Correlation Between Insulinoma and Improper Diet

The Correlation Between Insulinoma and Feeding An Improper Diet / Treats

Author: Scott Funk

Google Doc Version

Note: Most of what is shared here has been passed on to me by others more experienced and educated than myself, or I read it somewhere and I am paraphrasing.

Facebook Holistic Group:

Holistic Ferret Forum:

I’m going to start this file off with a clip from a very dear friend.

Posted by Kim:

This is a video of RC during one of his seizures caused by Insulinoma. You are WARNED, this is a very heartbreaking video to watch, especially for those who have endured this. For those who insist on feeding kibble – this is not an uncommon end for your ferret – IF you keep the ferret until it’s last days. All too often when ferrets lose their bounce and begin to show the subtle signs of Insulinoma, is about when their original owners send them to other homes or shelters. Those of us that shelter have experienced this one too many times. Thankfully RC converted in Jan 2010 and had almost 4 more years of happy, healthy, active full on ferret living. A raw diet cannot reverse Insulinoma – only stall it. Eventually it claims its victim. This video is taken at normal volume levels, no enhancements were made. RC’s shrieks during the seizure are unnerving to say the least – and MAY upset any listening ferrets in your area. Again, please be warned, while the video is informative, it will be upsetting to some. View at your own discretion. RC passed within hours of this video.

Please watch it in it’s entirety, I can’t believe anyone would watch it and not do everything they can to research the information I provide in here and to do what’s best for their ferrets.

I know it seems like a lot of info, but if you’re truly interested in what’s best for your ferret, please read the entire post as well as the links I included.

First, ferrets are obligate carnivores and their physiology is such that they should only eat meat. Ferrets lack a cecum which enables other animals to digest carbohydrates/cellulose. ALL carbs: grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits & sugars are detrimental for ferrets. This includes FERRETVITE or NUTRIGEL, Malt pastes (marketed as “vitamins”) and any of those “treats” sold on the market including yogis, Bandit treats, Ferret lax and the like.

Second, fuzzies don’t need “treats.” Treats are given for human pleasure not for any ferret benefit. If you absolutely have to give them something, I recommend a RAW piece of meat, heart, liver, or a freeze-dried meat. I also use grizzly salmon or linatone. I keep baby bottles filled in my fridge or placed around the house for rewarding positive behavior or simply using the litter box. I also drizzle it on their meat. I don’t use FERRETONE because it has BHA & BHT, which are known carcinogens (cause cancer).

As far as kibble is concerned, raw is preferred, but if you insist on the convenience of kibble, it should be high in MEAT protein and fat content. Ferrets get their calories from fat much like we get ours from carbohydrates. But, be careful, often manufacturers mislead owners into thinking a food is high in protein content by using legumes (soy or peas). While it may actually have a high protein content, the problem is that it is NOT MEAT BASED. Ingredients are listed on the packaging in order of percentage. So, the first ingredient makes up a higher percentage than something 10 items down on the list.

Peas/soy etc. are often used to raise the protein content and as I’ve previously stated, they are carbs and lack any nutritional benefit. More on other the effects of peas and other indigestible veggies below.

There are many reasons to feed a species appropriate diet but one of the biggest is to save your ferret from suffering and dying from Insulinoma (see links): which is a very prevalent and traumatic issue with kibble fed ferrets. Since fuzzies are unable to digest carbs, the primary problem is even though those carbs pass through, the body continues to TRY and digest them. Meaning the pancreas is constantly being called upon to secrete insulin to counteract the sugars. That’s what causes the hyper-stimulation of the pancreas and why the tumors form.

If you must feed kibble, here in the States I recommend Wysong’s Epigen 90 or Orijen cat & kitten (see chart linked below for data).

I used to recommend Evo in Australia and Canada but since the company was taken over, there’s been so many recalls I don’t feel comfortable doing so any longer. Obviously, I first suggest and try and convince a ferrent to go to a species appropriate diet (raw). 🙂

I suggest watching the video and reading “Rethinking the Ferret Diet” to start and the YouTube video of a fuzzy having hind end weakness (one of several symptoms of Insulinoma: others include drooling, grinding of teeth (PAIN), seizures, lethargy, & lack of appetite) There is a DIRECT correlation between an inappropriate diet and Insulinoma.

