The diet you choose for your skunk is the most important step you will take for his health, now and for the future. A good diet is the number one reason your skunk will be healthy for a long time to come, and a bad diet is the number one reason for poor health, medical problems, expensive vet bills and early death.
There is no pre-packaged food or kibble available that is recommended for skunks except for "Stomp". Despite what your pet store or breeder may have told you, cat food or dog food is not a good diet for skunks. Every year we see more and more extremely sick and sometimes crippled skunks that were fed a diet of cat food because the owners were told by the pet store that's what skunks eat. Kibble is also damaging to skunks' teeth. Many dental problems and high vet bills are a direct result of feeding kibble. There are several companies who sell food they claim are nutritionally complete for skunks. There is no data available showing processed foods have proven nutritionally complete for skunks, but it has been proven that skunks do not live long lives when fed grain based diets.
Skunks are professional beggars. They will have you believing they haven't eaten in days although they have just completed a meal. For the sake of your skunk's health, don't fall for this ploy. Stick to your diet plan and don't over feed your skunk. Even the smallest amount of extras adds up over time. Pick up all bags of dog or cat food, bird, hamster or ferret food and put it where your skunk can't possibly get to it. Not only will these foods make your skunk overweight, they are dangerous for your skunk. They contain preservatives, inferior ingredients and are not properly processed or digested by a skunk.
There is very little documented medical proof of what a domestic skunk's nutritional requirements are, so we must go by what we know of their dentention and digestive system, plus a little knowledge of nutrition. Skunks require as natural a diet as possible. Once we bring an animal into domestication, we take away their natural selection of diet. It is up to the owner to try to duplicate their natural needs as closely as possible. When fed a proper diet, skunks will need very little to no supplementation. We do know that some man made vitamin and mineral substitutes do not digest or absorb properly and it is also possible to overdose on some vitamins and minerals. Therefore, you can actually do more harm than good by using artificial substitutes. By carefully selecting what foods your skunk eats, you will have a healthier, more nutritionally balanced skunk.
Skunks have sharp pointed teeth designed for ripping and tearing flesh and a hinged jaw that does not allow for chewing side to side. The small molars in the back of the mouth require they crush food in small enough pieces to swallow. In their natural environment, skunks primarily eat insects. Its diet is approximately 75% animal matter. Diet varies depending on season and what is more readily available. As omnivores, they will eat more grasses, nuts and vegetation in the fall and winter when grasshoppers, crickets, beetles and other insects are not so readily available. The preferred plant matter is mostly berries, fruits, nuts grasses and vegetation.
There are any number of vegetation, fruits and proteins that are acceptable for your skunk to eat. Mother Nature always provides her creatures with everything they need to thrive.
Foods To Avoid
It can never be stressed enough to not feed your skunk cat food or any other kibble! Other foods that are poison to your skunk are junk foods such as potato chips or corn chips. Never give your skunk sugary foods like candy bars, donuts, cake or cookies. Never let your skunk get to chocolate. Chocolate can kill your skunk. Do not give your skunk fried foods, hot dogs or bologna. These are full of preservatives and not nutritionally viable. Keep nut husks and shells away from your skunk. The sharp edges can perforate intestines. Dried fruit often contains sulfur dioxide and is a no no for skunks. Canned fruits and vegetables are also not recommended. Learn to read labels. It is important you don't get anything with salt, chemical preservatives or high calories for your skunk. You may be surprised by comparing labels, the generic brand is sometimes better than the well known brand.
Approved Treats and Snacks
Owners must realize that we have different views about snacks than our skunks do. To a skunk, anything they can eat is considered to be a treat. It is the human view that a treat must be something forbidden. A skunk will be thrilled to get any healthy snack and consider it to be the best treat in the world. A few great ideas for treats are water veggies such as bell pepper, cucumber or celery. Be mindful of how much your skunk is getting in treats and take into account his total dietary intake for the day. You may want to prepare his meal, and then take out the items you want to use for snacks so your skunk isn't getting overfed. Too many snacks are one of the quickest ways for your skunk to become overweight.
Insects are not only great nutrition, but can be fun to feed too. Crickets, meal worms, super worms, pinkies and beetles are all favorites. A good source of protein is pinkies. This is a natural food for skunks and should be introduced to them. Sometimes a sick skunk will eat them when they will not eat anything else.
There is one basic guideline you need to keep in mind when selecting your skunk's food. Keep it NATURAL. Nature has very few flaws and will provide your skunk everything it needs to thrive. It is man's interference that results in the need to substitute what we are depriving nature from providing. You need to get the most nutritional value for your dollar and make sure your skunk is getting a well rounded diet that includes enough calcium, taurine, vitamins, minerals and protein. Skunks have no dietary need for carbohydrates. In a skunk, carbohydrates convert to fat and lead to inflammation. Inflammation is the number one cause of disease in skunks. While some websites will recommend a diet of mostly vegetables, they are high in carbohydrates and a slow absorption rate. For this reason, we recommend sprouts, which is closer to the vegetation a skunk would eat in its natural environment. Sprouts also have higher digestive enzymes for better nutrient absorption. There are a lot of different ideas on what domestic skunks' diet should be. We can only tell you what we have learned and what is working. You must remember what works for one skunk may not work for another. You may have to try different ideas to get one that works for you. Every skunk is different and every family living with a skunk is different. You have to choose what works for you and your skunk.
