26 Jan Mineral Oil and Nutrition
Mineral Oil! What is it? Why should you be interested in it regarding nutrition for your ferrets?
In recent pet magazines a question was asked regarding the use of mineral oil in ferrets. The response disturbed me as it compared cod liver with mineral oil. These are two very different materials and have very different purposes in nutrition and feed manufacturing.
Cod liver oil has been and is used as a source of vitamin A and D in many species of animals. As a minimum, it contains 850 IU per gram of Vitamin A and 654 IU per gram of Vitamin D. It is however, common to have higher concentration of both A& D. This then, is classified as a nutritional supplement. It is used by feed manufacturers and veterinarians as a nutritional supplement albeit, not many animals, including man likes the taste of it.
Mineral oil, on the other hand, is a non-nutritional, inert hydrocarbon, used in feed manufacturing and in some veterinarian applications. In feed manufacturing, it is often used as a dust control agent for vitamin and mineral premixes. It is often used in pelleted feeds for dust control and as a manufacturing aid. Mineral oil is used by some veterinarians as a laxative but it is more of an intestinal lubricant used in compacted or intestinal blockage patients.
Mineral oil should never be used in an animal food on a routine basis, and in particular, in obligate carnivores such as ferrets or cats. It can actually coat the minerals and vitamins in a food, in a light film of oil. Since no monogastric animal has enzymes in their digestive system to metabolize the oil, it actually reduces the mineral and vitamin digestibility.
A second concern is that the fat soluble vitamins A,D, E and K can be dissolved in the mineral oil, and during the digestive process will come in contact with them and render them partially unavailable to the animal.
The solution is simple for the manufacturer. Use vegetable oil as a dust controller or as a lubricant in premixes. It is as effective as mineral oil and it is fully digested by monogastric animals. The reason it is not used by many manufacturers is it is relatively expensive compared to mineral oil. We have always used vegetable oil in our premixes for Totally Ferret® and would recommend anyone who is feeding any other food to ask the manufacturer this important question. It is simply a matter of quality over the concern of quantity and price. Quality always goes beyond first appearances and should always come down to what is best for your pet’s well-being and this has always been our practice at Performance Foods, Inc. in making our product, Totally Ferret®.
Dr. Tom Willard Phd.