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Information Resources on the Care and Welfare of Ferrets


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Feeding / Nutrition / Metabolism

Fekete, S.G., K. Fodor, A. Prohaczik, and E. Andrasofszky (2005). Comparison of feed preference and digestion of three different commercial diets for cats and ferrets. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 89(3-6): 199-202. ISSN: 0931-2439.
Abstract: Diet preference and digestibility experiments were conducted using a total of 10 cats and 10 ferrets. The composition of the three different kinds of dry cat feed was as follows (each data are given in dry matter, DM): (i) normal diet (N): 95.3% DM, 33.7% crude protein (CP), 20.4% ether extract (EE), 37.6% nitrogen-free extract (NFE); (ii) 'light diet' (L): 94.2% DM, 31.6% CP, 10.7% EE, 52.2% NFE; (iii) 'veterinary diet' (D): 94.57% DM, 38.7% CP, 9.6% EE, 47.2% NFE. During the period of the preference test, the average daily dry matter intake (calculated with the mean of the three diets: 94.7% DM) was 98.0, 15.0 and 16.7 g DM in cats and 25.0, 7.3 and 8.1 g DM in ferrets. The preference rates of the three different diets, expressed in percentage of their total consumption, were as follows: 60.4% N (54.4 g DM), 12.4% L (12.1 g DM) and 27.2% D (26.6 g DM) in cats, and 46.2% N (11.6 g DM), 29.9% L (7.5 g DM) and 23.9% D (6.0 g DM) in ferrets. This indicates that cats and ferrets have a clear preference for diets of higher fat content. In all three diets, the digestibility of CP was significantly (p < 0.05) lower (70.1 +/- 5.4 vs. 75.9 +/- 5.8) while that of EE was significantly (p < 0.05) higher (95.6 +/- 1.5 vs. 89.4 +/- 5.3) in ferrets than in cats. The average digestible/metabolizable energy (DE/ME) ratio of feeds turned to be 95.6% for cats and 90.6% for the ferrets. From the data one can conclude that the ferret cannot be used as a model animal for cats either for preference or digestibility studies.
Descriptors: ferrets, animal feed, cats, digestion physiology, food preferences, nutrition, dietary fats, dietary proteins.

Harrington, L.A., D.E. Biggins, and A.W. Alldredge (2003). Basal metabolism of the Black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) and the Siberian polecat (M. eversmannii). Journal of Mammalogy 84(2): 497-504. ISSN: 0022-2372.
Abstract: Black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) and Siberian polecats (M. eversmannii) are medium-sized (about 1 kg) mustelids with similar ecological and morphological characteristics. We measured basal metabolic rates (BMR) for both species. In contrast with the commonly stated belief that mustelids have relatively high mass-specific BMR, neither the BMR of ferrets nor that of polecats in winter was greater than standard allometric predictions for all mammals. As suggested by previous authors, we believe that our relatively lower measurements for BMR are due to our efforts to minimize stress during the experimental procedure. These results support the contention that BMR in mustelids is no different from what is expected of mammals of this body mass. Seasonal differences were found in polecat BMR (higher in summer) but not in ferret BMR. Reasons for this interspecific difference may relate to differences in natural histories of these species. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
Descriptors: black-footed ferret, Siberian polecat, basal metabolism, body mass, seasonal differences.

Liu, C., R.M. Russell, and X.D. Wang (2004). Low dose beta-carotene supplementation of ferrets attenuates smoke-induced lung phosphorylation of JNK p38 MAPK and p53 proteins. Journal of Nutrition 134(10): 2705-2710. ISSN: 0022-3166.
NAL Call Number: 389.8 J82
Descriptors: ferrets, proteins, beta carotene, supplementation, smoke induced lung phosphorylation, low dose.

