Dental Problems in Ferrets

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Dental problems in a ferret are similar to those in dogs and cats and they can even suffer from orthodontic conditions.

Soft foods can cause tooth decay and require a visit to the vet for a clean. However remember that to clean a ferret’s teeth, the vet has to anesthetize the animal and that might cause problems.

A couple of symptoms of dental problems …

bad breath
cracked tooth or teeth

I heard of 3 ferrets dying after having their teeth cleaned here in Western Australia. It could be that they had underlying problems which the vet was not aware of before putting them under and the anesthetic caused the problem to flare up.

I’ve also heard of a friend’s ferrets going under the anesthetic for teeth cleaning in another Australian state and one of them died on the table.

The necropsy found that her ferret was riddled with cancer but the ferret didn’t show any signs of being ill when it was alive  :(

I know reading this might make some ferret owners baulk at getting their furbabies’ teeth cleaned but please – PLEASE – don’t leave it unattended for your ferret’s sake!

Many, many years ago I had a terrible mistake with my only boy silvermitt, Seamus. His right eye was very cloudy which I initially thought was a cataract, but then it looked like the eyeball was bulging out and when I smelled his bad breath, that started the alarm bells ringing.

I took him to a vet – not my regular ferret vet as she was away – but one whom I thought was ferret savvy.

His diagnosis was that Seamus had retrobulbar lymphoma, an inoperable condition at that time. His take on Seamus‘ bad breath was that it was caused by the lymphosarcoma so I was told to keep him as comfortable as possible and just wait for the end 😮

I started researching supplements to help Seamus then added them to his daily smoothie. Being many years ago, there really wasn’t much that I could get in Oz.

He picked up after having the smoothies for a few days and I was actually thought I was helping him. However, after a few weeks he went downhill and started producing yellowish-white phlegm from his mouth.

I rushed him to my regular vet and after checking him out thoroughly, she said that the problem with Seamus’ eyeball was secondary glaucoma, which is the result of an anterior luxation of the lens! The bad breath came from a cracked tooth right at the back of his mouth 😮

She operated on him that day to remove the cracked tooth and when he came home, I stayed up so that I could feed him every 3 hours with a smoothie filled with supplements. He picked up the next day but the one after, he just fell into a big hole and I had to take him for his final visit to my vet :'(

What really upset me was the fact that IF I hadn’t had the wrong diagnosis and the vet removed the cracked back molar, or whatever, Seamus would have been around for a lot longer! Grrrrrr >:(

Seamus showing his bad right eye

Seamus showing his bad right eye

My last BEW boy, Spook, was a rescue ferret and so I have no idea what he was fed before he came to me. Whatever it was, it caused him a lot of dental problems :(

When his breath started to smell, I took him to my vet for a check up and she confirmed that a few of his teeth needed to be pulled out as they were in a terrible state. All up she took out six of his teeth 😮

Look how tiny his teeth look in this photo – like grains of rice!


Here are some pointers which my vet suggested and which might help some of you :)

  • Consider regular brushing as that would be the best way to prevent future problems. Wrap a Dental Clens pad around your index finger and gently rub each tooth where the gum and tooth meet. If you can’t find the pads, get a piece of Chux cloth and put some dental gel on it, then use that.  For best results you should do this every day, just before bed. Once your ferret is used to the pad/cloth, start using a finger brush as that has a better abrasive action. Whatever you do, do NOT use a human toothbrush or toothpaste on your ferret.
  • Don’t feed soft/wet food as that gets stuck in between the teeth and so encourages plaque build-up and gingivitis.  If you have to feed soft food, please add some kibble into the mix as that would help clean the build-up.
  • However if you need to feed your ferret a soft diet, give a premium dental diet like Hills t/d as that contains enzymes that help in minimizing plaque deposits on the ferret’s teeth.
  • Bones aren’t a necessary part of the diet. Large uncooked bones are okay but *can* cause gastro-intestinal problems and also chip or fracture teeth :(  The meat and gristle on the bones do actually help to prevent tartar build-up rather than the bones themselves! If you do give your ferret bones, please make sure that you throw the bone away once all the meat and gristle have been chewed away.  Raw chicken wings and necks are a safer option. Make sure your ferret doesn’t get constipation afterwards.
  • Old bones don’t clean teeth and may cause other serious problems and whatever you do, DO NOT FEED YOUR FERRET COOKED BONES!

  • You can read more on Dental Problems in Ferrets on these sites …

Dental Disease in Ferrets (Pet Care Veterinary Hospital)

Ferret Dentistry by Jan Bellows DVM, DipAVDC (All Pets Dental Clinic)

Caring For Your Ferret ’s Teeth – Periodontal Disease In Your Ferret by Ron Hines DVM PhD

Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease in Ferrets (PetMD)

Ferret Teeth and Dental Care for Ferrets by Alicia Drakiotes (Petfinder)

Dental Care of Ferrets (PetEducation)

Dental Disease in Ferrets (PetEducation)

(Last updated September 2015)

DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this page is not meant to replace seeing a veterinarian if you think your ferret is ill. It’s only meant to supply general information on a particular illness which was obtained either from personal experience with my sick ferrets, or from books and/or the Internet.

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