What is Dental Disease?

Dental disease can either be acquired or congenital, meaning the ferret can be affected by tooth disease as a result of poor dental hygiene or be born with a condition that affects the ferret’s oral health. Clinical signs of dental disease in ferrets include but are not limited to: bad breath, tartar buildup (identified by brown-colored teeth), red and irritated gums, irregularly placed teeth, broken teeth, or mouth sores. If your ferret is affected by dental disease, he or she may have a difficult time eating. You may notice your pet spills food from the mouth, displays discomfort while chewing, and loses a significant amount of weight over time. 

Dental disease in ferrets is a broad term used for any condition degrading the health of the teeth, gums, or mouth of a ferret. Dental disease includes common health problems such as periodontal disease, gingivitis, periodontitis, tooth decay, halitosis, tooth loss, tooth breakage, dental abscess, malocclusion and systemic disease. 

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Symptoms of Dental Disease in Ferrets

Dental disease in ferrets can cause a number of symptoms and clinical signs related to the specific condition affecting the pet’s oral hygiene. In most cases, your ferret will be reluctant to eat or experience a difficult time consuming his/her food. You may notice your pet spills food from the mouth, displays discomfort while chewing and loose a significant amount of weight over time. If the teeth are causing a great deal of discomfort, the ferret may rub the head along the ground, paw at the mouth or chew on objects around the home. Additional symptoms of dental disease in ferrets include the following: 

  • Halitosis 
  • Red gums
  • Inflamed, swollen gums 
  • Broken or chipped teeth 
  • Brown or yellow tinted teeth 
  • Tooth abscesses 
  • Bleeding from the gum line 

Causes of Dental Disease in Ferrets

Dental disease is commonly caused by poor dental hygiene. When a ferret consumes a meal, food becomes lodged between the teeth and near the gums. If the pieces of food are not removed with proper brushing, the minerals present in the ferret’s saliva creates an adhesion to the teeth called tartar. If this tartar is not removed, even more tartar will build up and attract bacteria inside the mouth, eating away at the pockets of tartar, as well as the outer layers of the teeth. This form of dental disease is acquired, easily preventable and fairly easy to treat if it is caught early. 

Other forms of dental disease are congenital and are caused by conditions present at birth, which are not preventable. Congenital dental disease is a common problem in ferrets born with an abnormally short nose. A condition known as malocclusion often occurs in these pets, which is the improper alignment of teeth. The short maxilla and mandible (upper and lower jaw) limit the space for the teeth to grow, resulting in protruding teeth and improper closure of the mouth. 

Diagnosis of Dental Disease in Ferrets

Dental disease is easily diagnosed through a clinical examination performed by a licensed veterinarian. Simply opening the ferret’s mouth and looking at the overall health of the mouth, teeth, and gums can pinpoint a dental problem. However, if the problem is located in the rear molars or is hidden deep inside the mouth, the veterinarian may require a dental examination. A dental examination resembles a human dental checkup performed by a dental hygienist. The veterinarian will use specialized tools to evaluate the teeth and gums, which resemble the same tools dentist use in human exams. The only difference in a ferret dental examination is that sedation may be needed to relax the patient and allow a better view of the oral cavity. 

Treatment of Dental Disease in Ferrets

The treatment option your veterinarian selects for dental disease in ferrets depends on the ailment affecting the pet’s oral hygiene. The veterinarian may need to remove teeth, perform surgery on the mouth, and/or administer antibiotics to cure any evidence of an infection. 

Recovery of Dental Disease in Ferrets

The majority of ferrets suffering from dental disease make a full recovery and have an excellent prognosis. The pet owner will need to dedicate themselves to proper at-home ferret dental care, as the condition can return if proper oral hygiene practices are not being followed.