For decades, ferret owners and shelter directors have been nursing ferrets through illnesses with an easy-on-the-stomach concoction labeled “Duck Soup”. This food, which has almost as many recipe variations as there are ferret owners, is a tried-and-true recovery aid, stress relief, and sometimes just a “comfort food” for ferrets who are not feeling well or not feeling up to eating regular crunchy food. The name “duck soup” is a catchall term for any food served, in liquid-soup form, to a sick ferret, and is rumored to have originated with the first soup being fed to a ferret named “Lucky Duck”.
You can find countless duck soup recipes on the Internet. Many call for a wide variety of ingredients, proving that duck soup can be as simple or as complicated as the chef wants to make it! We’ve included both a simple recipe as well as other more involved recipes on this page. It’s recommended that healthy ferrets be introduced to duck soup as a treat so that they are familiar with it if they ever need to subsist exclusively on duck soup during illness or recovery.
Most (although not all) Duck Soup recipes begin with grinding the ferret’s regular food into a powder (Totally Ferret is ideal, but Marshall’s also makes a good Duck Soup since it dissolves in water so readily, and high-quality kitten food such as Iams can also be a good base for soup, (provided it is a food that is agreeable to your ferret). Most soups call for some water added to the ground food, but from there the recipes, ingredients, and the methods can differ greatly. Choose a recipe based on what your ferret likes, as well as the ease with which you feel you could prepare it in an emergency. Most soups can be frozen, and freezing portions in an ice-cube tray seem to work really well for individual feedings.
The amount fed and the number of feedings per day varies depending on the nature of the illness or recovery, as well as the ferret’s size, body weight, and eating habits. Check with your vet if unsure as to how much and how often you should feed your ferret duck soup! A sick or recovering ferret should be isolated so that you make sure there is no diarrhea or green stool, and to monitor their food and see if they are eating their regular diet at all. And in the case of a ferret recovering from surgery, putting them in a separate, smaller cage keeps them from climbing around while they heal.
Simple Duck Soup
This recipe, used by many NEFFER, Inc. members, comes from Dr. Karen Purcell. It is a very simple, nutritious Duck Soup, and the ingredients are easy to get.
The mix and the method:
- 4-6 heaping teaspoons of ground Totally Ferret or other ferret kibbles
- Add enough water to make a soft sludge
- Nuke for approximately 40 seconds, stir well
- One whole jar of Gerber’s Stage 2 chicken, turkey, lamb, or beef baby food (chicken is best, but any of them will do)
- 1/2 teaspoon Earth’s Best or other organic Sweet Potato baby food
A few tips:
The sweet potato in this recipe serves to make the soup smoother and to add some taste. If you are giving duck soup to an insulinoma patient and are worried about the extra sugar that the sweet potato will add, you may leave it out.
For more ferrets, a large quantity can be made with 3 cups Totally Ferret (ground up), 6 cups of water and 5 -6 jars of chicken baby food. Freeze it in small containers or in ice-cube trays, and thaw as needed. If it is too thick when thawed, it can easily be thinned with a little water.
Duck soup is not just for sick ferrets. It’s a great stress reliever or just a “comfort food”, just like when we all need a bowl of hot soup every now and then!
Duck Soup from Jo Fowler of Luv of Ferrets Shelter in Tewksbury, Massachusetts
This recipe has nursed many shelter and personal ferrets through illnesses and kept them alive.
- 1/2 cup high quality, dry ferret or kitten food (Totally Ferret, Superior Choice, Eukanuba chicken with rice, etc.)
- 1/8 cup of Sustical or Ensure, about equal to the volume of once ice cube. Ferrets seem to prefer strawberry flavor – do not use chocolate. Pour the remaining supplement into ice-cube trays and freeze – it will keep for several weeks and can be used for the next batch!
- 1 and 1/2 inch ribbon of Nutrical or Nutristat (high-calorie food supplement available at pet shops)
- A “pump” of Ferretone or Linatone (optional)
- 1 jar of beef baby food
- 2 heaping tablespoons of Nupro
Place the food in a small bowl and add sufficient hot water to soften, mash thoroughly with a fork (or use a blender and grind the food). Add more water as necessary to make a stiff paste. Stir in the Nutrical/Nutristat, Sustical, and Ferretone (if desired). The mixture should be the consistency of a thin paste or a thick soup. (You can add more water to thin if you have to force-feed the ferret through a dropper or syringe – be careful that they do not inhale the food).
Check the temperature before you begin feeding. It should be warm, not hot. Microwave as needed to warm it, but stir it well with a finger to make sure there are no “hot spots”. Feed the ferret all it will eat (or if force-feeding a ferret who refuses to eat, about 15 cc’s by syringe). Cover and refrigerate leftovers, which will keep for about a day in the fridge. Microwave to re-warm. Freeze unused soup until needed.
Recipe from Michael Janke, South Florida Ferret Club & Rescue
This recipe has saved the lives of ferrets at this shelter and is also used (with Prednisone) for hypoglycemic ferrets with good results.
- 1 can of A/D, Hills Prescription Diet (available from your vet)
- One jar of Gerber’s Stage 2 chicken or turkey baby food
- 1/4 teaspoon FerretZyme (available from For Ferrets Only, 1-305-378-8877)
- 1/2 baby food jar of water
Mix all ingredients well. Note that the FerretZyme will thin the mixture considerably as the enzymes go to work breaking down the ingredients.
This mixture can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. For longer storage, freeze in ice-cube trays and thaw individual servings. (This method works well with other forms of duck soup too).
Recipe by Jackie Hawley, The Dook Nook
- 1 can Science A/D (from your vet)
- 1 jar Gerber Stage 2 chicken or turkey baby food
- 3/4 to 1 baby food jar of water or Pedialyte
Mix A/D and baby food until no lumps. Stir in Pedialyte/water until smooth. Serve slightly warm either in bowl or syringe if ferret needs to be forced to eat. If warmed in the microwave, stir with a finger to make sure there are no hot spots, and test on your arm as you would a baby bottle.
Recipe from Ann Davis, listed as “The original Duck Soup recipe”
- 1 8 oz. can Sustical
- 1 8 oz. can of water (use the Sustical can)
- 2 scoops puppy or kitten weaning formula (OPTIONAL)
- 4 oz. dry ferret food or Iams Kitten, soaked in enough water to cover and soften it completely
Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Nuke the soup to the temperature of warm baby formula. This formula also freezes well – the Sustical only keeps about 48 hours in the fridge, so it’s better to freeze the unused portion and thaw as needed.
Barb Griswold’s Duck Soup
Now HERE’S a pretty detailed recipe!
- 1 cup Totally Ferret, ground into fine powder in food processor or blender
- 3/4 can A/D Prescription diet (available from your vet)
- 6 Papaya Enzyme tablets
- 1/4 teaspoon Brewer’s Yeast
- 1 and 1/4 cups water
Grind the papaya tablets until fine in a blender or food processor (can grind along with the Totally Ferret). Combine Totally Ferret, ground papaya tablets and Brewer’s yeast. Add the A/D. Let sit for about 15 minutes so enzymes can work. Finally, add the water until it is at the consistency you want. Warm to lukewarm, serve in bowl or syringe if force-feeding is necessary. Keeps about 48 hours in the fridge, store leftover/unused portion in the freezer.