Did you know that ferrets can get dental disease just like cats, dogs, or you?
Unlike people, who can communicate that their teeth hurt and make a dentist appointment, our ferret friends are unable to tell us when they are uncomfortable. In fact, unfortunately, sometimes we only find out that ferrets have dental disease when they are in great pain and cannot eat.
Why Dental Care is Important for Your Ferret
In general, pet owners don’t brush their animals’ teeth, so tartar can build up, and their pets’ breath can become malodorous. Regular brushing with finger-sized toothbrushes and poultry-flavored toothpaste made for cats and dogs can help control tartar, but many ferrets resist this practice, so their owners give up trying. Over months to years, excess tartar accumulates leading to gingivitis (gum inflammation), periodontal disease, and tooth root infection. These problems are more commonly seen in animals fed moist (canned) diets, although even on a dry diet, ferrets will accumulate tartar as they age. Bacteria can build up in ferrets’ mouths, eventually traveling through the bloodstream to settle in critical organs such as the heart and kidneys, leading to life-threatening problems.
How to Prevent Serious Dental Issues
How can you help prevent such serious conditions from occurring? The best way is with preventative dental care. All pets should have a thorough oral examination as part of their regular annual health check-up. However, while brushing your ferret’s teeth regularly can certainly help decrease tooth and gum disease, even the best brushed mouths (animal or human) need professional cleaning periodically.
Most commonly, annual dental cleaning is performed with the ferret under general gas anesthesia, so that the pet is not in pain, and the veterinarian can reach the back of the mouth without being bitten. All ferrets, but especially those older than 3 years of age, should have preanesthetic blood testing to help ensure that they are stable for general anesthesia.
Cracking in Ferret Teeth
In addition to developing dental tartar and gum disease, ferrets also frequently crack their teeth from chewing on inappropriate objects such as rocks and cage bars. They commonly break off the tips of their fang-like upper and lower canine teeth. Fractured tooth tips are not necessarily a problem, unless there is exposure of the dental pulp inside the tooth, beneath the outer enamel, predisposing to tooth root infection. Fractured ferret teeth need to be capped, just as they are in people.
When performed properly by a veterinarian familiar with ferrets, dental cleanings and pulp capping can be a safe and effective way to help prevent serious, life threatening dental infections. Be sure to ask your ferret veterinarian about proper preventative dental care at your ferret’s next health examination.