I have fed kibble in the past; my first ferret 26 years ago was probably eating meow mix. However, over the years, through much heartache, research, exposure to the community and more input from experienced ferret owners, I transitioned to a species appropriate diet (raw). All four of my troops eat a meat only diet that consists of commercial grinds (Bravo, Natures Variety & Stella and Chewy’s), Freeze Dried Raw (Wysong Arch 1, Nature’s Variety Nibblets and Stella & Chewy’s). They eat less (two wet meals a day and occasionally snack on freeze dried in between meals), their poo is much smaller, less smellier, their coats are shinier, their teeth are whiter, they’ve got more energy, their scent is SO much sweeter, and they pee more (because they’re appropriately hydrated).

While I am definitely an advocate of raw feeding and will never again feed my dog, cat or ferrets kibble, I don’t criticize nor condemn those who don’t. I do wonder why anyone, after educating themselves would not make the switch though. BTW, raw does not mean you have to butcher animals and throw it all bloody on the ground for your ferts. There are several options in a raw diet: whole prey (entire animals like mice/quail/chickens etc.), commercial grinds (usually frozen that have are balanced), freeze dried (the most expensive way but important to have your ferrets accustomed to in case of overnight stays with a stranger or the vet etc.) and what’s called frankenprey which is simply cutting up and feeding the portions of meat, organ and bones.

If you’re interested in what goes into a raw diet, the numerous benefits, or want to see some before and after (kibble to raw) pictures or video, please visit the Holistic Ferrets group or forum linked above and below. Please join us as it will not only relieve the stress on YOU while switching, but it will ensure that your fuzzy is getting the BALANCED raw diet he/she needs.  

But it is VITAL to find the best available food for your fuzzies. While many complain that it’s “too expensive” or an inconvenience, the fact of the matter is, I chose paying a few more pennies to ensure quality of life for them (and it’s actually cheaper if you go with a frankenprey diet). Additionally, you will definitely spend more on vet bills because of illness if you feed kibble. Your fuzzies will be happier, healthier, and live longer. They may be surviving right now on kibble, but I can assure you they’re not thriving, as they deserve to be.

Please read up on the links and make an educated and objective decision on what’s best for your adorable pets.

Articles regarding Insulinoma:




Importance of Diet:





If you’re interested in learning about a better diet, or just curious what goes into raw feeding, what the benefits of it are, how to do so, or anything related to ferrets health; please visit one of the following groups:

PLEASE, do NOT try and transition your ferret to a raw

diet by yourself. Visit the Holistic Ferrets forum and sign up for a mentor. It is VITAL that you feed a BALANCED diet consisting of muscle meat, bone and organ. The mentor will not only ensure you’re doing everything right, they are also great for emotional support for YOU as we all have a certain level of anxiety switching our beloved weasels. 🙂

A few additional raw notes:

If you feed whole prey such as mice or rats, that would be

balanced. If feeding grocery store bought raw meat, the

diet must be balanced. You can learn how to balance a

diet by going to the holistic ferret forum and signing up for

a mentor (a good idea regardless of what you know).

Fuzzies should have a minimum of 3-4 different

proteins (like chicken, duck, mice, beef, lamb, turkey, etc.),

14 meals a week (two meals per day) 9 of those meals

should have bone in them- either bone-in meat (wings, necks, thighs,

backs) or a raw meat grind where the bone is ground up in it.

They must also have at least 2-3 ounces of raw hearts per

week and no more than 2 ounces of liver each week plus

2 ounces of another organ such as kidneys. Too much

liver can lead to vitamin A toxicity. There’s a menu in the

files and a lot of other information on diet as well.

Once more, I really recommend signing up on the forum and

getting a mentor to help.

Here is my personal folder of photos, documents, bookmarks, and an assortment of other ferret related material. I do not take credit for most of what’s there… most was gathered from other great, educated, experienced and fuzzy advocates. Feel free to download and share.

