Message Number: YG2354 | New FHL Archives Search
Date: 2001-04-08 08:59:00 UTC
Subject: Re: [Ferret-Health-list] Digest Number 118/Bob Church and
the EDS diet

Last fall in Toronto, I had the pleasure of meeting Bob Church
while speaking
on the same program with him. Almost never is my non-in person
impression the same as my first in person impression of a person.
someday I will get to the point where I will not form first
impressions just
lasting friendships.
Having talked with Bob, I was impressed with his overwhelming
dedication to
his ferrets and to the lengths to which he went to make sure his
ferrets were
treated as close as possible to the wild polecat. Including,
fasting, light cycles, fresh prey like meat, and physical exercise.
thing that impressed me more than all of these specialized care
details he
went through daily, was the extent to which he went to give his
mental exercise. Game playing and problem solving exercises to keep
from being bored. How many of us do this? This is not only missing
almost every pet owners home, including mine, but in almost ALL
research. This is extremely important in determining nutrient
of any species. It is especially important in the predator
carnivores such
as the polecat and other weasel members.
When we conducted the nutritional research on Totally Ferret, we
worked with
non institutional colonies and large non commercial breeders to help
as close as possible at the time to wild, non confined conditions.
In future
research, I believe we can learn a great deal more about the
needs of the domestic ferret if we include some of the suggestions
of Bob C.
Having said this, I need to make a couple of points about feeding
EDS diets.
EDS diets can only truly be determined by following some of the
procedures outlined by Bob. Almost no individual pet ferret owner
has the
patience, inclination, knowledge or access to all the information
ingredients required to make an EDS or nutritionally complete diet
in their
home. Bob points out very clearly that wild polecats eat a wide
variety of
foodstuffs including insects, rodents, whole as well as parts, eggs
various animals, whole birds, etc. It is this variety that allows
surviving wild carnivores to balance their daily (weekly is more
diets. Surviving is a key word here because many wild animals,
herbivores, and omnivores starve to death daily due to lack of
foodstuffs in
adequate quantities, quality and variety to meet their nutritional
The polecat's ability to adapt to its hostile environment in food
by regulating its body's metabolic rate is a principle factor in its

Bob Church is one of a very small group of ferret owners who
understands the
evolutionary background of the polecat and is willing and able to
that environment in his pet ferrets on a daily basis. This includes
socialization, mental and physical stimulation and food preparation
he does
daily. Most pet owners will not take the time to determine, much
less select
and prepare, the variety of foodstuffs needed to meet their ferrets
nutritional needs. Feeding a "natural" foodstuff such as a dead
mouse or day
old chick (humanly killed of course) is not equivalent to feeding a
"natural" or EDS diets. These "natural foods," whole or cut up, do
not have
the same nutritional content as the true wild diets described by Bob
Like many things in our society we operate under an illusion to make
us feel
good but we lack the total commitment to do all that needs to be
Feeding our ferrets falls in this category. We rationalize by
because the ferret is better off nutritionally if they eat whole
animals, we
will provide them with a whole mouse or chick once a day or several
times a
week and that is a good thing. Why is it good? We conclude that
this is
good because our intentions are good. In truth, this may satisfy
OUR need of
interaction with our pets, but the sad truth is, we are not feeding
them a
nutritionally complete food.
There have been a number of articles written by both concerned pet
veterinarians who have been in practice for years as well as many
meaning ferret owners that believe that the occasional feeding of a
animal is superior to a dry kibbled food because a "kibble" does not
naturally in nature.
Having been in the pet food industry all of my professional career,
some 28
years, I admit that there are many poor quality pet foods produced
and fed to
our pets. I will also tell you that the pet food industry has not
done a
very good job of providing non biased factual information about
research and what is best for the pets rather than what is best for
industry. That is not to say that there is not a lot of beneficial
information and very dedicated pet food industry individuals and
that strive to provide the absolute best for the pets. Many outside
industry as well as many in the industry do not know nor understand
how the
industry works. Much has been written about the poor quality
and how they come from condemned animals and in some instances from
dogs and cats. There are manufacturers who try to scare the public
thinking the whole industry is this way. Some ferret food
manufacturers are
some of the worst in the industry in this tactic. No reputable food
manufacturer uses these ingredients.
I have pulled up several web pages and read some of the most idiotic

statements about not only the industry but how bad everyone else is
but the
one writing the page and selling their products. These companies
have no
research or data just anecdotal information. Since, as Bob C points
there is very little available research on the true nutrient
requirements of
the ferret. Many dog and cat foods and most of the ferret foods,
have no
actual animal studies to validate their marketing claims. Every
month there
are new food products for ferrets. Most lack any scientific
evidence of
nutritional value. To prove this point to yourself, go to a pet
store and
look at some of the foods and treats. Look at those that have fruit
or pellets or fruit juice on them. The next wave of ferret diets
will be
those claiming to be holistic. They will contain blueberries,
probiotics, etc. How can this be since ferrets do not have a ceacum
or a
colon that would benefit from these additives? Look at how many
have sugar
or molasses or dextrose, or soy flour, or gluten meal in them. I
know of one
where the first four ingredients is sugar or starch. How can any
company who
knows or cares anything about the health and well being of ferrets
such a product? Nutritional garbage.
Personally, I do understand why many people on the FML and the
health section
of the FML think that dry commercially produced food is no good and
that a
"wild" or "natural" food is better. When we developed Totally
Ferret we did
work with individual ferret owners and shelters and have continued
to conduct
feeding studies with non institutional ferret colonies. We have
which have been on going for years to help evaluate the long term
effects of
our foods. Do we have all the answers? No. But we will never
produce a
product that we have not completely researched and tested. We will
never be
the cheapest but we are committed to be the best food available to
millions of ferrets and owners.
Please, whatever diet you as individuals decide to feed, do your
Find out the whole story on the food. Ask the manufacturer to
explain how
they can substantiate their claims. If you want to feed a "natural"
or any other diet that sounds good make sure you commit to learning
all you
can. Just because it sounds good does not mean it is. The final
is not what you believe, or the manufacturer says but what your
ferrets look,
act and become when fed the diet long term.
DR Tom Willard