice an overall decline in the animal’s health since it will quickly become malnourished. That said, since ferrets are intelligent animals, they will notice if they are not getting the correct nutrition. As a result of this, the ferret will then consume larger amounts of food.

If this is dog food, the ferret will be doing itself more harm than good. However, you should keep in mind that if your ferret accidentally steals a few bites of your dog’s food, there’s no real reason to worry as a small amount is unlikely to do any harm.

Finally, ferret owners should consider the fact that many dry dog foods are made up of larger pieces. While ferrets have very strong jaws, their mouths are much smaller than that of most dogs and they may find chewing dog food pellets to be incredibly difficult. Not to mention the risk of a choking hazard.

The Natural Diet Of The Ferret

Ferrets are carnivores, which means that they almost exclusively eat meat. On the other hand, dogs are omnivores, meaning that their diet consists of both meat and plant-based foods. This tells us straight away that the two animals require vastly different foods and that food designed for a dog will not be suitable for a ferret.

Moreover, ferrets have very strong jaws and this enables them to eat the entire body of their prey, including the bones and teeth. In the wild, ferrets will eat things like mice and small birds.

They require high amounts of protein and unlike a dog, who may eat two or three times a day, a ferret requires food little and often. Typically, they might eat between eight and ten small meals each day to keep their protein levels balanced and consistent.

Other Foods That Are Suitable For Ferrets

According to the RSPCA, Australia, a wide variety of commercial ferret foods are available. This is the best option for your pet. However, you can also offer human-grade meat as this will help keep your ferret’s teeth healthy. You should never offer meats that are pet-grade as the quality of these is insufficient for the ferret.

In the case that you run out of your ferret’s normal food or wish to provide your pet with a bit of variety, you are in luck. There are a few things that make a great occasional treat for your pet and deliver the nutritional value that it needs.

Eggs are a great example, since they are packed with protein, they give your ferret everything he needs. However, they should only be given a maximum of twice a week as too many eggs could cause constipation.

Baby food that has a high meat content is also a suitable treat for a ferret. But you should make sure that the food does not contain high levels of carbohydrates as these cannot be digested by the ferret.

It is possible to offer kitten food to your ferret as this has a far greater protein content than dog food. However, this won’t be a suitable diet in the long run but can be used from time to time.


Ferrets are carnivores and so their diet must contain high levels of protein. Unfortunately, dog food does not have the correct nutritional value for a ferret and so is not a suitable substitute for their typical diet. What’s more, the vegetable components of dog food could cause digestive issues since your ferret is unable to break them down.

If you are looking to give your ferret a little more variety, kitten food is a good option as this has much more protein. You might also choose to offer eggs as a bi-weekly treat which are full of the essential proteins that your pet needs.

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