If you want to keep your fuzzbutt in good health, you have to take care of those tiny ferret teeth. No matter how sharp they are.
As dental problems can be difficult (not to mention expensive) to treat, it’s worth some extra time and energy to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Here are a few tips:
Incorporate dental care into your regular grooming regime, that way you won’t forget. By checking teeth and gums on a weekly basis, you’ll be able to nip any upcoming health problems in the bud at an early stage.
Ferret teeth should be bright white and sharp as a needle (ouch!). If the teeth are discolored (yellow, green, grey or reddish), it’s a sign of tartar building up. Tartar starts out as plaque. Plaque, and even tartar, can be easily removed with a toothbrush, gauze or even your fingernail.
Left untreated, tartar will increase the chance of your fuzzy suffering from gingivitis. You can recognize gingivitis by inflamed and even bleeding gums. Not treating the gingivitis will lead to periodontal disease. Which is just a fancy word for receding gums, bone and tooth loss.
All these dental problems can cause abscesses and bacterial infections. The infections can spread throughout your fuzzies body, causing major damage.
Broken ferret teeth are a very common problem. Usually your fuzzy will chip a tooth falling (I need to get Stitch a little Wannabe Superman outfit) or biting on their cage wire. The good news is, the root cavity in a ferret tooth is rather narrow and short. So especially in the canines, your fuzzy can chip quite a bit off without it causing any serious damage or pain. If you notice a broken tooth (usually the upper canines) make an appointment with your vet. He or she will check for nerve exposure. If there is nerve exposure the tooth will be closed up or capped. The vet will also grind down any rough edges.
You’re not just looking for dental problems though. The gums are a good indicator of your fuzzies overall health. Healthy gums are pink, smooth and moist. If they look white, blueish or grayish, contact your vet as soon as possible as this can be a sign of cancer, kidney, liver or adrenal disease.
Do you see white ulcers in your fuzzies mouth? That could be a sign of insulinoma. Again, go see your vet.
While you have your fuzzies mouth wide open, also check for stuff that may be lodged between his teeth. This could be parts of toys, food, string and just about anything else your fuzzbutt can get his teeth on.
If you’re feeling adventurous, or you really want a nose piercing, stick your nose in there as well. Bad breath is another sign that something’s wrong with your fuzzy. Unless he’s a baby ferret that’s teething, then bad breath is normal. You can help your baby ferret through the teething process by massaging some medication containing benzocaine (for teething infants) on his gums. Don’t use too much though, it’s a very small fuzzbutt.
You’re probably thinking, “Check my fuzzies teeth? Are you crazy? I’m trying to avoid his teeth!”. So here are a few tips to make dental care safe and stress free for both you and your fuzzy.
Start when they’re young. Under one year old they don’t really need much teeth care. But it’s a good idea to get them used to you sticking your fingers and a brush in his mouth early on.
You want to be very gentle and patient, especially in the beginning.
To get your fuzzbutt used to dental checkups, touch his mouth when he just wakes up or is tired from romping around. After you touch his mouth, reward him with a treat. In your fuzzies mind, dental checkups will become a positive experience thanks to these rewards.
Move on to gently lifting his lips, again rewarding with a treat.
Then gently touch his teeth and gums with your finger. It’s a good idea to put some tasty vitamin supplement on your finger as an instant reward.
If he stubbornly keeps refusing you to open his mouth, scruff him gently. He’ll automatically yawn, giving you a good view inside his mouth. Be very gentle though, you don’t want your ferret to think he’s being punished. I’ve noticed that rubbing my ferret’s ears also makes them yawn.
Now for the actual brushing you’ll need some supplies. A cat or puppy toothbrush, an infant toothbrush with soft bristles, a finger toothbrush or a simple gauze will all do the trick. Don’t use any human toothpaste, as the fluoride is possibly poisonous for your fuzzbutt. Any ferret, cat or dog toothpaste will do fine.
To start brushing, gently lift the cheeks and start at the back, on the outside of the ferret teeth (so the side at the cheeks). The tongue removes a lot of plaque and tartar, but it only reaches the inside of the teeth. Which is why you’ll need to concentrate on the outside.
When the teeth are brushed, gently brush the gums as well. Especially at the gum line where the teeth disappear into the gums.
Keep your brushing sessions short, no more than 30 seconds when his used to it, 10 seconds in the beginning. It’s better to brush your ferret’s teeth shorter but more frequently, than trying to brush them thoroughly in one long session, stressing your ferret out.
To save you some trouble, you can feed your fuzzbutt special dental treats as well. You can get ferret or puppy dental chews. Though whether your ferret will actually chew and eat them is another question… If your ferret does like dental chews, make sure they don’t account for more than 10% of his meal (they’re good for ferret teeth, but they’re not very nutritious).
If you’re fuzzy needs professional help taking care of his teeth, your vet has all the right equipment. The ferret teeth are cleaned with a dental hoe and an ultrasonic machine. Of course, your fuzzy needs to be anesthetized before the vet can work on his teeth. This is tricky business, so make sure your vet is used to anesthetizing ferrets, not just dogs and cats.
Some people have their ferrets teeth trimmed to prevent biting. Don’t do this. And a good vet will refuse to trim teeth (unless for health reasons of course…your fuzzies health reasons, not your fingers or toes health reasons). Should you adopt/find/buy a ferret with trimmed teeth, have your vet check him out. Some vets just cut the tooth in half and don’t even bother closing it. Bacteria can get into the blood stream through the root canal, causing not only pain but also bone, heart, liver and kidney infections. This can be lethal. Your vet will be able to diagnose any infections with an x-ray.