Liu, C., R.M. Russell, and X.D. Wang (2006). Lycopene supplementation prevents smoke-Iinduced changes in p53, p53 phosphorylation, cell proliferation, and apoptosis in the gastric mucosa of ferrets. Journal of Nutrition 136(1): 106-111. ISSN: 0022-3166.
NAL Call Number: 389.8 J82
Abstract: Cigarette smoking increases the risk for gastric cancer. Higher intakes or blood levels of lycopene are associated with a decreased risk of gastric cancer. However, the biological mechanisms by which lycopene may protect against gastric carcinogenesis are poorly understood. We evaluated the effects of lycopene supplementation on smoke-induced changes in protein levels of p53, p53 target genes (p21[superscript Waf1/Cip1] and Bax-1), cell proliferation, and apoptosis in the gastric mucosa of ferrets. Ferrets were assigned to cigarette smoke exposure or to no exposure and to no, low-dose, or high-dose lycopene supplementation (2 x 3 factorial design) for 9 wk. Lycopene concentrations were significantly elevated in a dose-dependent manner in the gastric mucosa of ferrets supplemented with lycopene alone, but were markedly reduced in ferrets supplemented with lycopene and exposed to smoke. Although ferrets were given lycopene containing 95% all-trans isomers, cis isomers were the predominant forms in the gastric mucosa. Total p53 and phosphorylated p53 levels were greater in ferrets exposed to smoke alone than in all other groups. Levels were [approximately]300 and 500% of the controls, respectively. However, smoke-elevated total p53 and phosphorylated p53 were markedly attenuated by both doses of lycopene. p21[superscript Waf1/Cip1], Bax-1, and cleaved caspase 3 were substantially decreased, whereas cyclin D1 and proliferating cellular nuclear antigen (PCNA) were increased in ferrets exposed to smoke alone. Lycopene prevented smoke-induced changes in p21[superscript Waf1/Cip1], Bax-1, cleaved caspase 3, cyclin D1, and PCNA in a dose-dependent fashion. These data indicate that lycopene may prevent smoke exposure-induced changes in p53, p53 phosphorylation, p53 target genes, cell proliferation, and apoptosis in the gastric mucosa of ferrets.
Descriptors: ferrets, animal disease models, smoking habit, lycopene, dietary supplements, protein phosphorylation, cell proliferation, apoptosis, human health, gastric mucosa, cigarettes, gastric cancer, human diseases, chemoprevention, gene expression, proliferating cell nuclear antigen, cyclins, animal proteins.

Nieminen, P., A.M. Mustonen, P. Lindstrom Seppa, J. Asikainen, H. Mussalo Rauhamaa, and J.V.K. Kukkonen (2002). Phytosterols act as endocrine and metabolic disruptors in the European polecat (Mustela putorius). Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 178(1): 22-28. ISSN: 0041-008X.
NAL Call Number: 391.8 T662
Descriptors: polecats, phytosterols, oral administration, blood plasma, estradiol, thyroid hormones, somatoliberin, hormones, carbohydrate metabolism, liver, kidneys, glycogen, glucose 6 phosphate, triacylglycerol lipase, glycogen phosphorylase, enzyme activity, blood lipids, low density lipoprotein, high density lipoprotein, cholesterol.

Raila, J., C. Gomez, and F.J. Schweigert (2002). The ferret as a model for vitamin A metabolism in carnivores. Journal of Nutrition 132(6 Suppl 2): 1787s-1789s. ISSN: 0022-3166.
NAL Call Number: 389.8 J82
Descriptors: ferret metabolism, vitamin A, diet, kidney metabolism, liver metabolism, retinol binding proteins, animal models.

Rosenthal, K.L. (2006). Feeding the hypoglycemic ferret. In: Small animal and exotics Proceedings of the North American Veterinary Conference. January 7, 2006-January 11, 2006, Orlando, Florida, USA., The North American Veterinary Conference: Gainesville, USA, Vol. 20, p. 1766.
Online: http://www.tnavc.org
Descriptors: feeding, ferret feeding, hypoglycemia.

