I recently wrote a column on the dental problems of pet rabbits. Now this column focuses on the dental problems that are commonly seen in pet ferrets. Back in May and just this past week, two different ferrets had obvious dental problems, and one of the ferrets actually needed an extraction of one of the problematic teeth.
In the first ferret, the owner had noticed a bad smell to the ferret’s breath. A closer look at the oral cavity revealed a lot of tartar buildup, inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), recession of the gumline above some of the cheek teeth (periodontal disease), and the tip of the upper right canine tooth (the “fang tooth”) had been fractured off.
This ferret was started on an antibiotic (amoxicillin) and scheduled for a “dental.” A dental includes general anesthesia, cleaning the tartar off the teeth with an ultrasound cleaner, treatment of any dental problems, and polishing the teeth to try to slow down future tartar buildup. In this ferret’s case, an upper left premolar tooth had to be extracted due to the roots being exposed from the gumline recession. This ferret was continued on the antibiotic to treat the inflammation of the gums.
The next case was a young ferret that also had a lot of tartar buildup on the cheek teeth and inflamed gums. I was concerned that one of upper cheek teeth would need to be extracted, but after cleaning the teeth, the questionable tooth did not have to be pulled. This ferret was also place on an antibiotic to treat the gum inflammation.
In a soon-to-be-published article in a veterinary dental journal, 95 percent of the ferrets examined from a ferret rescue facility had some dental disease. The most common finding was a malocclusion of a lower incisor tooth (the small teeth at the front of the mouth). Other common findings were fractures of the canine teeth, excessive wearing down of the teeth (abrasion and attrition), and extrusion of the canine teeth (elongation of the tooth).
Fortunately, ferrets do not develop the common dental problems that cats develop, such as tooth resorption, stomatitis and caries (cavities). Unfortunately, ferrets can develop oral tumors (squamous cell carcinomas) and, just like in cats, these tumors do not respond well to surgery or chemotherapy. Thankfully oral tumors are not common in pet ferrets.