Sadly, obesity is much too common in pet skunks and one of the leading causes for their current short lifespan. Obesity is completely the owner’s responsibility! It is difficult to help the skunk owner who doesn’t realize that they are the source of the problem. People are shocked when I ask if the skunk is calling Domino’s to order a pizza? The owner buys, prepares, and serves the skunk the food. Who else could be a fault? I get responses like the skunk gets into food for other pets; the bird feeds the skunk; the skunk is starving and gets mean if I don’t feed them; or my boyfriend, husband, roommate feeds the skunk junk food. All these are excuses that sounds as if the owner is aware of the problem but hasn’t done anything about it. Remove anything eatable out of reach of the skunk. Block access to rooms where other pets are fed. Feed skunk correctly so he/she is not starving and get boyfriend, husband, roommate on the same page regarding skunk’s diet.
The skunk should NOT be running the household! If there is one thing we know about skunks, it is that they are opportunistic scavengers. They have an uncanny ability to figure out who will give them what they want and they will focus on that person.
There are 4 reasons the skunk is obese:
- the wrong type of food is being fed (not species appropriate).
- the wrong portion is being fed (if the food is not species appropriate, there is no right portion).
- both 1 and 2. This is the most common problem in my opinion.
- a health issue like being hypothyroid. Still the owner’s responsibility as it should be picked up during the skunk’s annual. In all but a few cases, switching the skunk to a species appropriate diet should correct this. In some cases, your Veterinarian will prescribe medication(s).
Many owners do not realize that skunks eat small portions of nutrient dense food in the wild. A large skunk has a stomach about the size of a Kennedy half dollar. When the skunk is fed too much food at a time, the overfilled stomach then pushes against other organs. Gas pockets can form making it worse. This can cause behavior issues like acting out, pottying in non-designated areas, and aggression toward the owner or other pets. If not corrected, it may result in long term health issues. It may be helpful to leave a half dollar on the counter to remind you not to overfeed. Using a small plate or bowl for the skunk like those made for ferrets or small reptiles will also help to prevent obesity in pet skunks.