Sundaresan, P.R., P. Marmillot, Q.H. Liu, G.V. Mitchell, E. Grundel, and M.R. Lakshman (2005). Effects of dietary taurocholate, fat and protein on the storage and metabolism of dietary beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol in ferrets. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research 75(2): 133-141.
NAL Call Number: 389.8 Z33
Abstract: Dietary factors affecting tissue storage of beta-carotene (BC), alpha-tocopherol (alpha-T), and retinol (ROL) in mammals include taurocholate, protein, and fat. Few studies have examined the effects of these factors on the storage of BC, retinyl esters, and alpha-T in a mammalian system that is similar to humans. The main objective of the study was to investigate the effects of taurocholate (TC), fat, and protein on the absorption and metabolism of BC and alpha-T in ferret tissues. Three 4-week experiments were conducted using groups of 5-6 ferrets per treatment. All diets contained 0.2% BC. In Experiment 1, taurocholate was fed at concentrations of 0, 0.5, or 1%. Effects of two concentrations of dietary fat (6 and 23%) and three concentrations of protein (10, 20, and 40%) were also studied in Experiments 2 and 3, respectively. Tissues were analyzed for BC, retinoids, and alpha-T by high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). Taurocholate enhanced hepatic and plasma concentrations of BC (2.3- to 3-fold), retinyl palmitate [(RP) 3.2- to 9.5-fold], retinyl stearate [(RS) 2.9- to 6- fold], and hepatic alpha-T (6- to 13- fold) at p < 0.05. High-fat diets elevated hepatic BC, RP, RS, and retinyl linoleate (RL) concentrations (2- to 3.6-fold, p < 0.05). In contrast, high-protein diets lowered hepatic RL 1.8-fold and alpha-T 8-fold (p < 0.05). Our results indicate the importance of taurocholate, fat, and protein in achieving adequate levels of vitamins A and E in mammals.
Descriptors: ferrets, dietary fats, dietary proteins, taurocholic acid, alpha tocopherol, beta carotene, liquid diet, liver chemistry, blood, nutrition.

Triantafyllou, A., D. Fletcher, and J. Scott (2005). Organic secretory products, adaptive responses and innervation in the parotid gland of ferret: A histochemical study. Archives of Oral Biology 50(9): 769-777. ISSN: 0003-9969.
NAL Call Number: RK1.A6989
Abstract: To qualify cellular events of possible pathophysiological significance in the parotid of ferret, tissue obtained post-mortem from mature animals of either sex was examined by light microscopical histochemistry for calcium, protein, amino acids, mucosubstances and hydrolases, and by neurohistology. Calcium was localised in acinar cells replete with granules containing protein, disulphides and usually carboxylated mucosubstances. Acid phosphatase activity was basally concentrated in the acinar cells. The granular luminal region of striated ductal cells showed protein, tryptophan, disulphides, neutral mucosubstances, and E600-sensitive esterase and Naphthol AS-D chloroacetate esterase activities, whereas their basal region showed acid phosphatase activity. Strong periluminal activity of acid phosphatase and E600-resistant esterase characterised the collecting ducts. Cholinesterase activity was associated with an extensive network of nerve fibres embracing parenchyma. Catecholamine fluorescence was not seen. beta-glucuronidase reactive macrophages abounded in the interstices. The results suggest that while the acini in the parotid of ferret secrete polyionic glycoproteins, shielded by calcium, the striated ducts secrete tryptophan-rich products comprising neutral glycoproteins and showing proteolytic activity. Innervation is of the cholinergic type and parenchymal lysosomal activity, possibly related to autophagy of stored secretory products and heterophagy of luminal material, is brisk. Macrophages contribute to maintaining the glandular microenvironment, wherein secretory activity appears to be lethargic.
Descriptors: ferrets, metabolism, phosphatase analysis, calcium analysis, disulfides analysis, anatomy, histology, hydrolases metabolism, nerve fibers, parotid gland cytology, innervation.

Wang, X.D. (2005). Can smoke-exposed ferrets be utilized to unravel the mechanisms of action of lycopene. Journal of Nutrition 135(8): 2053S-2056S. ISSN: 0022-3166.
NAL Call Number: 389.8 J82
Descriptors: tomato products, lycopene, anticarcinogenic activity, lung cancer, ferrets, animal models, smoking habit, mechanism of action, dosage, metabolites, blood chemistry, lungs, cell proliferation, epidemiology.
Notes: In the special section: "Promises and perils of lycopene/tomato supplementation and cancer prevention." Presented at a conference held February 17-18, 2005, Bethesda, Maryland.

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