My Dropbox folder with tons of Ferret related information:

Facebook Holistic Group

Holistic Ferret Forum

Erinn Whitmore explanation to query about whether or not ferrets can develop Insulinoma after a change in diet:

Genetics alone can in theory cause Insulinoma formations too – if you look at canine and human models, genetics seem to be the biggest factor in Insulinoma formation – not carb consumption. Indeed, in canines and humans, Insulinoma are generally much more aggressive and malignant, which lends the idea that in ferrets, it is more often dietary and not genetic. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t play a part.


Ferrets do naturally produce amylase. The issue isn’t that they don’t produce it. The issue is more in that they don’t produce it prior to eating. In humans and canines, amylase is produced by the by both the salivary glands and the pancreas. This begins the digestion of carbs in the mastication process, before the food items even hit the stomach. In humans, the rest of the carb breakdown occurs in in the duodenum. In ferrets, the amylase does not get a chance to interact with carbs until it reaches the jejunum. This is halfway through the digestion process already! Which means in order for those carbs to be broken down enough to be moved along properly, the pancreas has to really produce a lot of amylase, all at once, when the body is halfway through the digestion process. And then, like Alan mentions, causes BG spikes, which are then controlled by insulin. The problem in ferrets is that the pancreas isn’t equipped to produce large amounts of amylase, and in turn, must produce more insulin to control the dramatic spikes in BG because of the partially digested carbs. This stress is what eventually will cause hyperplasia


So, to answer the question – yes Insulinoma formation can occur even after the dietary factors are removed. Though rare, Insulinoma is a cancer like any other cancer and can be formed for any of the reasons cancers form.


Another thing to think about is that a transitioned ferret may have beginning hyperplasia on the pancreas but be asymptomatic, and the transition in diet then manages it for quite a while. Eventually as the ferret ages and the body begins to slow down, and other diseases begin to manifest, the Insulinoma can gain headway and become a problem with symptoms. But just because we do not have any physical signs of disease doesn’t always mean disease isn’t present.


A pretty interesting abstract on the digestive tract of ferrets that some of you may be interested in reading:


It is technically pretty dense as it is an abstract from a veterinary publication, but it has interesting information and points out the differences in mustelid digestive tracts when compared to other carnivores like dogs and cats.

               ‘Mastication process’ = chewing/swallowing saliva

               ‘Duodenum’ = first part of the small intestine

               ‘Jejunum’ = middle part of the small intestine

Additional Note: PEAS and indigestible carbs and STONES:

There is plenty of medical data that indicates the cause of certain types of stones. In the case of ferrets, they’re normally what are called uric acid stones, which may form when urine contains too much acid. Again, there is substantial data and studies that show there’s a correlation. It’s always a good idea to check the ingredients of what you eat, and your ferrets deserve the same consideration. You’ll be surprised at what’s in there.  

At any rate, “stones can form when substances in the urine—such as calcium, oxalate, and phosphorus—become highly concentrated. The body uses food for energy and tissue repair. After the body uses what it needs, waste products in the bloodstream are carried to the kidneys and excreted as urine.

Diet is one of several factors that can promote or inhibit kidney stone formation. Certain foods may promote stone formation in people who are susceptible, but scientists do not believe that eating any specific food causes stones to form in people who are not susceptible.

Other factors that affect kidney stone formation include genes, environment, body weight, and fluid intake.”

The key points in that last statement are “Certain foods may promote stone formation in people who are susceptible, but scientists do not believe that eating any specific food causes stones to form in people WHO ARE NOT SUSCEPTIBLE.” and “fluid intake.” As ferrets lack a cecum, the urine is persistently acidic and they are therefore prone to stones when eating the foods they can’t digest.

If uric acid becomes concentrated in the urine, it can settle and form a stone by itself or along with calcium. Secondly, the absence of being properly hydrated is factor as well with ALL kibble fed ferrets… I don’t care if they drink from a bowl or a bottle, they are not getting the fluids/proper hydration that they need. Their organs are continually overworked and stressed.