Calcium - It has been suggested that skunks need 250 mg of calcium a day. In actuality, 60 - 90 mg is a closer estimate. If the proper amount for a 200 pound human is 1,000 mg, you can see where 250 mg is too much for a 10 pound adult skunk. The important thing to remember about calcium is that it also needs, magnesium, phosphorus and Vitamin D to absorb properly. Too much calcium or calcium not given properly can lead to problems such as bone calcification, bone spurs & kidney stones. It can also lead to Metabolic Bone Disease which has become quite prevalent in the domestic skunk community. You have a choice to make on how you will get enough calcium into your skunk. You can go the more natural route by using crushed egg shell and food grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) to enhance the calcium in the vegetation you feed.
Start saving all your egg shells. Wash them, and store them in a bowl in the refrigerator. Bake them in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350 to kill all bacteria. Grind them to a fine powder in a coffee grinder and store in a container in the fridge. Sprinkle the egg shell powder on every meal. This is an excellent natural calcium source and it's free. Shredded parmesan cheese is another calcium source.
If it confuses you or you don't think you can do that for any reason, you can get a good children's calcium supplement and cut it in half. The up side of this is that it's easy. The down side is that it is not in a natural form and no one knows how much is actually being absorbed by the body. Always remember, you can give too much of certain vitamins and minerals!
Taurine - It is also suggested that skunks get a minimum of 250 mg of taurine a day. Taurine is a water soluble amino acid and the excess is flushed out of the system. The only natural source of taurine is organ meat & muscles. However, many vegetation sources have methionine and cysteine that the body uses to synthesize taurine. To retain taurine in meat, the meat must be fed raw. Heat destroys taurine, so cooking the meat makes it useless as a good taurine source.
Protein - There are a few different ways you can get protein into your skunk. Optimal choices include pinkies, meal worms, super worms, crickets and beetles. Lesser forms of protein are nuts, turkey, chicken, eggs, cheese and natural peanut butter in small amounts.
The protein portion of the meal should be fed alone and be the entire meal. You do not want to mix the vegetation portion with the protein because they have different absorption rates. This can create two different problems.
1. Skunks have an acidic gut and a fast digestive system, both which allow raw foods to be consumed safely. The acidity of the gut is not condusive for bacterial growth. The fast digestive tract allows raw foods to process through before bacteria has time to grow. Vegetation has a slower digestion rate, which will slow down the process of the raw food getting through the digestive tract before bacteria has time to grow.
2. The slower digestive rate of vegetation means less nutrients will be absorbed by competing with the protein at the same time.
Vitamins - No one knows just how much of each vitamin is recommended for domestic skunks. If you are feeding the proper diet, your skunk is getting the vitamins it needs. Carrots and yams convert to Vitamin A in the human body, but not in skunks. Fatty fish and eggs is a source of Vitamin D. Food sources of Vitamin E include vegetable oils, nuts, organ meats, seafood and eggs. Sources of Vitamin K include beef liver and cheese. If your skunk is getting a well rounded diet, he is already getting these fat soluble vitamins from his food.
Minerals - Trace minerals can be a bit tricky to know if they are getting enough. Willard Water (dark), and Sea Salt (NOT regular table salt!) are good sources of trace minerals. You can also get trace mineral drops and add to the drinking water.
Cod liver oil is a source of Vitamin A and D, both which can be over dosed. A better choice that is rich in Omega 3's and good for the heart is Fish Oil. Choose a high quality brand that won't contain heavy levels of mercury, such as Carlson's or Nordic Naturals.
You can take all the guess work out of it and use Support Factors, the only supplement manufactured specifically for pet skunks.
To sum it all up, for breakfast you can start off with 2 tablespoons of vegetation, and sprinkle your ground up egg shells or food grade DE on top of the vegetation. Drizzle fish oil on top, add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a few berries.
Dinner time will be your protein choice of the day. A chicken neck twice a week, worms twice a week, two eggs a week, pinkies on the last night. If you need to scramble the egg, use a healthy oil for your pan such as coconut oil, almond oil or hazelnut oil. You can rotate the schedule around from week to week.
There you have it! There are a lot of other choices you can make, but this is a simple way to get your skunk started on the right track to a healthy diet without getting over weight.
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As with anything regarding your pet, if you have a doubt, contact your vet.
Last updated: 08-20-2011