The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Ferret Teeth and How To Care for Them

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ferret Teeth and How To Care for Them

Ferrets teeth glisten and are bright white. Their teeth enable them to eat, to grab onto and hold or move objects, actually like another hand. Their hands are also a good indication of their age. Ferret owners should realize that their teeth are like those of humans and need proper care.

Baby ferrets are usually purchased with milk teeth. These milk teeth are replaced by the permanent canine teeth at about age 7-9 weeks of age. They also have incisor teeth on both the upper and lower jaw, most commonly you will see six of these incisors between the canines.

The ferret teeth grow from the tip down toward the root, which is why older ferrets appear to have larger teeth. Just like in humans, as the ferret gets older the gums will also start to recede, thus making the tooth again look larger than before.

Often owners will notice a chip or abrasion on a ferret’s canine tooth. Usually, this is not an alarming condition. Ferrets love to chew their wire cages and sometimes an overzealous tug on the wire, or a fall onto a wood or tile floor will cause a chip or fracture of the upper canine. If a fracture occurs usually this will not require special dental care unless the pulp is exposed. Vets and owners however, should monitor the tooth for any signs of abscess or infection.

Dental hygiene for ferrets is a necessary and a part of regular ferret care. Owners who regularly or occasionally enter their domestic ferrets in ferret shows realize that dental hygiene is taken into consideration by the show judges. Good health involves good dental hygiene. The majority of ferret owners do not realize that dental hygiene is very important for their ferrets overall health and well being. Some ferret owners are meticulous regarding the care and maintenance of their pets, while some do not realize the importance or the necessity of good dental care.

Ferrets, like other companion animals, benefit greatly from a dental care regimen. Most veterinarians recommend a twice monthly basic tooth brushing as a recommended basic oral hygiene care.

The reasons for a dental care regimen are varied. Basically, bacteria can enter the animal’s system through inflamed gums, which are caused by plaque buildup (commonly identified as periodontal disease). Periodontal disease can be a cause of several conditions in the ferret including: tooth root abscesses, endocarditis or periocarditis (heart disease), and low-grade chronic infections which can lead to: weight loss, susceptibility to infections in general, and lethargy.

Some ferret owners will opt for a few minutes to care for their pet’s teeth when weighing the odds against illness and infection. Other health conditions which could be related to gum infections and poor teeth are enlarged spleens or splenomegaly. As the infection gets worst, the spleen enlarges, and can cause an enlarged mid section and lethargy.

The items you will need to care for your ferret’s teeth: A feline toothbrush either latex thimble, or bristle brush, and some flavored pet toothpaste.

You are probably wondering how to brush your ferret’s teeth? For routine maintenance at home, there are several toothbrushes on the market that can work remarkably well. Feline toothbrushes come in either the standard bristle toothbrush, or a latex finger toothbrush. The finger toothbrush is constructed of a pliable latex material, bristles and all, which fits over your index finger thimble style. These toothbrushes either bristled or latex are available in a variety of locations, your veterinarians office, pet supply or pet stores. Some people prefer to wrap their finger with gauze and apply the toothpaste using their finger.  Do what you feel comfortable with and what gets the job done.

In deciding which toothbrush to get for your ferret’s dental care you should first consider several things: How does your ferret deal with you handling its mouth and teeth? If your ferret is young and still nippy, then the best brush would be a bristled brush. If your ferret is older and mellow and you interact regularly with care and maintenance the thimble style toothbrush should do just fine. Several companies manufacture the above mentioned items along with flavored toothpaste for pets. Scalers are also available from either pet supply houses or at ferret shows, check with your veterinarian.

If you have never brushed your ferret’s teeth, you may need to gradually get him or her used to having it’s mouth manipulated. Start by gently massaging the ferret’s cheeks and mouth with your finger. Over the course of several days, work up to rubbing his teeth and gums with your finger. When they seem to tolerate this well, you can let him taste the toothpaste and begin to introduce him to the toothbrush. You will probably want have someone else hold him/her. Remember to be patient, this is a new experience for your ferret.

Using the toothbrush or finger toothbrush gently massage the gums and the canine teeth. You will notice that the buildup of treats and soft food items cleans off very easily. The toothpaste is edible so there is no need for rinsing. Never use human toothpaste or baking soda on any pets teeth, it can be harmful to the enamel. It is also advised to work back towards the molars to help reduce the tartar buildup in the areas that the tongue does not reach. This will reduce the need for frequent vet tooth cleanings. Crunchy food ( kibbled food) is recommended to help keep teeth clean, but it is not enough to do the entire job.

If the ferret’s teeth already have a heavy buildup of plaque, you will need to start by having your veterinarian do a dental scaling. This usually entails the ferret being put under anesthesia. If your ferret is docile and you are knowledgeable and comfortable in doing so you can try this yourself without anesthesia. You may find that your vet will show you how to scale your ferrets teeth and provide instructions should you ask. A dental scaling cleans the surfaces below and above the gum line and should be done when you notice the teeth do not appear white anymore. The tan color material (plaque) is usually very soft and can be removed easily. If it is allowed to remain it will turn into tartar. Tartar (grayish or greenish spots on the teeth, usually most visible on the molars) can differ in color from a greenish, brownish or yellowish color. It may take on a reddish tint if the gums bleed from irritation and stains the tartar. Tartar is a hardened buildup which causes irritation to the gums, and infection in advanced stages, this is why it is imperative to keep the ferrets teeth clean.


If you want to scale your ferret’s teeth you will need a dental instrument or scraper. These scrapers are available from either pet stores or at pet shows. Some of the scrapers differ in design, some have pointer ends, while others have a shovel end. Others have more rounded ends. In some cases using your fingernail will work for plaque and tartar below the gum line, however owners should be aware that the tartar above the gum line is important to remove as well. Developing a technique for scaling will depend on the type of tool you use, and how aggressive the build up of tartar is on the teeth. The motion will be either side to side (a scrubbing motion) or up and down starting at the gum line or just under and above it and pulling down where you pull the tartar off the tooth. You may need to break up the heavily built up areas and by applying pressure in the center this aids in the break up of the tartar on the tooth. It is well advised after scaling to either brush the teeth, of buff them with a gauze wrapped around your finger. This buffs the sharp edges which may be left from scraping and also cleans away any debris left from the scaling.

It should be understood that a vet tooth cleaning may be required for scaling the tartar off your ferrets teeth about every one to two years for optimum dental health. How often your ferret needs a veterinary tooth scaling will vary according to your ferret’s diet. Ferrets who eat soft foods (not recommended unless health condition requires) and treats will require more frequent dental cleanings.



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