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Skunk Weight Loss

Getting an Overweight Skunk to Lose Weight

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Skunk Weight Loss

Gangsta the skunk

Photo courtesy of Alysha Roszak

If you have or have ever seen a pet skunk chances are it is overweight. Pet skunks are very hard to keep lean due to their foraging activity in the wild and lack thereof in captivity. To remain slim while searching for food in the wild skunks are constantly moving and rooting while being rewarded with only a few grubs under each tree stump. Wild skunks have to do a lot of work to eat. Our pet skunks on the other hand, usually get bowls full of tasty food and treats throughout the day without having to do much but perhaps walk to the bowl (and some don't even have to do that).

How Do I Know My Skunk is Overweight?

Pet skunks don't often look like the photos of wild skunks. Just "Google" the words "skunk photo" and you'll see the difference immediately if you have an overweight skunk. Your skunk should have a similarly sized head to that of a large ferret, an easily defined neck (yes, your skunk should have a neck, not be built like a line backer unless you are trying to start a skunk football team), and a ribcage that you can feel with gentle pressure. You may notice that normal sized skunks have tails that poof out wider than their bodies. This is usually backwards with pet skunks. If you still can't believe that your skunk is overweight consider having a radiograph (x-ray) taken. Not only will it give your exotics vet (find a vet near you that treats skunks) a baseline for bone health, heart size, and other things that radiographs show and are important to monitor in pet skunks, but it will show you how tiny of a bone structure your skunk really has underneath all of that fat.

So What Can I Do To Help My Skunk Lose Weight?

  • Diet - This is the age old question, isn't it? Well, maybe not specifically in regards to pet skunks, but the weight loss dilemma isn't really a dilemma. It is simply all about self-control. Can you control how many treats and what kind of treats you give your skunk? Can you control the portion size and how many meals you give your skunk? Can you control how much exercise you give your skunk? The answers should all be a resounding "Yes!" You CAN control these things. It is easier to make someone/something else lose weight if you have complete control of their world. But you have to control yourself as well.

    Start by assessing what you feed your skunk and compare it to a normal skunk diet. Stop feeding anything that is not recommended or natural for your skunk to eat. Then figure out how much you are feeding (put it in a measuring cup) and decrease it. A good starting point is to feed 25% less food and see how much progress you make after a couple of weeks. Remember, you don't want your skunk to lose weight too rapidly either. If you aren't sure how much weight your skunk needs to lose consult your exotics vet.

  • Exercise - No, I don't mean take your skunk for a jog, but I do mean stick him in the bathtub until he is on his tippy-toes and make him swim for a bit and provide foraging activities for him. Anytime your skunk eats he should be working for his food. Try putting a piece of food on each step and make him do the steps to get all his dinner. Or get a plastic kiddie pool or under the bed plastic box, add a bunch of wiffle balls to it and spread his food out around the bottom of the container. Make him "forage" and sniff out his food. Make him actually walk from his cage to his bowl. Stick a bunch of live crickets in a large plastic storage container then put your skunk inside of it (lid off, of course) and let him catch the insects. Get creative but make your skunk move. Some facilities, such as Up and Running Canine Rehabilitation, can also help your skunk lose weight by working with them in an underwater treadmill just like they do for dogs and cats.
  • The bottom line is in order to lose weight your skunk needs to be burning more calories than he is consuming. Nothing good will come of an overweight skunk. Only diseases will be generated from obesity.

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